Janet Mondragon

  • Recommendation Termination
  • Decision Termination
  • Length of process over 4 years October 20, 2014 to July 18, 2019 Closed

Charged with violating 5 rules on 10 counts

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Rule 14 2 counts

Making a false report, written or oral.

Rule 11 1 count

Incompetency of inefficiency in the performance of duty.

Rule 6 1 count

Disobedience of an order or directive, whether written or oral.

Rule 3 3 counts

Any failure to promote the Department's efforts to implement its policy or accomplish its goals.

Rule 2 3 counts

Any action or conduct which impedes the Department's efforts to achieve its policy and goals or brings discredit upon the Department.

Board Member Votes & Decisions

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17. The Respondent, Police Officer Janet Mondragon, Star No. 4364, charged herein, is guilty of violating Rule 2 and Rule 3 in that the Superintendent proved by a preponderance of the evidence the following charges: On or about October 20, 2014, Officer Mondragon made one or more false, misleading, inaccurate, and/or inconsistent statements to a member(s) of the Department who responded to and/or investigated the events surrounding the fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald on or about October 20, 2014, at or about 21:57 hours, at or around the 4100 block of South Pulaski Road, Chicago. Said false, misleading, inaccurate, and/or inconsistent statements included that Officer Mondragon looked down while putting her gearshift in park, and only heard—but did not see—the shot(s) that were fired at McDonald, or words to that effect; and/or Officer Mondragon did not see any shot(s) being fired by Officer Van Dyke, or words to that effect; and/or Officer Mondragon did not see who was firing a gun, or words to that effect. Officer Mondragon thereby violated: a. Rule 2, which prohibits any action or conduct which impedes the Department’s efforts to achieve its policy and goals or brings discredit upon the Department; and b. Rule 3, which prohibits any failure to promote the Department’s efforts to implement its policy or accomplish its goals. See the findings set forth in paragraph no. 4 above, which are incorporated herein by reference. Officer Mondragon and her partner, Officer Sebastian, responded to the scene at 41st and Pulaski after receiving a radio call. Officer Mondragon was driving their vehicle. They found Mr. McDonald moving southbound in the middle of Pulaski Road and they followed close behind. Their dash cam video captured the fatal shooting of Mr. McDonald. After the shooting, Officer Mondragon told Detective March that prior to the shooting, she saw Mr. McDonald running southbound on Pulaski, in the middle of the street, and saw that he had a knife in his hand that he was waving. She also reported to Detective March that she saw Officers Van Dyke and Walsh outside their squad car ordering McDonald to drop the knife. Officer Mondragon, however, indicated that she did not see the key aspects of the encounter between Officer Van Dyke and Mr. McDonald that had been captured by her own vehicle’s dash cam. She told Detective March that “(a)s she was placing her vehicle transmission into Park, [she] looked down and heard multiple, continuous gunshots, without pause.” She says she then saw Mr. McDonald fall to the ground but did not know who fired the shots. Officer Mondragon told a similar story to IPRA in the early morning hours of October 21, 2014, even after the dash cam video from her car was being played at Area Central where she gave her statement (Supt.’s Exh. 18). After recounting that she was right behind Mr. McDonald as he was “jogging” down Pulaski Road, she said she saw Officers Van Dyke and Walsh get out of their car and heard them tell Mr. McDonald to drop the knife. She stated that Mr. McDonald was waving the knife and then she heard shots fired. When asked the important question of whether Mr. McDonald was “facin’ Officer Walsh and his partner when, when he was wavin’ that (inaudible) and all that?”, Officer Mondragon responded “how would I recall,” as she had taken the position she heard but did not see the gunshots or the shooter. The Board finds that Officer Mondragon’s statement to Detective March and her subsequent statement to IPRA were both false. The dash cam video establishes without question that Officer Van Dyke shot at Mr. McDonald for fifteen seconds. Officer Mondragon conceded at the hearing it does not take fifteen seconds to put her vehicle into park, but rather only a few seconds. More importantly, her own dash cam video shows her car was still moving forward as Mr. McDonald began to walk away from Officer Van Dyke and as the shooting began. The car moves for the first four seconds of the shooting. Officer Mondragon’s vehicle could not have been put into park when the vehicle was still moving. The Board finds that Officer Mondragon was in a position to see what transpired between Officer Van Dyke and Mr. McDonald until at least four seconds after the shooting began and again after Mr. McDonald was on the ground, being hit with multiple rounds. When a Chicago police officer is witness to the killing of a civilian (by a fellow officer or another civilian), that officer has an obligation to provide a complete and accurate account of all that he or she saw. This includes information that is helpful and harmful to the shooter. Police officers are expected to be careful observers of what is occurring, even under stressful circumstances. Officer Mondragon’s obvious lie was designed to avoid reporting negative information about her fellow officer. This is a lie and it violates both Rules 2 and 3. Rule 2 prohibits officers from bringing discredit on the Department. The Comment to the Rule says that it proscribes not only unlawful acts by members but also all acts, which although not unlawful in themselves, would degrade or bring disrespect upon the member or the Department. Officer Mondragon’s statement that she did not see anything brings