The Forest Park Police Department has a troubling history of sexual misconduct within its ranks. This goes back decades. It has involved police chiefs. A batch of officers. It has been directed outward toward citizens. It has played out among officers.
It has historically represented a depressing and quite stunning cultural defect on this force and has cost the village money in insurance settlements on lawsuits. It has also undermined the perceptions of the department among citizens.
That is what makes the prompt and decisive action of still-new Police Chief Tom Aftanas to terminate veteran officer Roberto Salas so meaningful. Salas faced accusations that in September he had raped a Forest Park woman while on duty. Had raped a woman who only a few days earlier he had assisted as her estranged, and allegedly brutalizing, husband vacated their apartment under court order.
Salas and the village are now targeted in a civil lawsuit filed by the alleged victim. We would expect criminal charges against Salas are likely. And while this will almost certainly prove costly to the village, Aftanas’ decisive action here is the critical step in sending his subordinates the clearest message that the old days are gone. Being a police officer in Forest Park is not cover for sexual assault. Such actions make you a criminal, will not be tolerated, glossed over, excused in any way.
Said the chief when we asked, if there is an allegation of sexual misconduct, “even if it’s partially upheld, employees are going to be fighting for their jobs. If they choose to ignore [the department’s policy on sexual misconduct] and something happens, it’s going to be extremely strict.”
He also noted that in the current case, the internal investigation did not take long.
Good for the chief. Good for Forest Park. Enough is enough.
Stability on D91’s board
The school board election in April will be an unusual one for Forest Park’s District 91 elementary schools. On the seven-member board, six seats will be up for election. Typically, a staggered term system would leave no more than four seats up for voters to choose. But an odd and troubling pattern in recent years of early departures by board members has made this board a patchwork of appointments.
This lack of stability is tough on a school board where continuity has value. The good news is that three members currently filling out expiring terms — Christina Ricordati, Kimberlee Rostello and Kyra Tyler — are now running for full terms. Two longtime members — Eric Connor and Mary Win Conor — are seeking an additional term. And one newcomer, Shannon Wood, has two young kids in the schools and pledges to serve her full term.
The bad news is that the election will be uncontested. But we’ll settle for having a board fully stocked with citizens elected by voters.