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Woodstock cop gets 30-day suspension for texts, database misuse

Published: Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013 4:59 p.m. CST • Updated: Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013 11:20 p.m. CST

WOODSTOCK –  The Woodstock Police Department's spokesman has been suspended for 30 days after an investigation into inappropriate texts to his former girlfriend's 12-year-old daughter also revealed misuse of a state law enforcement database to look up the girlfriend's criminal record.

Sgt. Charles "Chip" Amati, a 24-year veteran of the force, was suspended without pay for 30 days by the city's Board of Police and Fire Commissioners, Police Chief Robert Lowen said Wednesday. But he will not face any criminal charges for either texting the girl or misusing the Law Enforcement Agencies Data System to check her mother's background.

Lowen called the suspension "all-encompassing" for the texts and misusing the LEADS system that he coordinated for the department. The Chicago Tribune reported that Amati had texted the girl back in August asking her to send him "sexy pictures" – she did not reply.

"We feel the discipline is appropriate in light of the circumstances, and we also feel there is sufficient basis for the imposition of this discipline," Lowen said.

Amati will maintain his roles as spokesman and supervising records and telecommunications, but supervision of the LEADS system has been given to another officer. Amati could not be reached for comment.

Lowen said he asked the Illinois State Police to investigate on Aug. 23 after the mother came forward with the texts. State police subsequently discovered that Lowen had used the LEADS system to run her background, and submitted its findings to McHenry County State's Attorney Lou Bianchi's office. Attempts to contact the state police's press offices in Chicago and Springfield were not successful Wednesday.

Misusing the system in Illinois constitutes official misconduct, a Class 3 felony punishable by two to five years in prison. But Assistant State's Attorney Michael Combs said Amati's offense did not rise to the level of a crime because he did not use the system for personal gain.

"I felt, based upon character and attitude and his years of service that it wasn't appropriate to charge him. He's a human being, we all make mistakes and we're all fallible," Combs said Friday.

Lowen said Amati has never faced any disciplinary issues prior to this one. Amati has one year to serve the unpaid suspension, which he can take in pieces so as "not to have a detrimental effect on police department operations."

The police and fire board handed down Amati's suspension after a closed-session hearing Oct. 28, according to city records. Records also show Amati's salary for the current 2014 city fiscal year is $93,314, which does not take overtime or lost revenue from his suspension into account.

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