discredit on the Department. Rule 3 is violated when an officer fails to promote the Department’s efforts to implement its policy or accomplish its goals. The Comment to that Rule makes clear that it covers “any omission or failure to act by any member of the Department, which act would be required by the stated policy, goals, rules, regulations, orders and directives of the Department.” It further states that the Rule can be violated by an officer’s “carelessness and inefficiency,” as well as by design. Here, the Board finds that Officer Mondragon’s failure to provide an account of the critical encounter between Officer Van Dyke and Mr. McDonald was willful and not careless. The Board finds she was in a position to see what happened and determined not to say what she saw, which inured to the benefit of her fellow officer.9 18. The Respondent, Police Officer Janet Mondragon, Star No. 4364, charged herein, is guilty of violating Rule 14 in that the Superintendent proved by a preponderance of the evidence the following charge: On or about October 20, 2014, Officer Mondragon made one or more false statements to a member(s) of the Department who responded to and/or investigated the events surrounding the fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald on or about October 20, 2014, at or about 21:57 hours, at or around the 4100 block of South Pulaski Road, Chicago. Said false statements included that Officer Mondragon looked down while putting her gearshift in park during the shooting, or words to that effect; and/or Officer Mondragon did not see shot(s) being fired by Officer Van Dyke, or words to that effect; and/or Officer Mondragon did not see who was firing a gun, or words to that effect; and/or Officer Mondragon did not see McDonald fall to the ground, or words to that effect. Officer Mondragon thereby violated Rule 14, which prohibits making a false report, written or oral. See the findings set forth in paragraph nos. 4 and 17 above, which are incorporated herein by reference. The Board finds that Officer Mondragon’s statements to Detective March and to IPRA that she did not witness the critical encounter between Officer Van Dyke and Mr. McDonald was a willful false statement. It was also material, as Officer Mondragon’s vantage point was that depicted on the dash cam—a vantage point that established the shooting was unjustified. As such, she is guilty of violating Rule 14. Footnote: 9 The Superintendent made much of the many texts Officer Mondragon exchanged with Officer Van Dyke before the shooting. Some days, there were as many as seventy texts (Supt.’s Exh. 37c). The Board does not rely on these texts in finding Officer Mondragon guilty of these charges. 19. The Respondent, Police Officer Janet Mondragon, Star No. 4364, charged herein, is guilty of violating Rule 2 and Rule 3 in that the Superintendent proved by a preponderance of the evidence the following charges: On or about October 21, 2014, Officer Mondragon made one or more false, misleading, inaccurate, and/or inconsistent statements to the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA), which responded to and/or investigated the events surrounding the fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald on or about October 20, 2014, at or about 21:57 hours, at or around the 4100 block of South Pulaski Road, Chicago. Said false, misleading, inaccurate, and/or inconsistent statements included that Officer Mondragon did not see who was firing a gun, or words to that effect; and/or Officer Mondragon provided a true and accurate account of the shooting to IPRA, or words to that effect. Officer Mondragon thereby violated: a. Rule 2, which prohibits any action or conduct which impedes the Department’s efforts to achieve its policy and goals or brings discredit upon the Department; and b. Rule 3, which prohibits any failure to promote the Department’s efforts to implement its policy or accomplish its goals. See the findings set forth in paragraph nos. 4, 17, and 18 above, which are incorporated herein by reference. 20. The Respondent, Police Officer Janet Mondragon, Star No. 4364, charged herein, is guilty of violating Rule 14 in that the Superintendent proved by a preponderance of the evidence the following charge: On or about October 21, 2014, Officer Mondragon made one or more false statements to the Independent Police Review Authority, which responded to and/or investigated the events surrounding the fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald on or about October 20, 2014, at or about 21:57 hours, at or around the 4100 block of South Pulaski Road, Chicago. Said false statements included that Officer Mondragon did not see who was firing a gun, or words to that effect; and/or Officer Mondragon provided a true and accurate account of the shooting, or words to that effect. Officer Mondragon thereby violated Rule 14, which prohibits making a false report, written or oral. See the findings set forth in paragraph nos. 4, 17, and 18 above, which are incorporated herein by reference. 21. The Respondent, Police Officer Janet Mondragon, Star No. 4364, charged herein, is guilty of violating Rule 2 Rule 3, Rule 6, and Rule 11 in that the Superintendent proved by a preponderance of the evidence the following charges: On or about October 20, 2014, Officer Mondragon failed to visually inspect the in-car video system equipment on her assigned vehicle for damage; and/or failed to obtain the audio recorder from her in-car video system and/or ensure it was securely attached to her person; and/or failed to follow the start-up procedures for the in-car video system as trained and/or ensure the system was working properly, and/or failed to audibly record events with her in-car video system; and/or failed to notify her supervisor about the audio component’s status. Officer Mondragon thereby violated: a. Rule 2, which prohibits any action or conduct which impedes the Department’s efforts to achieve its policy and goals or brings discredit upon the Department; b. Rule 3, which prohibits any failure to promote the