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Police officers sue city over prohibition on speaking to media

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    NMU         ILLINOIS         Newsgathering         Dec 4, 2000    

Police officers sue city over prohibition on speaking to media

  • The officers have challenged a city policy that requires all employees to obtain the city manager’s permission before speaking to the news media.

Four police officers have sued the city of Highland Park claiming their First Amendment rights were violated by a city policy that prevents employees from talking to reporters.

On Nov. 28, the officers, Paul Pomozal, Lawrence Weng, Brock Kane and Martin Stumpf, filed a civil rights lawsuit in federal district court in Chicago seeking an injunction to halt enforcement of the policy, as well as the reversal of all promotions in the police department since 1991. The suit also seeks unspecified monetary damages.

The Media Relations Policy, which was enacted Oct. 24, requires all city employees to get permission from City Manager David Limardi before speaking to the media.

“No employee shall communicate with representatives of any news medium about city business except as authorized by the appropriate media relations officer,” the policy states.

A separate federal lawsuit filed against Highland Park has placed the city in the national spotlight. The complaint, originally filed by five white police officers in November 1999, alleges the city police department used racial profiling tactics when stopping motorists. The officers claimed the policy required them to arrest and stop motorists based solely on their race. The city manager is also named as one of several defendants.

Keevan Morgan, the attorney representing officers in both lawsuits, claimed city officials instituted the policy as an attempt to stifle criticism of city government during the racial profiling case.

“When they enacted this policy it was designed to keep my guys off TV,” Morgan said. “There’s no doubt in my mind.”

According to news reports, the city revised its policy last week, but the rules have not been distributed to city employees. In an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, Limardi said the new policy will not prohibit off-duty employees from speaking to the media.

Morgan said he has not seen the revised policy, but expects to receive a copy within a week. “Obviously, if they amend the policy, then I would declare victory and go home,” he said.

(Pomozal v. City of Highland Park) LR

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