Ongoing reorganization of the Forest Park Police Department continued at the Nov. 13 village council meeting when Mayor Anthony Calderone administered the oath of office to new Sergeant Nick Defors.
He fills the vacancy created when Justin Diano was promoted to lieutenant, replacing Steve Weiler, whose retirement took effect Oct. 31. Diano took his oath of office in a private ceremony held earlier this month.
Diano’s tenure as a lieutenant will be short, ending with his retirement in January. Before then, Police Chief Tom Aftanas will have to promote another sergeant to lieutenant and another officer to sergeant.
Defors has been with the department for over 13 years. He had been assigned to the criminal investigation unit, both as a tactical officer and a detective, before he was reassigned back to patrol. Defors earned a bachelor’s degree in wellness management from DePaul University in Chicago.
With his promotion, he has been assigned to a patrol shift as a watch commander.
As with previous swearing-in ceremonies, the audience included members of the Forest Park Police Department and members of Defors’ family.
“Being an officer is a lot of fun. It’s my dream job,” he said. “I’m in the middle of my career now. I’m hoping to take the next step.”
When asked how far up the promotion ladder he wants to climb, Defors said, “As far as they’ll let me.”
He credited the police department as a whole and the department’s emphasis on training for his success, noting that Forest Park is respected by other neighboring departments for its training.
Defors also was honored with a life-saving award from Aftanas at the Nov. 13 meeting for his actions during an early morning incident, Aug. 11, involving a suicidal subject. He was nominated for the award by Sgt. Mike Harrison.
According to Aftanas, Defors and other officers responded to a domestic disturbance call involving a subject with a knife. On arrival, a resident informed him that an adult family member was cutting himself with a butcher knife. Defors applied a tourniquet to stop the flow of blood from a deep cut on the subject’s wrist; used a bandage to pack and wrap the deep laceration; and calmed the subject and kept him preoccupied by speaking to him until paramedics arrived.
The award is not the first for Defors, who said he also received a unit citation and a valor award. The valor award from Cook County, he said, recognized his efforts in apprehending a trio of armed robbers in 2007.
In September, Dan Pater was promoted to sergeant, replacing Eric Bell, who had been unable to work since suffering a “significant” shoulder injury while on duty in October 2016, and filed for duty disability last year.
The retirements of Weiler and Diano and the previously announced retirement of Officer Harold Grimes will leave the department short-handed again. Aftanas had previously been given authorization to hire an officer to replace Grimes when he retires this month. He said he will seek village council approval to add two more officers in time to send all three to the next police academy session, which starts in January.
Aftanas had hoped to hire Grimes’ replacement in time to send the new officers to the police academy in September, but the hiring of two probationary officers in August exhausted the eligibility list.
A new list was created after a written exam was administered in September.
The department has added eight probationary officers since the beginning of 2017 although one dropped out of the police academy and another resigned shortly after graduating from the police academy.
The addition of three probationary officers in December, added to the two officers hired previously in 2017, brought the department to full strength for the first time since 2015. A total of three officers have been hired so far this year.
Aftanas indicated these retirements might be just the beginning, noting that other department members are nearing retirement age.
“I told the mayor when I became chief that we would see a large number of retirements in three to five years,” he added.
It has been just over three years since he was promoted to chief in June 2015.