In reading your recent story about the “March on Madison,” organized by OPRF High School teachers, I was struck by the stark differences in approach taken by law enforcement officials in Oak Park and in Forest Park.

While reportedly concerned about the route of marchers setting off from the high school, Oak Park police appear to have actively participated in the event and sought to make it an opportunity to practice some community policing and engagement. (Never a bad thing!)

Across Harlem, however, Forest Park’s cowboy police department went into siege mode. Rather than mingle with demonstrators, Forest Park police took up positions on top of Healy’s to monitor the crowd — and, apparently, various local sniper perches — through binoculars.

“After what happened in Dallas, we’re just watching the rooftops making sure there’s nobody up high,” Forest Park Police Chief Tom Aftanas explained.

You can’t be too safe, chief! (Did you guys check all the second-floor windows, too?!)

That Aftanas and his department opted to view a local march organized by high school teachers as an opportunity to retreat from the community and instead gear up for battle suggests one of two things:

Either the Forest Park police are comically clueless about where they actually work and have chosen to skip even the executive summary section of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, or their actions truly reflect the village and its leadership, including Mayor and Police Commissioner Tony Calderone. 

Either they’re unschooled in the best practices of modern policing or they choose to ignore those precepts in favor of an older style familiar to people across the Chicago area — a style that, according to the story, prompted this march in the first place.

Brett McNeil

Oak Park

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