The application for duty disability by a veteran police sergeant is expected to allow the Forest Park Police Department to move closer to having a full complement of officers on duty.

Police Chief Tom Aftanas said Sgt. Eric Bell, who has been unable to work since suffering a “significant” shoulder injury while on duty in October 2016, has filed for duty disability, creating a vacancy Aftanas said he hopes the village council will authorize him to fill. He said he hopes the village council will honor his request to hire the next qualified candidate from the eligibility list when the council meets March 12. Bell, 48, has been with the department since January 1995.

Although hiring three new officers in December brought the department to full strength of 38 sworn officers for the first time since 2015, the department does not have that many officers available for duty. The three new officers are still at the police academy and another officer is serving in the U.S. military overseas. 

Aftanas has said previously that the level of law enforcement service has not suffered as a result of the understaffing. At least five officers continue to patrol at all times. Overtime hours and shifting staff from dedicated task forces, such as plain-clothes drug enforcement, are used to fill the shortage.