Maywood Park District Seeks to Expand Park Police Boundaries, Village Board Skeptical

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Saturday, November 23, 2013

By Michael Romain

MAYWOOD — A proposal to grant the Maywood Park District police the power to enforce both Village and Park District ordinances within a 2.5 mile radius of the parks was presented to the Village Board at an October 30, Legal, License and Ordinance Committee (LLOC) meeting. If the intergovernmental agreement (IGA) is passed by the Village Board, it would in effect grant park police virtually the same authority as regular Maywood police.

The idea, supported (and already voted on) by the park district Board, was met with skepticism by a majority of the Maywood Board of Trustees.

“Why would we need to have the Maywood Park District police man the streets of Maywood when we have a police department?” said Trustee Cheryl Ealey-Cross.

Maywood Park District Board President Terrance Jones said that the idea was to increase public safety. He said he’d written a memo to outline the details of his proposal. However, that gesture seems not to have been enough to assuage Board members who felt that the Park District’s proposal was pushed on them without much preliminary dialogue.  Trustee Michael Rogers stated that the process by which the proposal was communicated to the Board of Trustees, including the content of the proposal itself, were insufficient.

“[This] shouldn’t be done without discussion. It’s real important that this dialogue happen […] When it comes to public safety, there should be some data that suggests that you need this. Police services are very expensive and I hope you guys have done your homework […] Particularly if the area is essentially […] the entire town,” Rogers said.

Currently, Park District police have the authority to enforce Village and Park District ordinances in the immediate vicinity of all Park District-controlled parks. That jurisdiction extends to not much more than several hundred feet. According to attorney Michael Jurusik, the only exceptions to this rule are one) during fresh pursuit (in which case, they can chase someone out of the park district and arrest them) and, two) if there’s an IGA that grants the park police the same authority and jurisdiction as regular Village police.

But the prospects of the latter happening anytime soon seemed dim judging by the reactions of Mr. Jurusik, the Village Board and acting Maywood police chief Commander Elijah Willis.

“Where did this come from,” said Jurusik. “This [IGA] didn’t come to you with my edits […] There’s been no negotiations regarding this agreement at all […] This is the first time [the Board is] receiving it.”

“I had a meeting on this on October 18th with [Park District Security Director John Wicks],” said Commander Willis. “I was in opposition to this […] There should be more dialogue in reference to this.”

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Among the Village officials’ primary concerns were the lack of sufficient data and research underlying the Park District’s proposal; the possibility of a conflict between the Park District police and Maywood police if this IGA were implemented; certain perverse financial incentives accompanying the IGA’s implementation; and that what the Park District is proposing, according to Trustee Rogers, has already been done in nearby Bellwood–with troubling effects.

“Before it was even presented to us, some statistics, data should’ve been presented justifying this,” said Trustee Ealey-Cross, echoing Trustee Rogers. “You say you’re not happy with public safety, but you bring no evidence justifying that claim.”

Several trustees, in addition to Commander Willis, cited the prospect of redundancy and the negative consequences that may come of it. Ealey-Cross asked what would happen in a situation in which a Maywood police officer and Park District officer both responded to the call.

“If one of your people does something wrong,” said Trustee Audrey Jaycox, “the responsibility is going to fall on us and we’re going to be the ones sued.”

Although the mere thought that the Park District could be pushing this IGA as a means to raise revenue by enhancing its power to issue citations and write tickets was not brought up by Board President Jones, Trustee Rogers brooked the possibility.

“[The IGA] is supposed to raise revenue? The burden of raising revenue through writing tickets and those kinds of things is the wrong way to go,” said Rogers. As of press time, it isn’t known whether this means of revenue-raising was mentioned in the IGA presented to the Village Board. If so, Rogers’s concerns that it would present park police with a perverse incentive to write tickets and issue citations for reasons beyond public safety–chiefly to raise money–would prove valid.

For his part, Jones said that the IGA presents an opportunity for the Village to double the police presence in the community without added costs. He also said that Park District police, in compliance with the IGA, would undergo the same certification and training as regular police.

However, he didn’t mention where the revenue for the cost of extra training would come from nor whether or not Park District police would be paid salaries commensurate with regular police. And if so, where this added cost of personnel would come from. Moreover, if the answer is the obvious one–Park District tax revenue, Jones didn’t clarify at the meeting whether Park District tax revenue was sufficient enough to support the increased police presence.

Jones was nonetheless careful to emphasize that the IGA is in the beginning stages and that these issues would eventually be worked out.

“We are willing to do whatever it takes to negate the fears you might have right now,” Jones said to the Board, assuring the trustees that all of their concerns would be addressed in preliminary meetings with a variety of professionals from various fields, such as law enforcement, law and government.

“We’re talking about having a dialogue with people enforcing public safety in our community,” Jones said. “Those things will be addressed by the professionals because those concerns will be the same concerns of the professionals.”

“I get what the park wants to do,” said Trustee Antoinette Dorris, “but we should fill the chief position first. Once that’s put in place, then, out of respect, our people will meet with your people.” However, Dorris emphasized that she didn’t favor granting Park District police a 2.5 mile radius.

Trustee Rogers mentioned that there’s a troubling precedent for what the Park District is trying do.

“There’s a model of IGA’s […] Memorial Park District and Bellwood […] have [this] kind of agreement, which I’m troubled with,” said Rogers, a former Bellwood trustee.

“[The police force] has become the largest expenditure and investment of dollars going into the park district,” he said, before noting that the park’s police and public safety expenditures have become disproportional to its recreational programming. (It should be noted that Rogers’s claims have yet to be verified–so they should be treated as anecdotal for now).

“That’s a model that terrifies me […] My advice to the Park District is […] we need swings and benches and flowers and plants. We need those things first! […] [When] you’ve got libraries and housing authorities threatened, you’ve got to be really careful about the way you spend the money […] Let’s focus on programming, not police […] The kids have to be first, not the adults,” said Rogers.

The Board then put forth a motion to table the proposal indefinitely. Trustee Dorris abstained, Lightford voted no, while everyone else voted ‘Aye’. The motion carried. VFP

Are you for or against the IGA proposal to grant Park District police extended jurisdiction and authority? We welcome your feedback in the comments section below.

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6 thoughts on “Maywood Park District Seeks to Expand Park Police Boundaries, Village Board Skeptical

  1. It doesn’t seem like a good idea. Focusing on getting grants to provide programs and activities in the parks seems like a better idea.

  2. Having a “shadow” police force is not a good idea, Trustee Roger’s comments are on the mark. The Park District should be concerned with programs and beautifying the parks and community. Why in the world do they think they need their own police force–and how is this going to get paid for? Gee, perhaps more property taxes? I guess they are not high enough right now!

  3. In my professional opinion as a career law enforcement officer, this is a fantastic plan!

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  4. Place is corrupt. They already booted the first chief out because John Wicks did not like the way former Chief Justin Pratt was cleaning house from the previous corrupt individuals involved within the police department, including John Wicks himself. John Wicks and others are just trying to give themselves and other unqualified personnel a gun and badge for power. Do some investigative reporting to find out the truth.

  5. It would be a great idea to have extra police presence. I think it can and will be done with the right personnel and general orders to establish great police presence in Maywood to help deter crime and create more officer safety.

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