In the wake of Sgt. Mike Murphy’s indictment but just prior to the news of officer Nick Kozak’s suspension, a post on the local online message board Forest Park Forums asked, “What are we breeding, cowboys or professionals?”
The answer is, unfortunately, both. And this will continue until three newly elected village commissioners see fit to stand up and demand that the cowboys with badges be corralled so the principled and professional cops may get the support they need and deserve.
The issues at stake here go beyond the hot water that any officer may find themselves in as of late. For decades, the police department has suffered from a lack of leadership, accountability and professionalism.
Chief Jim Ryan is not up to the task of reform, though the real problem is Anthony Calderone. The mayor recently discouraged the notion that a series of incidents, viewed collectively, are damaging. Damaging? They’re outright damning.
The “incidents” go back to Calderone’s time as a commissioner in the early ’90s. He was mayor and police commissioner when Robert Wilson filed a suit that was settled in six months, and again was at the helm when another suit took just two months to settle. In addition to being a lifelong resident of this community, Calderone has been in position to hear the sordid details of the department’s problems longer than any other public official. He should be well aware of the constant thread of chaos that exists, yet he has done little to correct it.
Ryan had just become chief when Sidney Hooks’ lawsuit presented more evidence that Murphy, more so than any other officer on the force, believes he’s a one man criminal justice system. Ryan not only didn’t have the stones to buck Calderone, he actually believed, incredibly, that Murphy wasn’t a problem.
Former commissioner Patrick Doolin contends that during an executive session of the village council Ryan said at the time he took full responsibility for Murphy’s behavior. In light of this indictment, Ryan needs to honor his word and quit. Or be fired.
Meanwhile, the three new commissioners can vote to release the audio recording of that meeting any time they choose. There may have also been other noteworthy comments made at that meeting about how the department responded to Hooks’ lawsuit.
Anyone who’s been observing our police department can deduce that it isn’t one bad apple causing all the turmoil. Several years ago a rape suspect was apprehended by Oak Park police and turned over to Forest Park officers. That suspect reportedly suffered minor injuries when his would be victim fought back, though nothing like what Chicago officers observed when they arrived later to take custody.
City police were reportedly so appalled at the suspect’s physical condition that they refused to sign for his custody until photographs were taken to document his injuries. Thankfully, those allegations haven’t been added to the pile of lawsuits already pending against this village. And through it all, Calderone just sits by, a man totally out of his depth, running the police department and this village into a financial ditch.
“Every circumstance has different circumstances, so I don’t believe there should be a cumulative effect,” Calderone bleated inanely to the Review.
Calderone needs to hire a genuinely tough top cop who’s capable of properly administering our police department and assuring a semblance of order, honor and dignity. And then that person must insist that the mayor butt out of the day-to-day administration of the department, otherwise, this sad and costly performance will continue indefinitely. At least until three newly elected commissioners stand up for our village and do the right thing.