The upcoming Police and Fire Commission hearing that will determine the fate of veteran Forest Park police officer Sgt. Dan Harder has already brought forth many heated opinions, and if Harder is indeed fired, the controversy is sure to increase.
Skeptics in the village attempt to tie all suspicious actions back to Mayor Anthony Calderone and they have made that attempt in this instance. The theory runs that Calderone pulls the strings of both Police Chief James Ryan and of the Police and Fire Commission, which he appoints. Calderone, say critics, wants Harder gone. The fix is therefore in.
We acknowledge these theories, and we acknowledge the overheated political atmosphere which fans such theories.
But we don’t accept them as logical. First, Calderone seemed as outraged as anyone over the sexual harassment scandal which embroiled his police department in 2002. He fired a police chief he had heavily promoted as the future of the department. He pushed hard for severe discipline against those accused. Maybe he holds a grudge against Harder for his role in that tawdry mess. We don’t presume to know.
We do know that while we might not agree with everything Calderone does, he does have a functioning brain in his head, and it is difficult to believe that he would engage in such an easily traceable abuse of power in a completely public forum.
Still, we will allow that something strange seems to be brewing. The notion of firing a veteran cop for swearing certainly seems a bit absurd, and officers accused of using much worse language in much more harmful ways have been spared by the department in the past.
The Review has even received documentation of identical language being aimed in Harder’s direction by other officers ” we’ll spare the details, as they are sure to emerge at the hearing.
The charge of lying to Ryan about his whereabouts during a sick day are more credible, but still do not seem worthy of termination. And a shadow of suspicion was cast over those charges as well when the accusation that he had taken 50 sick days so far this year turned out to be a farce, as most of those days were part of a village approved family medical leave.
Several sources have told us over the past weeks that once the hearing is underway, the village’s reasons for firing Harder will become as clear as day to all in attendance. We’ll wait and see, but the prosecution would have to drop quite a bombshell for this to occur.
We’re not sure who is behind these charges, or if anyone is behind them at all. Harder clearly was not the most popular cop at the station, and maybe the powers that be just decided he needed to go. Either way, it does not appear that Harder is being treated by the same standards as his colleagues.
• Last week’s “Religion Briefs” gave the time for the St. Bernardine Pancake Breakfast as Sunday, October 23 from 6:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. The correct time is from 8:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m.
• Last week’s “Library Lines” identified Jay Bonansinga’s book as “Wreck of the Eastland.” The correct title of his book is “The Sinking of the Eastland.”