Retired police official to keep $84K pension despite sexual assault of a minor
A criminal sexual assault conviction will not interfere with a retired suburban deputy police chief’s $84,000 annual pension.
Debate over whether a former Lake in the Hills police deputy should continue to receive his publicly funded pension after sexually assaulting a teenager ended May 10 in the ex-official’s favor.
According to the Chicago Tribune, an attorney representing the suburban police department’s pension board rejected on legal grounds calls from taxpayers to revoke the retiree’s annual $84,000 pension.
Richard Reimer, an attorney representing the police pension board, argued that because the former official hadn’t been accused of wrongdoing during his tenure with the police force, he was still legally entitled to his pension earnings.
“My opinion is that, while I don’t condone the behavior of Mr. Bokowski, I don’t believe you can use the felony pension divestiture law in this case,” Reimer told the board, according to the Tribune.
Former deputy police chief Alan Bokowski was sentenced in February to more than four years in prison, having pleaded guilty to a charge of sexual assault of a child between ages 13 and 17. The Northwest Herald reported in December 2016 that police had issued an arrest warrant for Bokowski on three counts of criminal sexual assault and five counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse.
Bokowski retired from the Lake in the Hills Police Department in 2006 after a 26-year stint with the agency, according to the Northwest Herald. When the former officer incurred criminal charges, the village received numerous requests from village taxpayers for the suspension of Bokowski’s pension, said Stan Helgerson, vice president of the pension board. Bokowski’s pension was slated to be a topic of discussion at the pension board’s April 15 meeting, according to the Tribune, but the meeting was canceled due to low attendance.
The pension board’s decision to uphold Bokowski’s retirement benefits in spite of criminal behavior is not an aberration from that of other governing bodies in Illinois. One example is notorious Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge, whose reign of terror cost the city millions of dollars in reparations payments to victims of torture and abuse. Burge continues to receive a pension of roughly $4,000 a month. In the wake of a court decision preserving the former police commander’s pension payout, former Gov. Pat Quinn signed a state law in December 2014 giving the attorney general more power to stop pension payments from flowing to convicted felons in the future, regardless of pension board decisions.
State lawmakers recently moved to bar government officials from receiving such payouts when they unanimously passed Senate Bill 2604 out of the Illinois Senate. The bill, which currently awaits a vote in the House, would attach stricter conditions to severance pay clauses in government employee contracts.
While lawmakers would do taxpayers a favor by delivering SB 2604 to the governor’s desk, the Lake in the Hills police pension board should serve as a reminder that there’s still more lawmakers could do to prevent taxpayer dollars from rewarding heinous behavior.