Suffredin- An Advocate for All of Us  
 

Accountability
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:  
   
 
 

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

   
 

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

   
  The Cook County Forest Preserve District maintains over 70 miles of bicycle trails.
   
     
     
     



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.

ADVERTISING

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During a budget fight last October after the county’s controversial soda pop tax was repealed, Dart said he could absorb the police force’s responsibilities with minimal if any expansion of his ranks, reducing taxpayer costs by $9.5 million.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

gpratt@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @royalpratt



Recent Headlines

Editorial: What happened to the elk?
Friday, August 10, 2018
Chicago Tribune

Wells Fargo to offer $15,000 grants to potential Cook County homebuyers
Thursday, August 09, 2018
Chicago Tribune

Suit alleges Cook County detainees secretly monitored in bathrooms in holding cells at courthouses
Wednesday, August 08, 2018
Chicago Tribune

Half the elk at Busse Woods died last year, and officials aren’t sure why
Tuesday, August 07, 2018
Chicago Tribune

A letter from Dr. Jay Shannon regarding gun violence and Stroger Hospital
Tuesday, August 07, 2018
Special to suffredin.org

As Evanston adapts to minimum wage hike, nearby towns say they have no plan to join in
Tuesday, August 07, 2018
Chicago Tribune

Lawsuit could blast a $250 million hole in county budget
Monday, August 06, 2018
Crain's Chicago Business

Pappas: Automatic refunds of $19.5 million going to 53,000 homeowners because of property tax cuts
Monday, August 06, 2018
Special to suffredin.org

Thousands of Cook County homeowners to receive property tax refunds
Monday, August 06, 2018
Chicago Sun-Times

Cook County Board Adopts Resolution Concerned With Foxconn Impacts
Thursday, August 02, 2018
Journal and Topics Media Group

FBI: Ex-employee alleges Dorothy Brown picked up cash payoffs at bagman's home
Thursday, August 02, 2018
Chicago Tribune

Demolition of MWRD dam to clear way for fish and recreation
Wednesday, August 01, 2018
Special to suffredin.org

EXCLUSIVE: Sheriff Tom Dart to pair inmates with pet dogs
Wednesday, August 01, 2018
Chicago Sun-Times

County Minimum Wage, Sick Time Advisory Questions Approved for November Ballot
Wednesday, August 01, 2018
Journal and Topics Media Group

Editorial: Berrios and Kaegi: What a new assessor can and can't fix
Thursday, July 26, 2018
Chicago Tribune

Your Personal Data May Be Exposed in Cook County Traffic Records
Wednesday, July 25, 2018
CBS Chicago

Garcia avoids public tiff with Preckwinkle, delays plan for county revenue forecasting commission
Wednesday, July 25, 2018
Chicago Tribune

Cook County TIF districts bring in $1 billion
Tuesday, July 24, 2018
Chicago Sun-Times

Cook County board moves to prevent repeat of pop tax fiasco
Friday, July 20, 2018
Crain's Chicago Business

Cook County forest worker was going 76 mph in 30 mph zone, had THC in system during fatal crash while on job: prosecutors
Thursday, July 19, 2018
Chicago Tribune

all news items

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