It is time for Forest Park to fully rethink its auxiliary police force. Providing weapons and a badge to amateur cops might have been a reasonable idea in decades past, but no longer. The stakes are life and death, the liability issues immense and the always-on-the-cusp likelihood that the reputation of Forest Park's actual police department is about to take another hit is too real to continue the status quo.
Nearly a year ago, the Review reported on an incident where an auxiliary Forest Park cop left his department-issued handgun, ammunition, handcuffs and bullet-proof vest in the rear seat of his car. The items were stolen and within hours used in the murder of a man on the Forest Park-Oak Park border. Today we publish the detailed reporting of the Better Government Association and NBC5 on this case and the dubious use of auxiliary cops in departments across the state.
The Forest Park incident was a grievous violation of safety and good sense which ended a life and exposed our lawsuit-prone police department to more costly litigation. As the BGA reporting makes clear, Forest Park is not alone in the problematic use of low-paid, hardly-trained police wannabees as auxiliary officers. And we're not alone in the misuse of authority that comes with this territory.
If Forest Park needs help directing traffic or controlling crowds for the fireworks on the 4th of July, then organize a band of unarmed, undeputized men and women for this specific and limited duty.
We get that the police auxiliary is one of those hallowed, hoary Forest Park traditions. Both Mayor Anthony Calderone and Village Administrator Tim Gillian served as auxiliary cops back in the day. But it is past time to let this go, and focus on further professionalizing the full-time police force.
Diversity made real
Here's good news times two.
District 91 adopts Indigenous Peoples Day as a worthy replacement for Columbus Day.
A second incident of hate vandalism of a public mural on the Circle Avenue bridge was met with quick response from both residents and village hall.
Gradually, and not by accident, our consciousness continues to be raised on issues of inclusion and fair representation. Our public schools, immersed as they are in the hard work of racial equity, chose to drop recognition of Christopher Columbus as the great European discoverer of a "new world" and instead to offer recognition of the people who had long inhabited this continent.
The district is working on ways to teach this inclusive lesson next October in our classrooms.
Meanwhile, residents, police and village staff acted quickly this time to override the intentions of the vandal who has twice blocked out the "No Human is Illegal" portion of a mural over the Ike. The incident was documented, the artwork repainted and the resolve strengthened that this message be heard in our village.