By Petras Barcas, firstname.lastname@example.org
Stephen Peterson, son of Drew Peterson and a two-and-a-half year veteran of the Oak Brook Police Department, received an eight-day unpaid suspension Wednesday after an Oak Brook Board of Fire and Police Commissioners disciplinary meeting found him guilty for testifying before a grand jury in Will County in uniform and driving a marked Oak Brook squad car there.
The charges stated that Peterson disobeyed rules by using the squad for personal use after he was subpoenaed for court in the case involving his father Drew’s missing wife, Stacy Peterson, and third wife Kathleen Savio. Prosecuting counsel Charles Hervas also stated Stephen Peterson allowed himself to be photographed by the media, bringing negative attention to the Oak Brook Police Department.
Oak Brook Police Chief Thomas Sheahan said that Stephen Peterson has disciplinary action on his record since starting with the Oak Brook PD, including an incident in April 2007 where he made a “rude comment” to a citizen after another officer’s hearing.
Peterson was suspended for one day for that offense.
“He’s got a couple knocks here that I wouldn’t expect any officer in Oak Brook to have,” said Sheahan. “I would expect progressive discipline to halt problems like that. But it hasn’t, and that’s why we’re here today.”
Peterson’s defense, as outlined by his attorney, Tamara Cummings, stated that his driving a marked squad car while on duty to the courthouse Dec. 13 was a matter of convenience, and that he perceived he had consent to do so.
“I felt like it was any other court case, and no supervisor said any different that day,” he said. “I believed I had permission; no one told me not to go.”
Peterson said he was to be back at work at 3 p.m. that day, and didn’t have time to change his clothes and vehicle.
“Even if he had changed his clothes and worn a civilian outfit, the media would have identified him as an Oak Brook police officer, and an identical thing would have happened,” said Cummings. “This is not an action worthy of a police board disciplinary hearing.”
Sheahan maintained that it is Peterson’s special media attention that makes this a special case.
“We had media … outside the station, yelling ‘Steve! We want to talk to you!’ and it wasn’t even him. We were trying to protect this officer against the media.”
Sheahan said the print, radio, and television press intensified around last Thanksgiving.
“It was really a horde of media following him, and it drew negative attention to the department.”
Oak Brook Sgt. Casey Calvello, Peterson’s superior on Dec. 13, also stated that he didn’t want any more attention to the department as a result of Peterson being filmed.
“I didn’t want friends and family contacting me, asking me questions. I just wanted to do my job,” he said.
Cummings said the decision will be appealed through the circuit court.