No Property Interest In Commander’s Position In Chicago PD

John Matthews was a commander with the Chicago Police Department. In 2006, Matthews’ son was arrested, and despite being injured, was not promptly offered medical attention for his injuries. Following his son’s arrest, Matthews filed a complaint in an effort to initiate an investigation of the arresting officers.

Subsequent to Matthews filing that complaint, a disciplinary complaint was filed against him. When he was demoted from the rank of commander to that of lieutenant, Matthews filed a lawsuit against the City, alleging that he had a due process right to a hearing prior to his demotion.

A federal district court turned away Matthews’ claim. The Court acknowledged that “it is not without precedent that a demotion in rank could rise to the level of a deprivation of property, but courts recognizing such deprivations have found that they arose from employment contracts, state statutes, or municipal ordinances.” The Court found that no such job guarantee rising to the level of a property interest existed with respect to the police commander’s position in Chicago.

The Court observed that “Matthews has failed to cite any applicable Illinois law or any other relevant authority in support of his assertion that a police officer such as himself has a property interest in a particular rank within the Police Department. That Matthews was not granted a disciplinary hearing may be troubling, but his demotion does not rise to the level of a constitutional deprivation of due process where it did not deprive him of a federally-protected property interest.”

Matthews v. City of Chicago, 2009 WL 1939966 (N.D. Ill. 2009).

This article appears in the September 2009 issue