SOUTH BEND — Patrolman Christopher Bortone lost his job with South Bend police after a case where — in the eyes of his chief and the city’s Board of Public Safety — he failed to file a police report in a theft case back in March, then was “untruthful” about it later.
The board voted unanimously Thursday to fire Bortone, which Interim Police Chief Chuck Hurley had sought.
“Chris Bortone is not a bad person,” Hurley said. “He just used some bad judgment. Probably possesses qualities that anyone would want in a police officer, but there comes a point where he consistently displayed bad judgment.”
Bortone was named the police department’s officer of the year in 2007.
But, as board President Patrick Cottrell read the findings, he listed a written reprimand leveled against Bortone in 2005 and six other reprimands from 2009 through this year for other violations of the police department’s duty manual. Of those, six reprimands carried suspensions ranging from one day to 15 days. Bortone had another one-month suspension in another violation of the manual in 2011.
On March 31 this year, he responded to the Meijer store on Portage Road, where someone had shoplifted a Dyson vacuum and other items worth a total of $500 to $700.
The same suspect returned to the store sometime after that date and stole more items, the board’s findings state.
Bortone never disputed that he didn’t file a report at that time.
In June, after the department started investigating the case, Bortone filed a report saying that the Meijer store’s loss prevention employee didn’t feel a need for a report. But, in a hearing before the board early this month, that employee testified that she’d never said anything about a report.
The board also believes that Bortone was untruthful when he said that he tried to get the employee to file a report. At the hearing this month, he told the board that she seemed a bit uncooperative — and he agreed that he should have made a report after all.
He has been on paid administrative leave until now.
He is the first officer to be fired since Hurley became interim chief in April.
“When you look through his record he (Bortone) did a lot of good things as a police officer too, including three life-saving things,” Cottrell said. “There comes a time where you can’t continue to carry a person that is doing things that are that flagrant in violation of the rules.”