New Police Ordinance Combats Fighting, Particularly on School Property
The Plainfield Village Board also adopted a new mob action ordinance; both give cops new "tools" to deter potential crime and fill voids where state law may not be enough.
Pick a fight in Plainfield at your own peril. If you're convicted, you'll be paying a minimum fine of $250 under an ordinance approved Monday by the Plainfield Village Board.
The new regulation applies to situations in which Plainfield police break up a brawl in which they are unable to determine who instigated the fight or it appears both parties were equally involved.
While the local ordinance will apply to anyone involved in a fight, it was drafted in particular as a way of deterring fights that occur on Plainfield School District 202 property, Police Chief John Konopek said.
"It just adds another tool to an officer's toolbox," he said. "If we can't identify who threw the first punch or who the aggressor was, this addresses that type of situation."
It was one of two fighting-relating ordinances approved by the board. The other establishes a local mob action regulation, allowing police to arrest two or more people who "gather for the purpose of using force or violence to disturbe the public peace or to otherwise engage in an unlawful act," Konopek wrote in his request to the board.
Again, anyone convicted under the ordinance will pay a minimum $250 fine. The maximum fine under both new rules is $750.
Konopek said the fighting regulation fills a void in which the local disorderly conduct ordinance does not sufficiently address a situation and police cannot file a battery charge because they can't determine an instigator.
Many such fights boil down into a he said/she said argument in which there are no witnesses or evidence to corroborate either side or it appears both parties are "mutual combatants," the chief said.
The only sticking point was raised by Trustee Dan Rippy, who requested that the words "without legal justification" be included.
The provision would ensure a legal defense for anyone who could prove they were defending themselves in the fight, said Rippy, a criminal defense attorney.
While board members were not certain the additional wording was necessary, they ultimately agreed to its inclusion. Trustee Paul Fay voted against the adding the clause because he did not think it was needed, he said.
As for the mob action ordinance, the new regulation gives police a way to crack down on people who form groups to carry out criminal action but the circumtances may not meet the threshhold for the state's attorney's office to file criminal mob action charges, Konopek said.
Typically, prosecutors pursue mob action charges only if major injuries result or there is proof the situation was racially motivated or gang related, he said.
One example of where the new ordianance might be applied is if police were to catch two or more people defacing a building with graffiti. While it would be unlikely that criminal charges of mob action would be filed under the state stutute, the local ordinance would allow the police to cite the suspects because they came together to commit a criminal act, Konopek said.