Despite strong objections from Commissioner Patrick Doolin, Forest Park’s village council voted Monday to establish new part-time police officer positions. The vote followed the recommendation of Police Chief James Ryan and Mayor Anthony Calderone, who also serves as the commissioner in charge of the police department.
The position, say its proponents, is intended to reduce overtime hours worked by full-time police officers and to free up full-time officers for more specific law enforcement tasks. The part-time officers would be paid $20 per hour without benefits, as opposed to the $45 per hour paid to police officers working overtime.
The new position, according to the recommendation, “would have a net saving to the village and enhance public safety to the village.” Ryan said that the position would free up officers with the relevant expertise to initiate a truck overweight program, which would save the village additional money.
Doolin, however, argued that the ordinance before the council was exceedingly vague and that it placed too much power in the hands of the mayor, who would be given the authority to hire part-time officers subject to the approval of the council.
“Unilateral authority is given to one individual, and there are no hiring standards,” said Doolin. He said that since part-time officers would be granted the right to detain offenders and to carry a gun, there should be a more comprehensive hiring process. Hiring decisions for full-time officers are made by the village’s Board of Police and Fire Commissioners.
Calderone pointed out that though the hiring process for part-time officers would be expedited, the firing process, if necessary, would be simpler as well, as an officer whose performance he found unsatisfactory could be immediately terminated by a council vote.
Ryan recommended two officers for the part-time position: Fran Marrocco, a Forest Park resident and former FBI agent who has worked in Crestwood as a part-time officer, and Jarleth Heverson, a former part-time officer in Lake County currently working as an auxiliary police officer in Des Plaines.
The job was not advertised, leading to further concern from Doolin. “So the people we’re hiring are just friends, or people that know someone?” he asked.
Doolin also questioned the impact on morale that would arise from cutting back officer’s overtime hours, telling Ryan “I know morale is important to you…its one of the reasons you suspended a certain officer,” referring to the ongoing termination hearings for Sgt. Dan Harder.
Ryan said that his intention was to start the program small and advertise future openings when they arise. “If you go through the advertising process you don’t know what you’re getting,” he said.
The ordinance passed Monday only establishes the position and the hiring requirements, and does not include the hiring of the recommended officers. Commissioner Tim Gillian repeatedly emphasized that no officers could be hired without the vote of the council majority.
Calderone said that the establishment of a part-time police position has been discussed since 1999, and the proposed ordinance followed a “proven and tried method” already in use in several municipalities throughout the state.
The ordinance requires that part-time officers complete the training required for the position by the Illinois Law Enforcement Training Standards Board, and that the hiring standards set forth by the village be submitted to the board by Ryan.