The Police and Fire Commission is once again at full capacity, after a few strategic appointments by new Mayor Rory Hoskins. The commission is charged with hiring police and firefighters and preparing officers for promotions in their respective departments. This includes testing, interviews and recommending to the village council who should be hired or promoted.
Rachell Entler, a former village commissioner and the marketing director at the Park District of Forest Park, will serve as the group’s chair. Residents Kate Webster and Jerry Bramwell will round out the three-person group.
“I think that Rachell, Kate and Jerry all want to see Forest Park have a very professional police and fire department, and I think they’ll all make really good contributions,” Hoskins said.
Every two years, the commission restructures the police and fire departments’ candidate eligibility lists, and the three new members will be charged with redoing those lists this year. They will be administering a firefighter entrance exam, police sergeant exam and firefighter captain exam. Hoskins said he didn’t know when the exams would be scheduled.
But once they are he wants to see “good applicants” with a “professional background, good training, good life skills.” When asked if he hoped to attract more racially diverse candidates, Hoskins replied, “I hope we have a really wide pool of qualified candidates.”
In an email, Entler called diversifying the police and fire departments “tricky” because so much of the hiring process is based on test scores, noting that commissioners cannot “give extra points to someone because of race, gender or sexual orientation.” She said the Police and Fire Commission will continue to promote open positions at organizations with diverse populations. Aside from the police and fire chiefs, she said, promotions have to be come from within their departments. Deputy Chief Mike Keating will be retiring in August, and his promotion must come from within the police department.
“Being a multi-race/ethnic woman, diversity is always important to me. My role on the Police and Fire Commission is to find the best candidate to do the job, regardless of race, color, gender or sexual orientation,” Entler said in an email.
As for how the several recent federal complaints alleging excessive force by the Forest Park police department could inform her hiring perspective, Entler said she planned to meet with Police Chief Thomas Aftanas about his department’s needs and “make sure his vision aligns with the Police and Fire Commission so that we can make sure we are hiring the best candidates,” noting that she wanted to see those with “integrity, professionalism, respectability [and] good judgment.”
Entler said she was interested in joining the Police and Fire Commission because she was in active treatment for breast cancer during the last election and did not have the strength to run for another term as village commissioner, but she wanted to continue to serve the village. Because her father previously served as the Forest Park Fire Chief, she has always had an interest in how that department operates, she said. And because she grew up in the village, Entler said she has seen the challenges the police and fire departments face and how they have changed over the past 40 years.
“I have established a good working relationship with both the fire and police departments,” she said. “When you are tasked with hiring future employees, it is essential that the departments you are working with trust your judgment and that you understand the challenges they face here in Forest Park.”
Hoskins said he thought Entler would be the right person to lead the commission because of her personal and professional experiences and her desire to serve.
“She has experience in the village,” he said. “I think she’s an effective communicator, she’s very involved in the community, she’s a parent, and, because she works in town, she’s in place to observe lots of things.”
Jerry Bramwell did not respond to interview requests. Hoskins said he is an employment lawyer and litigator who serves on the executive board of the Chicago Bar Association’s judicial evaluation committee. Hoskins said he also was appointed to that committee, which is how he became acquainted with Bramwell, but that he stepped down from the post after he was elected mayor.
“As a lawyer, he has extensive contacts. While Forest Park has its own law firm, as that group deliberates, Jerry can probably add something to the discussion based on his life experience,” Hoskins said.
“He also has a desire to serve. He’s somewhat new to Forest Park and so I wanted to have a mix of longtime Forest Parkers and some new perspectives.”
Webster was unable to comment on her appointment. She previously served as head of the Diversity Commission but resigned after Hoskins was elected because she wanted to give him a chance to appoint his own chair, Hoskins said, adding that her professional experience — Webster serves as director of student diversity and multicultural affairs at Rush University Medical Center — will inform this position.
“I think she brings some new perspective to that board,” Hoskins said.
Previously Amy Rita, who also served as publisher of the now defunct Forest Park Post magazine, headed the commission. Hoskins said she “respectfully resigned” from the post after he was elected, and member Steve Hinton moved out of town. Hoskins was unsure about who the third member of the commission was but said that person moved out of town as well.