Though we’re hesitant to write this for fear of speaking too soon, it seems that an end to the termination hearings for Sgt. Dan Harder might be approaching in the near future.
Harder’s attorney, Jeanine Stevens, says she has called nearly all of her witnesses.
The testimony of Mayor Anthony Calderone, which she had probably hoped would be her grand finale, was relatively uninteresting due to the constant objections which prevented her from asking the questions she wanted.
Of course, there is a second phase to the hearings, as once the board of fire and police commissioners makes a ruling regarding Harder’s guilt or innocence, the attorneys still can call further witnesses before the board determines the extent of his punishment.
But most involved seem to think that this won’t take too long, at least in comparison to the first phase of the hearing. Once the hearing is wrapped up, of course, the village will still have Harder’s federal lawsuit to deal with. Still, even the partial elimination of the dark cloud this hearing has placed over village government is good news.
No matter what verdict the board returns, it is doubtful that the whole story will ever emerge. A vast majority of the testimony was silly, confusing “he said, she said.” Those who have friendships or alliances on either side believe that side, while neutral parties are left scratching their heads.
While we may never know whether Harder was disciplined for his performance or his politics, whether Steve Johnsen was offered the job of police chief or whether Mike Murphy threatened to unleash the boogie man, we do know that, as long as this ordeal lasted, the process of recovering from the turmoil it has caused will last even longer.
In the past, we’ve questioned whether the village acted responsibly by attempting to fire Harder on such flimsy charges. Regardless of whether Harder’s drawn out defense and lawsuit are valid, the village certainly opened the door for both, and the outrage from many taxpayers is understandable.
While those questions still exist, at this point they are superceded by concerns regarding how the police department and the village will recover from this debacle. The village is dealing with, among other issues, a recent increase in gang activity which makes it crucial for the police department to be on the ball.
It would be impossible for the hearing not to affect morale among the officers, but after the things that have been said, it is difficult to imagine certain officers even being able to work together at all.
We hope the village and police department are fully aware of the need to do whatever is necessary to maintain professionalism for the sake of Forest Park residents. The recovery process will certainly be a slow one, and any potential flare-ups resulting from lingering hard feelings must be dealt with expediently before they can affect the level of service residents receive.