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The Forest Park Police Department filled vacancies on the force Dec. 17 with the addition of two new probationary officers. The announced retirement in January of Lt. Justin Diano will leave the department shorthanded again.

Marc R. Stone and Miguel A. Rios replace Lt. Steve Weiler and Officer Harold Grimes, who both retired in October.

Stone, 29, of Naperville, received a bachelor of science degree in engineering technology from Illinois State University in Normal. He has served with a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers unit based in Forest Park.

Rios, 45, of North Riverside, previously served with the Cicero Police Department for 11 years. He held the rank of detective when he resigned to move out of state. According to Police Chief Tom Aftanas, he wanted to resume his police career when he returned to Illinois and applied to Forest Park.

Aftanas said Stone would undergo orientation prior to starting at the Chicago Police Academy Jan. 2. With his background, Rios will not need to attend the police academy and was scheduled to begin field training Dec. 18.

According to the chief, there is a “definite possibility” the department will add a third probationary officer in time for him to join Stone at the police academy training. A candidate has been identified but he was unable to complete the vetting process in time for the Dec. 17 swearing in. If testing and other requirements are completed in time, his oath of office would be administered in a private ceremony. 

Aftanas had hoped to hire Grimes’ replacement in time to send the new officer 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 10 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 2017, added to the two officers hired previously in 2017, brought the department to full strength for the first time since 2015. Three officers were hired previously in 2018.

In addition to the new probationary officers, the Police Department gained a new police vehicle at the Dec. 17 meeting when the Village Council approved the purchase of a 2018 Ford Explorer for the patrol fleet, replacing a vehicle that was totaled during a chase Nov. 21 that followed a carjacking. The officer driving the vehicle was not injured.

The Village Council voted 4-0 to purchase the vehicle from Sutton Ford in Matteson for $31,545.00. Commissioner Rachell Entler did not attend the meeting.

Aftanas explained he was unable to obtain additional bids because Sutton Ford is the only Ford dealer offering the Explorer with a “police package.” Waiting for a 2019 model would have delayed the purchase and led to a higher price, he added. 

The cost will be covered by state asset forfeiture account funds, according to Aftanas. 

He explained that the forfeiture account includes cash and other valuables confiscated from suspects arrested and charged with drug crimes. The federal customs asset seizure account is similar, he added. He explained that the amount in the accounts vary from year to year, depending on the number of arrests and what valuables are in the suspects’ possession. The state account was at $280,000 and the federal customs account at $306,000 in December, according to Aftanas.

“A lot of these guys carry a lot of money,” he noted.