Retirements begin to impact police department

Council approves Chief Aftanas' request to hire three new officers

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By Robert J. Lifka

Contributing Reporter

After reaching full strength in December for the first time since 2015, the Forest Park Police Department is short-handed again.

The retirement of two officers and the resignation of another led the village council to grant Chief Thomas Aftanas' request for three new officers at the July 9 meeting.

Aftanas said he is hoping the Fire and Police Commission will be able to hire the three off the department's eligibility list in time for them to start training at the Chicago Police Academy in September. 

The department reached its full strength of 38 officers with the addition of three officers in December. One of those three, Justine Constantino, unexpectedly resigned last month, shortly after graduating from the police academy, according to Aftanas.

Officer Young Lee retired in May and Officer Harold Grimes has announced he will retire in October.

In addition, Officer Daysi Riglos, who joined the department in April, is still at the police academy.

Grimes began his Forest Park career as a 911 dispatcher in October 1989 and joined the police force in May 1996. He served as a bicycle officer and as an evidence technician assigned to the West Suburban Major Crimes Task Force.

Lee began his career in September 1991 and also served as a bicycle officer, in addition to being a field-training officer, evidence technician and special response team member.

Aftanas indicated these two retirements might be just the beginning, noting that other department members are nearing retirement age and speculating another might retire before the end of the year. 

"I told the mayor when I became chief that we would see a large number of retirements in 3-5 years," he said. It has been just over three years since he was promoted to chief in June 2015.

The process for bringing on new officers is extensive and can take more than a year to complete. Forest Park's department, like other municipal forces, adheres to state law. Illinois requires departments to maintain an eligibility list of potential hires, even when no job openings exist. 

Typically, a department will contract with a private company to help compile the list. Forest Park, for instance, has used Chicago-based Stanard and Associates in past years. The hiring process includes mental aptitude, physical fitness, and psychological examinations; polygraph tests; and drug and medical screenings. 

The Fire and Police Commission, a three-member, mayor-appointed board that oversees the hiring process, also conduct interviews. In Forest Park, candidates with college degrees, prior law enforcement or military experience score additional points. Preference cannot be given to individuals from any particular racial, ethnic, religious, gender or sexual orientation group.

Although the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board, a state agency established in the 1960s, mandates a minimum level of requirements — such as no felony convictions for sworn police officers — individual communities can establish their own additional qualifications, too. Forest Park, for instance, requires 60 credit hours from an accredited college or university and the successful completion of a background check.

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