Lt. Steve Johnsen resigns from police department
Over the last 25 years, I have had the privilege of serving as a Forest Park police officer. I never imagined the positive impact I could have on people’s lives and our community. In that time, I received two village of Forest Park valor awards as well as numerous commendations and meritorious awards for my service. It has been an honor to wear the uniform and serve our community.
That is why this decision is so difficult for the Johnsen family. Effective Jan. 31, I will retire from the Forest Park Police Department after 25 years of service.
Recently, my performance on the job has been called into question, litigation has ensued and my personal life has been turned upside down. As one of the most decorated officers on the police force, I always took my job seriously and achieved results. But, sometimes politics enters the workplace. And today’s collateral damage is the Johnsen family.
My wife, Karen and I, bought her grandfather’s house in 1983 and have lived in Forest Park ever since. Our four children are fourth generation Forest Parkers and two of them will be attending college in the fall. My police salary was our family’s main source of income. However, I have been placed in the unenviable position of either defending my employment or providing for my family as a prolonged legal battle would surely deplete my savings. In those terms, this decision was not very difficult after all.
Another factor in my decision is my inability to defend myself in front of a fair and impartial government body. The mayor has stacked the Fire and Police Commission with supporters and political operatives; he hired and controls the police chief and he has two loyal soldiers on the village council that vote with him each and every time. The odds are stacked against me and should send a chilling effect down the spines of all Forest Park residents.
As our mayor focuses on politics, our law enforcement capabilities suffer. In the past two years, the police chief has spent more than 20 percent of his discretionary budget on lawyers pursuing fabricated claims against senior officers to help cement the mayor’s re-election. With the money spent on lawyers, the police department could have, instead, purchased a fleet of squad cars … twice, new digital cameras, new uniforms for the crossing guards and so forth. Currently the department has a fleet that includes a 1996 Crown Victoria. I encourage all Forest Park residents to ask these tough questions about how and where your tax dollars are being spent.
For those who have supported me in the past year; your prayers and kind words have warmed my heart. In the end, however, I prefer to walk away with honor and my family intact.
I am a longtime resident of Forest Park and for the most part I enjoy the village and its citizens. It was with shock and grief that I read the Jan. 24 issue and found that Abdul Lamrabet had been killed by a hit-and-run driver. I knew him to be a sincere and kind man who went out of his way to be helpful to all. As a pedestrian in the village I have had many close calls with motorists. It is my frequent observation and experience that drivers do not recognize traffic laws with respect to pedestrians. We are invisible in a crosswalk; motorists do not stop. Who are the citizens using crosswalks; seniors, the handicapped and children. Tragic accidents are inevitable on Forest Park streets.
Last but not least
The Executive Board of Forest Park Little League would also like to thank Terri Sansone for her time and effort dedicated to our Winter Carnival as a member of our Events Committee.
Anthony J. Lazzara