Monday, March 3, 2014 || By Michael Romain
At a February 26, 2014, Legal, License, Ordinance and Committee (LLOC) meeting, Maywood Police Chief Valdimir “Val” Talley pushed for a range of proposals that, if implemented, could comprise a potentially groundbreaking approach to tackling the Village’s myriad public safety issues.
The proposals, taken together, constituted a virtual litmus test of the new chief’s priorities–ranging from ground-level day-to-day administrative functions to the contours of a larger vision the chief has for the department.
Moreover, the blitzkrieg nature in which the proposed measures were presented–back-to-back-to-back in one LLOC meeting–seemed to suggest a very conscious effort on the part of the new chief to make his presence felt.
Improvements to Department’ s Shooting Range
At one end of the spectrum lay relatively minor managerial adjustments, such as the proposed implementation of a 1-year service agreement with Patriot Range Technologies (PRT), the company that installed the department’s indoor shooting range in 2006.
Sergeant Theodore Yancey, the officer in charge of the range’s maintenance and operation, said that the department has never had a service agreement with PRT.
Among the problems with the range that need addressing are an aging computer system, projectile damage and filters that need changing.
The service agreement, which would be effective from April 1, 2014, to March 31, 2015, will cost $4,200 a year. The Board voted unanimously in favor of this measure.
A New Compliance Ticket Model
Along the midpoint of the spectrum lay the introduction of a new compliance ticket model that MPD Investigator Nick Belcore, who presented the proposal to the Board, said would give Maywood officers more “flexibility to modify dangerous behavior and conditions”.
The new model, if implemented, would give Maywood police officers much more discretionary authority in the traffic citation process, while also granting the Village more authority over the dispensation of fines and penalties associated with traffic violations.
According to Investigator Belfore, Maywood officers presently have a very limited set of options during traffic citations. They can issue a basic traffic ticket, which often results in the officer taking a day off of work to go to court; they can issue a diversion envelope, which doesn’t result in work leave, but still entails a $125 fine; or they can let the subject go, which doesn’t entail fines or time spent in court, but also doesn’t deter the offending behavior that resulted in the traffic stop in the first place.
“Too many tickets issued in Maywood get thrown out in Maybrook [Courthouse],” said Belcore.
The compliance ticket model would allow Maywood officers the authority to issue warning tickets and would expand the Village’s Code of Ordinances to encompass a wider range of violations that are subject to local punishment, such as cell phone usage while driving and cloudy headlights.
The expanded authority, said Investigator Belcore, should result in a decrease of narcotic activity (since 90 percent of the narcotics seized, and a significant portion of the major narcotics arrests, made in Maywood are the result of traffic stops); and a “significant increase” in administrative tows, drug seizures and revenue.
In 2013, the Maywood Police Department issued 2,100 citations, resulting in about $53,000 of total revenue. The average cost for an officer to be in court is $135.
By comparison, under the compliance ticket model, the Village would see minimum revenue of nearly $130,000 and maximum revenue of nearly $780,000, according to Investigator Belcore.
According to Sergeant Daryl Fairley, the new model would cost an estimated $5,000 to acquire new tickets, in addition to the assignment of a part-time officer for enforcement. The Board passed unanimously a motion for finalized documentation associated with the compliance ticket model to be presented at the next LLOC meeting.
A Gang and Terrorism Unit
Toward the more ambitious end of the spectrum was a proposal, presented by Chief Talley himself, for the creation of a gang and terrorism unit within the Maywood Police Department. The Chief said that his department is seeking to fund the new unit, which would comprise two full-time staff members, with a Homeland Security grant.
The Homeland Security grant, specifically called a Justice Assistance Grant (J.A.G.), or Burns Grant, is typically renewed every three years. In order to strengthen the department’s eligibility for the funding, the Chief is looking to identify gang members as domestic terrorists.
According to the Chief, Maywood has experienced an increase in gang violence in recent years. For the last six years, he said, the Village has ranked between 3rd and 5th among municipalities with the highest crime rate per capita in the state. He noted that the crime is largely related to drug sales, which is a primary source of revenue for local gangs.
Chief Talley said that last year, the department seized more than 700 grams of marijuana and more than 230 grams of cocaine.
“Many street dealers are young, ranging from 13 to 15 years old,” he said, noting that the youth are typically lured into the gangs as a means of providing security, familial bonds and money.
“The number of gang members in Maywood is unknown,” he said, but, according to a rough estimate by detectives within the department, there may be about 750 gang members spread between 13 known gangs in the Village. That’s about 3 percent of the population of Maywood, Talley said.
And where there are gangs, there are guns. In 2013, Maywood police recovered 32 firearms and about 200 bullets, numbers which could have been a lot higher had a street gangs unit been in place, the Chief said.
“I am too far understaffed….I am very afraid of this summer….I need somebody whose experienced, somebody who can [find grants]…I’m going to need somebody with a lot of expertise and exposure to collecting intelligence [and] covert operations….” he said.
The positions will be exempt from Police and Fire Commission oversight, since they’ll be considered civilian staff positions.
“They’re essentially civilian positions with inspector authority to have firearms,” the Chief said. He seeks to identify individuals with prior law enforcement experience and specific talents, such as intelligence collection and data analysis.
Chief Talley estimated that the program would cost about $250,000, which pays for the two staff members’ salaries, insurance fees, retirement benefits and various federal expenditures.
While his staff is writing the grant now, the Chief said that if the money fails to materialize he may have to request funding from the Village.
The gang unit is one tier of the Chief’s planned three-tiered approach to the Village’s drug and gang problem. In addition to stricter law enforcement measures, he also seeks to reinstate the department’s defunct Explorers Program and hopes to work with community organizations such as CeaseFire and PLCCA to offer positive alternatives to crime for Maywood’s youth.
There was no significant Board action taken on this measure, since the Chief’s presentation was only to brief Board members on possible future steps that may need to be taken.
On the most ambitious end of the Chief’s spectrum of priorities lay a simple proposition with some grand implications.
A Green Recycling Program
Adam MacGregor and Ian Harris, two college students interning with the Chief, presented a proposal for a green recycling program that’s still in the initial phases of development. It entails the Village contracting with a tire recycling company to collect tires that have been illegally dumped throughout town and refashioning them into rubber mulch that may be reused in the department’s shooting range and in parks.
“I want to see electric charging stations in front of the police station,” he said, in what is only a piece of a more comprehensive vision for the police department to be at the forefront of green technology. It’s a holistic plan, merging public safety solutions with environmental solutions, that could represent something of a paradigm shift in local policing. VFP