Department’s efforts to implement its policy or accomplish its goals; c. Rule 6, which prohibits disobedience of an order or directive, whether written or oral, in that she disobeyed Special Order S03-05; and d. Rule 11, which prohibits incompetency or inefficiency in the performance of duty. See the findings set forth in paragraph nos. 4 and 14 above, which are incorporated herein by reference. Retired Sergeant Becvar testified, without contradiction, that it was Officer Mondragon’s (and her partner Officer Sebastian’s) responsibility to check that their video and audio systems were working prior to beginning their shift. They were to make a test video to ensure that the video system was working, as well as the microphones, and to verify that the microphones were synched with the video in their car. These requirements are contained in Department Special Order S03-05 (Supt.’s Exh. 34). Both Officers Mondragon and Sebastian conceded not only that they did not do this prior to the beginning of their shift on October 20, 2014, but that it was their regular practice not to do so (Tr., at p. 354, 357-58). Sergeant Becvar testified that he found the microphones in the glove compartment of Officer Mondragon’s and Sebastian’s car, with the batteries either removed or turned upside down. It is further undisputed that no audio could be retrieved from Officer Mondragon’s and Sebastian’s squad car on October 20, 2014. Officer Mondragon, for all practical purposes, did not dispute these charges against her, and she is guilty of violating Rules 2, 3, 6, and 11. 30. Officer Mondragon presented evidence in mitigation from retired Sergeant Lee Bielecki and Officer Antonio Phillips. In addition, Officer Mondragon, who joined the Police Department in 2007, has a complimentary history of 48 total awards, including one Department commendation, 33 honorable mentions, six emblems of recognition for physical fitness, and two attendance recognition awards; she has no sustained complaints on her disciplinary history. Nevertheless, after thoroughly considering Officer Mondragon’s service as a police officer and the lack of prior disciplinary history, the Board finds that her accomplishments as an officer and the positive evaluations of her do not outweigh the seriousness of her misconduct in this case. The Board finds that Officer Mondragon’s misconduct is incompatible with continued service as a police officer. Officer Mondragon was a witness to the fatal shooting of a seventeen-year old by a Chicago police officer. Her decision to say she did not see what happened, when she clearly did, constitutes serious misconduct. The Board finds this conduct by a trained police officer, particularly in the context of a case as serious as this one, to be reprehensible. It has completely undermined Officer Mondragon’s integrity and effectiveness as a police officer going forward. Officer Mondragon’s conduct brought discredit upon the Chicago Police Department and undermined its mission.11 Effective law enforcement depends upon a high degree of cooperation between the police department and the public it serves. Conduct such as Officer Mondragon’s fosters public distrust and a lack of confidence in the integrity of the Chicago Police Department, thereby significantly harming the Department’s efforts to achieve the important goals of preventing crime, preserving the public peace, identifying and arresting those who commit crimes, and promoting respect and cooperation of all Chicagoans for the law and those sworn to enforce it. In addition, Officer Mondragon’s violation of Rule 14 renders her unfit to hold that office. Trustworthiness, reliability, good judgment, and integrity are all material qualifications for any job, but particularly one as a police officer. The duties of a police officer include making arrests and testifying in court, and a police officer’s credibility is at issue in both the prosecution of crimes and in the Police Department’s defense of civil lawsuits. A public finding that a police officer made false official reports is detrimental to the officer’s credibility as a witness and, as such, is a serious liability to the Department. See, Rodriguez v. Weis, 408 Ill.App.3d 663, 671 (1st Dist. 2011). The Board finds that Officer Mondragon’s conduct is sufficiently serious to constitute a substantial shortcoming that renders her continuance in her office detrimental to the discipline and efficiency of the service of the Chicago Police Department, and is something that the law recognizes as good cause for her to no longer occupy her office. Footnote: 11 Officer Mondragon is charged with violating Rules, 2, 3, 6, 11, and 14. The Board finds that her violations of Rules 2 and 3 are, by themselves, sufficiently serious to warrant a penalty of discharge. By votes of 9 in favor (Foreman, Wolff, Delgado, Eaddy, Flores, O’Malley, Simpson, Sweeney, and Zopp) to 0 opposed, the Board finds Respondent Janet Mondragon guilty of violating Rule 2, Rule 3, Rule 6, Rule 11, and Rule 14, as set forth in paragraph nos. 17 – 21 above. As a result of the foregoing, the Board, by a vote of 9 in favor (Foreman, Wolff, Delgado, Eaddy, Flores, O’Malley, Simpson, Sweeney, and Zopp) to 0 opposed, hereby determines that cause exists for discharging Respondent Janet Mondragon from her position as a police officer with the Department of Police, and from the services of the City of Chicago. NOW THEREFORE, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the Respondent, Police Officer Janet Mondragon , Star No. 4364, as a result of having been found guilty of all charges in Police Board Case No. 16 PB 2910, be and hereby is discharged from her position as a police officer with the Department of Police, and from the services of the City of Chicago. This disciplinary action is adopted and entered by a majority of the members of the Police Board: Ghian Foreman, Paula Wolff, Eva-Dina Delgado, Michael Eaddy, Steve Flores, John P. O’Malley Jr., John H. Simpson, Rhoda D. Sweeney, and Andrea L. Zopp.

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