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Fired from Richmond, charged cop had disciplinary marks in Hebron

Published: Friday, July 18, 2014 4:21 p.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, July 18, 2014 11:16 p.m. CDT

HEBRON – According to Hebron Police Department records, Ryszard Kopacz twice was suspended before eventually being fired, although village officials said they were led to believe his departure was financial and not because of the criminal acts of which he was later accused.

Kopacz was charged last week after authorities said he was in possession of two guns, stolen from the Hebron Police Department. The guns, a Winchester Model 94 and a .30 caliber U.S. Carbine, were found in his home with evidence tags on them, prosecutors have said.

The former police sergeant was fired from Hebron on June 17, and later was hired by the nearby Richmond Police Department. He worked for Richmond for less than a week before he was fired for failing to show up for work.

Police also are investigating a resident complaint that Kopacz was going door to door, on duty, and while in uniform, asking for prescription drugs.

Kopacz’s employment and disciplinary records from Hebron were obtained by the Northwest Herald through a Freedom of Information request. In them, they show that he was promoted to sergeant in 2006, and logged nearly eight years without a disciplinary infraction.

His first came May 7 when he was suspended for one day for driving a squad car to Wonder Lake on personal business.

The second was about a month later when on June 12 Kopacz was given a four-day suspension for smoking in department vehicles and not completing his daily reports. He was two days into that suspension when he was fired.

It’s unclear to what extent Richmond knew of the disciplinary actions taken against Kopacz in Hebron, and whether the relatively minor infractions would have prevented him from being hired there.

Police officials in Richmond couldn’t immediately be reached for comment, but have said a comprehensive background investigation, including a psychological exam, is completed on all new hires. They too were told Kopacz’s firing was budgetary, officials have said.

Hebron officials said they were led to believe Kopacz’s firing wasn’t because of the alleged criminal acts, or even the discipline. Hebron Trustee Mark Mogan said the first he heard of Kopacz’s pending termination on June 16, during budget discussions at a Village Board meeting.

Mogan was told that in order to balance the budget, Kopacz’s would need to be terminated, and Police Chief Scott Annen – who is salaried – would work fewer hours. Mogan said he rejected the budget, and voted no primarily because the personnel changes in the police department didn’t sit right with him.

“All I’ve been trying to do since then is get some confirmation from [Village President John Jacobson],” Mogan said. “Is this why you actually fired [Kopacz]?”

The most serious charge against Kopacz is punishable by three to seven years in prison. He was released on bond after posting $10,000 shortly after his arrest.

Kopacz appeared in McHenry County court this week, and was ordered to turn over his passport, despite the objections of his attorney Steven Goldman. His next court date is Aug. 7.

The investigation is ongoing.

• Northwest Herald reporter Shawn Shinneman contributed to this report.

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