Mike Keating has seen the West Suburban Directed Gang Enforcement Task Force grow since its founding in 2006, serving as street commander of the regional police partnership from 2010 to 2015.
However, when Keating was promoted from detective commander to deputy chief of the Forest Park Police Department in August, he was forced to relinquish his duties with the task force. The goal of the task force, known as WEDGE, is eradication of gang and drug problems in its member communities.
Keating’s years of service to the organization were recognized at Monday’s Forest Park Village Council meeting by WEDGE Chairperson Thomas Weitzel, chief of the Riverside Police Department.
“I am honored to acknowledge the years of service that Deputy Chief Keating dedicated to the WEDGE gang and drug task force,” Weitzel said in presenting Keating with a plaque. “Without a doubt, the success of this task force is due in large part to the professional supervision of Deputy Chief Keating.”
Forest Park and Riverside have been WEDGE members since the task force was started in October 2006 by William Kushner, who was then chief of the Berwyn Police Department, and other police chiefs from the inner ring of suburbs in close proximity to the West Side of the City of Chicago. Although some changes in the task force membership have occurred in the 10 years since its founding, other current police departments in the task force are Berwyn, Brookfield, Elmwood Park, North Riverside, Oak Park, River Forest, River Grove and Stickney.
Keating recalled those formative years, citing communication issues caused by a lack of radios and noting how Forest Park Mayor Anthony Calderone helped obtain radios from Cook County.
“I understand the value that WEDGE brings to regional policing,” Calderone said while joining Weitzel in recognizing Keating’s service to the task force. “On behalf of our officials, our hats are off to you.”
Keating received a Bachelor of Arts degree with honors in criminal justice from Lewis University and began his career with the Forest Park department as a patrol officer in 1987. He was transferred to the Criminal Investigations Division in 1993, where he worked as a tactical officer/detective until being promoted to patrol sergeant in 2001. Keating was transferred back to the Criminal Investigations Division, where he supervised the Tactical Response Unit until 2007 when he was promoted to supervisor of the Criminal Investigations Division. He was promoted to detective commander in 2013.
WEDGE was formed in response to an expansion of criminal activity from Chicago’s West Side to the inner ring suburbs. That expansion has been attributed to stepped up enforcement efforts by the Chicago Police Department although the elimination of high-occupancy, low-income housing units on the West Side also displaced residents into the nearby suburban residential areas. The suburban police departments, with 331 police officers serving 295,000 residents, not only lacked the manpower of the 13,000-member Chicago Police Department, but they also lacked the intelligence resources, interacting on department-wide levels sporadically. Intelligence sharing was intermittent and incomplete and each department maintained separate databases for such critical intelligence.
Fully operational in 2008, WEDGE consists of up to 30 officers and supervisors from the 10 member police departments working six task force days a month, although Keating acknowledged many put in extra time on their days off. The difficulty of coordinating the efforts of such a group was not lost on Weitzel.
“He was able to manage over 30 individual officers from 10 municipalities into an elite team of investigators,” he said. “That is no easy task and the productivity of the WEDGE Unit between 2010 and 2015 is evidence of Mike’s outstanding supervision and leadership.”
In Forest Park, Keating developed the Crime Scene Investigator Unit, is the assistant team leader of the Special Response Team, and supervisor of the range officers.