Woodstock officials were bombarded with dozens of calls and emails Friday from people questioning or criticizing the city's handling of a police sergeant who was the focus of a recent investigation, the city manager said.
The Tribune reported Nov. 27 that Sgt. Charles "Chip" Amati, 48, sent several text messages last summer to his then-girlfriend's 12-year-old daughter, including one reading, "Send me some sexy pictures!" according to copies of the messages.
Illinois State Police investigators later found that Amati had used a law enforcement database to research his girlfriend's criminal record, according to a police report. Officers who use the database for personal reasons can be charged with official misconduct, a felony, state police said.
McHenry County prosecutors have not charged Amati with any crime. The Woodstock police and fire commission — acting on a recommendation from the chief — suspended him without pay for 30 days. He can take the days one at a time, at the department's discretion, within a year, the chief said.
On Friday, social media sites exploded with criticism after a Twitter account labeled "Anonymous," which has more than 1 million followers, called for the officer's firing, echoing the position of the girl's parents. Anonymous is a loose hacker collective known for taking up social causes and targeting government and business websites and computer systems.
The city fielded about 50 calls and 30 emails as of early Friday afternoon, with content ranging in tone from questioning to vulgar, said City Manager Roscoe Stelford. He stood by the process that led to the suspension and noted Amati's 24 years of service and otherwise clean disciplinary record, along with the lack of criminal charges, among other factors.
"In light of all that … that is ultimately the punishment that the (commission) settled on," Stelford said.
The calls and emails did not disrupt city operations, Stelford said, though information technology personnel was alerted to the matter.
On Thursday, Amati was relieved of his duties as the department's spokesman, police Chief Robert Lowen said. Lowen and the deputy chief will now handle that job. Asked whether the change was related to the investigation, Lowen said the job was "more appropriately done by the deputy chief or the police chief."
Amati, who could not be reached for comment, remains in charge of records and the dispatch department, among other duties, Lowen said.
Lowen has defended Amati as a good officer and said he is not concerned about the sergeant remaining on the force.
Authorities have not suggested the text message broke any law. McHenry County Assistant State's Attorney Michael Combs has said prosecutors considered the fact that Amati would face departmental discipline before deciding not to charge him with anything related to conduct revealed by the investigation.