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  • Writer's pictureJohn Maher

Former police officer accuses Rock Valley College of harassment over military service

Jim Hagerty

Rockford Register Star

ROCKFORD — A former Rock Valley College police officer who was accused of lying on his

timesheet is now suing the school.

Federal court records show Vincent Lara filed a civil complaint against Rock Valley on Jan.

14, accusing the police department of harassment and wrongful prosecution when they

alleged that he took paid time off to serve in the U.S. Army Reserves as a master sergeant at

times when there were no military drills.

Lara's complaint states that the case against him was sparked by one of his supervisors,

who “became obsessed” with the amount of paid time off he was taking.

Lara claims the supervisor subjected him to “anti-military animus” that got so bad his only

solution was to resign. His supervisor also lied on a sworn statement that ultimately led the

Winnebago County State's Attorney's Office to charge him with theft in 2018, he alleges.

The charges were dismissed in 2019 after his criminal lawyers at DeRango & Cain produced

evidence Lara did participate in military drills during the times he took paid leave.

More coverage: Theft charges against former Rock Valley College cop dismissed

Even though the criminal case is behind him, Lara believes he deserves compensation for

damages he suffered while he was employed by Rock Valley College.

John Maher, Lara's civil attorney, said his client has been blackballed in certain law-

enforcement circles and denied opportunities in policing because of his arrest.

"This is a direct, palpable, concrete and devastating impact on (his) family since 2017, if not

before," said Maher, who who specializes in representing members of the military in civil and

criminal cases. "It was maliciously intended."

Maher said Lara's mistreatment was rooted in jealousy on the part of the supervising officer,

who falsely accused him of "playing solider" to take advantage of laws that allowed him to be

paid by the police department and the military.

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The suit further claims that the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Office failed to conduct its own

investigation that would have shown that Lara did nothing wrong.

Lara served on the RVC police force for five years. He is seeking a host of damages including

back pay, loss of future earnings, loss of benefits and potential punitive remedies. He also

wants the court to require Rock Valley College to implement policies that prohibit

discriminating and retaliating against military service members.

Winnebago County State's Attorney J. Hanley said he is aware of the filing.

“On behalf of the Sheriff’s Office, we will review Lara’s complaint and defend it accordingly,"

Hanley said in an email.

Rock Valley College did not return calls seeking comment.

The lawsuit names Rock Valley College, the college's police department, the Rock Valley

College Board of Trustees and Winnebago County Sheriff's Department as defendants.

A court date in the case has not been set.

Jim Hagerty:; @jimhagerty

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