Police board urges demotion of sergeant Officer had sex with informant

November 04, 1993|By Kris Antonelli | Kris Antonelli,Staff Writer

A county police trial board recommended yesterday that a sergeant, who admitted to having sex with a confidential informant two years ago while he was off duty, be demoted to patrolman.

Police Chief Robert Russell has 30 days to accept the board's decision or give Sergeant Henry McClung, commander of the Traffic Safety Unit, another punishment.

Thomas Pavlinic, Sergeant McClung's lawyer, said after the hearing that he will appeal the board's decision in Circuit Court.

Sgt. Thomas Kinnane, who prosecuted the case for the department, asked the board to demote the sergeant to help restore public confidence in the department.

"Is this the kind of public perception we want?" he asked. "One of wanton misconduct not only going unpunished, but rewarded with promotion?"

Sergeant McClung was on the list for promotion at the time of the incident, and promoted to his current rank in August 1992.

During a hearing yesterday, Sergeant McClung admitted that he had sex with the woman, but pleaded not guilty to departmental charges of conduct unbecoming an officer and violating department rules and regulations.

Mr. Pavlinic argued that the charges should be dismissed because there were no departmental rules forbidding officers to have sex with informants at the time of the incident. The rules went into effect at least nine months after the incident, he said.

"I don't know of any jurisdiction in the United States where someone can be charged with an offense that was not in existence at the time of the offense," he said.

According to a statement of facts, Sergeant McClung, who was a patrolman at the time, had finished work at 11 p.m. on an unspecified evening in fall 1991, and drove to another officer's house.

While still in uniform, he picked up the informant, a 21-year-old woman, at a nearby convenience store, then took her to a liquor store in Pasadena where he gave her money to buy beer. The pair went back to the other officer's home, where they got into a hot tub and had sex.

Sergeant McClung, who has an otherwise clean disciplinary record, said he regretted his actions that night. "I'll be the first to admit that I've made a lot of mistakes," he said. "My family has been made to suffer for something they have no control over, and I have no one to blame but myself."

Two captains and one lieutenant testified that although they do not condone Sergeant McClung's actions, that he is one of the best officers in the department. They all described him as "self-motived and a credit to the police department."

Sergeant McClung, who was named Police Officer of the Year three years ago by the Eastern District Community Relations Council, takes pride in his job and requires little supervision, they said.

Lt. Michael McNelly, head of the Crimes Against Persons Section, argued that a suspension would be a more appropriate punishment.

"I'm not here to make excuses," he said. "Everyone knows that I am a stern disciplinarian, but I think you have to balance his record with the offense."

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