Police department at full strength, for now

Benito Marti and Arleta Kochan are the department's newest officers

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By Robert J. Lifka

Contributing Reporter

The addition of two new probationary officers at the Aug. 27 Forest Park Village Council meeting brought the Police Department to full strength at 38 officers but two retirements, one already announced and the other anticipated, will leave the department short-handed by the end of the year.

Mayor Anthony Calderone administered the oath of office to Benito Marti and Arleta Kochan, replacing one officer who retired in May and another who resigned in June. But Officer Harold Grimes already announced he will retire in October and Police Chief Tom Aftanas said he expects another member of the department to retire by the end of the year.

The village council last month granted the request by Aftanas that the Fire and Police Commission be authorized to hire three new officers, but the department's eligibility list has been exhausted, requiring the village to create a new eligibility list. 

The first step in that process will be administering a written exam on Saturday, Sept. 15. Aftanas said he hopes to add two more officers in time to attend the next session of the academy, which starts in January.

Aftanas said Marti and Kochan will start training at the Chicago Police Academy next month. After 3½ half months of training, they will undergo three months of field training in Forest Park.

The addition of three probationary officers last December brought the department to full strength for the first time since 2015.

Marti, 28, of Norridge, has attended Harper College in Palatine and Triton College in River Grove. He has 77 credit hours mainly taking business courses. He has served as an auxiliary officer for the Norridge Police Department since January 2017.    

Kochan, 25, of Chicago received a bachelor's degree in justice studies with a minor in criminology from Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago. She has no prior police experience but is bilingual, speaking fluent Polish.

As has happened during previous swearing-in ceremonies, the audience included members of the Forest Park Police Department and members of the new officers' families. Marti also was supported by two representatives of the Norridge Police Department, including Chief David Disselhorst, who told Calderone, "You're getting a good one."

Grimes began his Forest Park career as a 911 dispatcher in October 1989 and joined the police force in May 1996. He served as a bicycle officer and as an evidence technician, assigned to the West Suburban Major Crimes Task Force.

The process for bringing on new officers is extensive and can take more than a year to complete. Forest Park's department, like other municipal forces, adheres to state law. Illinois requires departments to maintain an eligibility list of potential hires, even when no job openings exist. 

Typically, a department will contract with a private company to help compile the list. Forest Park, for instance, has used Chicago-based Stanard and Associates in past years. The hiring process includes mental aptitude, physical fitness, and psychological examinations; polygraph tests; and drug and medical screenings. 

The Fire and Police Commission, a three-member, mayor-appointed board that oversees the hiring process, also conduct interviews. In Forest Park, candidates with college degrees, prior law enforcement or military experience score additional points. Preference cannot be given to individuals from any particular racial, ethnic, religious, gender or sexual orientation group.

Although the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board, a state agency established in the 1960s, mandates a minimum level of requirements — such as no felony convictions for sworn police officers — individual communities can establish their own additional qualifications, too. Forest Park, for instance, requires 60 credit hours from an accredited college or university and the successful completion of a background check.

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