A veteran Riverside police officer resigned from the force last month under circumstances that remain unclear. Village officials aren’t talking, citing the resignation as a confidential personnel matter, but the action is the result of an internal investigation that apparently uncovered a serious allegation of misconduct.
Edwin Ruiz tendered a letter of resignation to Police Chief Thomas Weitzel on Aug. 17, the same day he signed off on a separation agreement that calls for him to be paid through Nov. 30. Ruiz also waived his right to sue the village, and the department agreed “that it will not actively pursue criminal charges” against him.
“It has been my distinct pleasure to protect and serve the citizens of Riverside and to work under your command,” Ruiz wrote in his letter to Weitzel.
The agreement notes, however, “that this is not a representation or guarantee that no other law enforcement agency will do so.”
Asked if he could comment on whether Ruiz was the subject of an investigation by another law enforcement agency, Weitzel declined to elaborate.
“I’m not at liberty to talk about this at the moment,” said Weitzel.
Village Manager Peter Scalera also declined to comment on the reason for the resignation other than to acknowledge that Ruiz had submitted a letter indicating he was leaving the department.
According to the agreement, the village reserves its right to cooperate with any other agency investigating Ruiz, and that it is “required to share the information obtained in its investigation of Ruiz with the LEADS agency.”
LEADS or Law Enforcement Agencies Data System is the statewide computer database that police across Illinois use to obtain information on everything from tracking gang affiliation to vehicle license plate information to someone’s criminal history.
Using LEADS for personal reasons is considered a serious administrative offense. Weitzel would not comment on what triggered his investigation into Ruiz’s actions.
“I’m not allowed to comment on personnel issues,” said Weitzel.
The matter was not considered by the Riverside Police and Fire Commission, which handles administrative disciplinary matters if the employee chooses to contest the charges. While Weitzel briefed the commission on the matter, Ruiz chose to resign.
That resignation came in the wake of a meeting in August between Weitzel, Ruiz, a representative from the Fraternal Order of Police and Ruiz’s attorney.
Ruiz, 44, was a well-regarded police officer who started with the Riverside Police Department in 2003 after a short stint with the Triton College police force.
He was promoted to Officer-in-Charge and was being groomed to become a detective. He was assigned to the West Suburban Major Crimes Task Force (WESTAF), an agency comprising 19 suburban departments that investigates homicides. He was a forensic technologist for the group.
In 2008, Weitzel named Ruiz the department’s officer of the year, calling him “an outstanding officer and individual.” Until that year, Ruiz was the only Spanish-speaking officer in the department.
Joining the Riverside Police Department was a dream come true, Ruiz told the Landmark in 2008.
“I always wanted to become a police officer,” he said at the time.
Weitzel has asked Scalera to begin the process of filling the vacant spot on the force, but it could be several months before anything happens.
There likely will not be a police academy opening until early 2013, said Weitzel, which means that a new officer won’t be out on the street until mid-summer at the earliest.