Suffredin- For a Better Cook County  

Forest Preserves
Public Safety
Cook County Budget
Forest Pres. Budget
Property Tax Appeal
Health & Hospitals
Land Bank Authority
Policy Resolutions
Unsung Heroine


  Office phone numbers:  

The Cook County Code of Ordinances are the current laws of Cook County.


Search current and proposed Cook County Legislation in Larry's exclusive legislative library.

  The Cook County Law Library is the second largest County law library in the nation.

County officials defend Forest Preserves police in wake of man harassing woman over Puerto Rican flag shirt

Friday, July 13, 2018
Chicago Tribune
by Gregory Pratt

County officials defend Forest Preserves police in wake of man harassing woman over Puerto Rican flag shirt

Gregory PrattChicago Tribune

In the wake of a man berating a woman for wearing a Puerto Rican flag T-shirt at a forest preserve, Cook County officials repeatedly have reassured people that the serene expanses of woods are a safe place to go.

As part of that effort, they’ve cited the work of Forest Preserves police, saying the response of an officer who appeared to ignore a woman’s request for help shouldn’t reflect poorly on the entire department.


“The appalling incident of June 14 and the inaction of one former member of the Forest Preserves Police should not diminish the greatness of the preserves, nor dissuade people from enjoying our 70,000 acres of nature and beauty,” Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said in a statement Thursday.

But the incident that erupted into a national story this week via a viral video posted online isn't the first time the Forest Preserve District Police Department has come under scrutiny, and it’s renewed questions about whether the police force is necessary. Some critics say the department is a redundant use of taxpayer funds and question whether its duties should be taken over by Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart’s office.

READ MORE: Forest preserve officer who didn't help woman in Puerto Rican flag shirt 'tarnished the whole department with his failure to act,' commissioner says »

During a budget fight last October after the county’s controversial soda pop tax was repealed, Dart said he could absorb the police force’s responsibilities with minimal if any expansion of his ranks, reducing taxpayer costs by $9.5 million.

That sparked a sharp rebuke from the district’s leadership, and the change wasn’t made.

“We need a dedicated force to be out in the forest preserves every day dealing with all issues, big and small, to make sure we can do our jobs and people feel safe and are safe,” Forest Preserves General Superintendent Arnold Randall said at a Thursday news conference responding to the incident. “Having a force that’ll come to you when you need us, maybe, but if there’s some other priority, there’s something else that’s happening outside the forest preserve and we’re a second option does not work for our mission.”

If another department took over responsibilities for their jurisdiction, the forest preserves would be less of a priority compared with more serious crimes, and that would affect services, Randall said. If people don’t feel safe, he said, “people won’t come.”

“When you’re talking about an individual incident here, I would say it’s important not to cast that broad negative shadow across every forest preserve officer who’s out there working every day, dealing with huge crowds, dealing with people who are intoxicated, dealing with all sorts of issues big and small,” Randall said.

Dart spokeswoman Cara Smith this week stopped short of calling to take over the agency’s duties but said it should be “on the table for discussion.” She said the sheriff’s office believes it could take over with minimal added expenses.

“To the extent there are redundancies, they need to be examined and justified,” Smith said.

Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin, a frequent Preckwinkle critic, said he sees the June incident as further reason to question “whether or not we actually need a forest preserve police department or whether (an incident like) this incident is better handled by the sheriff.

“Quite frankly, I’m sure that a sheriff’s police would’ve been actively engaged right away once the gentleman was hurling insults and got in the lady’s face,” said Boykin of Oak Park. “I’m sure that sheriff’s police, based on his or her training, would’ve been actively engaged in the situation to de-escalate that situation and to make sure a valid permit holder is not harassed in any way.”

READ MORE: Hate crime charges filed against man caught on video confronting woman over Puerto Rico shirt »

Cook County Commissioner Sean Morrison of Palos Park, another Preckwinkle critic, said it would be more “efficient” to have the sheriff’s office take over the department’s duties.

“We’re paying big salaries for people to drive around and at the end of the night lock the chains and unlock it in the morning,” Morrison said. “Is that the best use of funds? I don’t know.”

Preckwinkle spokesman Frank Shuftan said the office doesn’t see “any savings” available by merging the forest police with the sheriff’s office.

“The Forest Preserve police perform the unique functions of serving as park rangers and are knowledgeable about the preserves themselves in addition to their public safety duties,” Shuftan said. “The action or inaction of one officer … should not taint an entire force, and any attempt at doing so is patently unfair and wrongheaded.”

Twitter @royalpratt

Recent Headlines

Nearly a century after a brutal murder, Chicago’s only lynching victim gets memorial
Thursday, March 21, 2019
The Grio

County harassment survey shows mixed faith in reporting system
Thursday, March 21, 2019
Chicago Sun-Times

Recovery Behind Bars: Cook County Jail’s Opioid Treatment Program
Wednesday, March 20, 2019
Medill Reports

Judge: Labor unions don't owe non-union state workers refunds, despite unconstitutional fees
Wednesday, March 20, 2019
Cook County record

The language of justice: Court interpreters fight for client rights and their rights in Cook County
Tuesday, March 19, 2019
Medill Reports

Cook County General Hospital's $90-Million Redevelopment Saves a Chicago Icon
Tuesday, March 19, 2019
Engineering News Rec ord

Preckwinkle sends out harassment survey to staff after harassment controversy in her office
Tuesday, March 19, 2019
Chicago Tribune

Illinois Land Title Association Granted Summary Judgment in Case against Cook County Recorder of Deeds
Sunday, March 17, 2019
Illinois State Bar Association

Grand Jury Indicts Debt Collector of Bribing Cook County Clerk Dorothy Brown
Friday, March 15, 2019
WBBM Chicago

Indictment: Cook County's hired debt collector charged with bribing county officials to secure county contract
Friday, March 15, 2019
Cook County record

Karen Chavers Honored as 2019 Unsung Heroine
Thursday, March 14, 2019
Special to

Pappas to announce deadline for Cook County property owners to pay late taxes
Wednesday, March 13, 2019
Chicago Sun-Times

Courts Cause Confusion For Woman Trying To Resolve Her Case
Wednesday, March 13, 2019
CBS Chicago

Census changes raise fears of Illinois undercounting
Monday, March 11, 2019
Chicago Sun-Times

Cook County Sheriff Warns of Apple Phone Scam
Monday, March 11, 2019

Caller poses as Apple to get victims personal info in scam targeting Cook County residents
Monday, March 11, 2019
WGN Chicago

Should Young Adults Be Sent To Juvenile Courts?
Sunday, March 10, 2019
NPR Radio

Cook County Jail hires 2nd consecutive mental health professional as warden
Wednesday, March 06, 2019
Chicago Sun-Times

Lawsuit: Sheriff jailed dozens because of faulty electronic monitoring devices
Monday, March 04, 2019
Chicago Sun-Times

Woman dies while in custody at Cook County Jail
Sunday, March 03, 2019
Fox 32

all news items

Paid for by Larry Suffredin and not at taxpayer expense. A Haymarket Production.