Crime & Courts

Fox Lake police officers wrote mayor about Joe Gliniewicz's misconduct

Personnel file also documents drinking, incident where dispatcher felt threatened

Fox Lake Police Lt. Joseph Gliniewicz's personnel file was released to the Northwest Herald on Thursday, Nov. 5, 2015.
Fox Lake Police Lt. Joseph Gliniewicz's personnel file was released to the Northwest Herald on Thursday, Nov. 5, 2015.

FOX LAKE – A February 2009 letter authored by anonymous members of the Fox Lake Police Department revealed Fox Lake Police Lt. Joseph Gliniewicz’s colleagues had a number of concerns about the officer’s behavior. The letter was one of several documents detailing internal incidents throughout Gliniewicz’s 29-year career with the department that further contradict the heroic image Gliniewicz maintained in the community before his Sept. 1 suicide.

The personnel file, obtained by the Northwest Herald on Thursday, also revealed several alcohol-related incidents and a 2003 incident between Gliniewicz and a dispatcher in which the dispatcher claimed Gliniewicz made threatening actions and statements.

Gliniewicz, 52, was shot and killed Sept. 1 after he radioed he was investigating three suspicious men, sparking a massive manhunt and leaving a community in mourning over the officer affectionately known as “G.I. Joe.”

On Wednesday, investigators revealed Gliniewicz had carefully staged his suicide to look like a homicide after months of pressure that his “extensive crimes” would be discovered.

The 2009 letter from Gliniewicz’s fellow Fox Lake officers, which was addressed to then-Fox Lake Mayor Cindy Irwin, detailed a number of accusations against Gliniewicz, some of which they allege could be violations of state law.

The two-page letter listed 20 accusations against Gliniewicz, including statements that:

• Gliniewicz had received six separate five-day suspensions for an inappropriate sexual relationship with a subordinate and she filed a lawsuit that cost the village thousands.

• Gliniewicz was accused of sexual harassment by a dispatcher and of grabbing women’s breasts at several different department Christmas parties.

• Gliniewicz was spotted in bars after hours eating pizza while on duty and seen at various village establishments with women other than his wife.

• Various officers were approached by bouncers from local establishments and were told Gliniewicz was “becoming a nuisance because he was drinking in the bar after hours and would not leave.”

• Gliniewicz used his squad car to take his family on vacation in Wisconsin.

• Gliniewicz allowed members of Police Explorer Post 300 to operate department vehicles and dress themselves in official police garments. He also used department equipment that was supposed to be on the road for explorer training.

• Gliniewicz obtained a certificate for a free tattoo that was donated to the department and used it to get a tattoo while on duty. The day was changed to a vacation day after other officers complained to then-Chief Michael Behan.

The letter stated the complaints were brought to Behan and Behan had taken a “head-in-the-sand approach” to dealing with Gliniewicz.

“We can no longer stand by and watch Lt. Gliniewicz violate the rules and regulations, policies and procedures, and state statute, and remain silent,” the letter stated.

Documents: Fox Lake Police Lt. Joe Gliniewicz's personnel file

Behan announced his decision to retire in August, days before Gliniewicz’s death, after he had been placed on administrative leave because of a village investigation into the department.

Village officials said they had concerns about how Behan investigated an incident in which a Fox Lake police officer engaged in a verbal and physical altercation with a 36-year-old man during a public intoxication arrest.

Elsewhere in the 264-page personnel file was an incident from May 1988 in which Gliniewicz was found passed out in the front seat of his pickup truck on the side of Route 59 with his engine running full throttle and his foot on the gas. The report stated it was “not the first time something like this has happened.”

In August 1988, Gliniewicz failed to report for a shift after he said he had too much to drink in Wisconsin with friends before his shift.

A letter regarding the incident from then-police Chief Joseph Semasko stated, “He also added that he knows he has a drink [sic] problem and he was doing good but he could not handle that first drink.”

The file also contains an April 2003 report from a Fox Lake dispatcher that alleged Gliniewicz made a comment regarding putting “bullets in my chest.”

Two days later, the dispatcher filed a report stating Gliniewicz entered the Radio Room with a firearm, an action the dispatcher found threatening. In a written response, Gliniewicz said the weapon was not loaded.

Complete coverage as Fox Lake Police Lt. Joe Gliniewicz's hero image shattered

Also in the personnel file was a February 2008 letter from Behan to Gliniewicz in which the chief instructed Gliniewicz that all meetings of Police Explorer Post 300 must be held at the department.

Behan suspended the group’s weekend training sessions and instructed Gliniewicz to clear any future weekend sessions with him.

The Northwest Herald requested the personnel file under the Freedom of Information Act on Oct. 13, but initially was denied the request because of the ongoing investigation of Gliniewicz’s death.

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