It seems like every day you wake up and read about yet another instance of someone being filmed without their knowledge via a hidden camera in the local newspaper. It’s not every day, however, that the person doing the filming is an officer of the law. Yet, that’s exactly what happened in 2017 when a long-time police officer lost his job after using a series of hidden cameras to spy on his ex-wife during their divorce proceedings.
Where the story becomes less clear, however, has to do with what type of punishment the officer should endure. Although the officer in question has long since lost his job, the local police union says that he should absolutely be allowed back on the job – and sooner rather than later, too.
The Cop, the Hidden Cameras and the Job
Officer Daniel Wagner made headlines in 2017 for a particularly egregious lapse in judgment that quickly left him out of a job. The Aurora, Illinois, police officer was going through a particularly nasty divorce when he decided to turn to technology in an attempt to get a “leg up” on his soon-to-be ex-wife.
While his divorce was still pending, he installed a series of hidden cameras throughout his home – including one in the bedroom that he and his former wife shared – for the purposes of protection. As the divorce dragged on, he moved out of the house… but activated the cameras once again when he moved into a new place of his own. He continued to use the cameras to monitor his ex-wife over a series of several months without her knowledge.
To make matters worse, these were particularly advanced Nest-based cameras – meaning that the audio and video footage that they were constantly recording could be remotely accessed over the Internet. According to a series of court records from the time, Wagner looked at those videos daily from several different devices – including the city-issued phone that was given to him as part of his job as a law enforcement officer.
Once the issue was discovered by the ex-wife and reported to the authorities, Wagner was terminated from the department in January of 2017. The chief of police at the time, a woman named Kristen Ziman, said that Wagner’s actions went “beyond a traditional lack of judgment or emotion,” and that he had no place in being a member of the department moving forward.
Now, it seems, the Aurora Police Union disagrees. Not only do they think that he shouldn’t have lost his job, but they argue that he should be allowed back on the streets right away.
After an internal investigation, representatives from the Police Union ruled that Wagner should only have been suspended for one year over the incident – he should NOT have been fired permanently. At that point, the City of Aurora itself filed a lawsuit in an attempt to get a judge to rule officially on the issue. That lawsuit is currently in “pending” status in Kane County Circuit Court, and further developments will take place later in the year.
It’s important to note that this is not the first time the subject of Wagner’s termination has come up for debate. There was an arbitration hearing in October of 2017, for example, where officials from the city argued that anything short of his termination would be a clear violation of public policy. The Police Union at the time argued that even though he was guilty, the State’s Attorney’s Office declined to press formal charges – potentially leaving the door open for him to return to the force.
What, if anything, will happen remains to be seen. A motion call in the case took place on February 21 with Kane County Judge David Akemann, and a further case management conference is currently scheduled for May 4, 2018. One thing’s for sure, however – privacy advocates everywhere will definitely be watching what happens with baited breath to see just how secure our privacy really is in the digital world that we’re now living in.