Despite a call to suburban law enforcement agencies seeking potential help in Chicago with emergency police services during the ongoing stalemate between the city and police union over vaccines, two suburban county sheriffs said they will not send their deputies to the city.
A statewide law enforcement coalition sent a notice to suburban police officials Monday that Chicago police may need assistance should an emergency unfold during the disagreement between city and union officials over the vaccination mandate for all city employees.
The bulletin sent Monday to Illinois Law Enforcement Alarm System members, an umbrella agency of Illinois police departments, was a preliminary step toward assessing the workforce available to assist the city. The backup would be at the city’s request and only in the event of an emergency, such as a plane crash or tornado, not to answer routine calls for service or patrol city streets, ILEAS Executive Director James Page said.
“Our plan, our discussion and our email is not about backfilling Chicago PD because they’re short,” Page said.
At this point, ILEAS is gathering information on how many officers would be available and how long it would take to deploy them if city officials requested help, Page said, “so if I’m asked that question by Chicago or the state police or (the Illinois Emergency Management Agency), I have an answer.”
The agency sent a follow-up message Tuesday to several hundred police departments across the region to offer reassurance that no one was being asked to fill in for Chicago officers on routine duty, Page said.
But Kane County Sheriff Ron Hain said he will not send any personnel to Chicago unless an officer is under “direct duress” because he does not support what he calls the “slanted agenda” of the city’s politics.
“I don’t feel like the onus is on us to go in there in an emergency situation that was created by poor government and a lack of support the officers receive,” Hain said. “These are global issues and law enforcement is blamed for excessive force and high crime rates, but there is a lack of human resources, vocational support programs and addiction treatment like we’ve done here in Kane County.”
While Hain himself is vaccinated, he said he does not feel comfortable mandating his 306 employees to take the shot. He said around 60% of his deputies have received the vaccine.
DuPage County Sheriff James Mendrick said while they would never withhold service in a dire emergency, this is a planned shortage and the city is choosing to send viable officers home while asking other municipal agencies, many of which do not have vaccination requirements, to step in.
“It doesn’t make sense to say I only want my residents touching vaccinated people, but I’m going to send all these potentially unvaccinated people from other municipalities to replace them,” Mendrick said. “This would be the same as the Chicago Bears benching their entire team and calling the Packers to come in and play the game before meeting the coach or seeing the playbook. It would be chaos.”
Hain also said he will not allow his deputies to be subjected to using force in the city under the prosecutorial jurisdiction of the Cook County state’s attorney.
“It just seems to be a wild card without a clear understanding of what is reality and what is not,” Hain said. “I have a great deal of faith in our state’s attorney here and I understand how she would review a case, but in Cook County, how does Jussie Smollett get so much attention and get released, but a police officer gets charged with excessive use of force and aggravated battery?”
Officials with ILEAS along with the Illinois Emergency Management Agency and state police consulted on Monday before deciding to ask for information on which departments could send officers to Chicago should there be an official request for assistance. So far, no such call has been made.
Illinois State Police and the Cook County sheriff’s office would oversee the patrols if they do occur, according to a copy of the ILEAS memo.
“If deployed, we would meet at a location to be determined and travel into the city as a team,” the notice sent to suburban police officials said. “Please advise as soon as possible so I can give the ILEAS administration an estimated number.”
ILEAS was formed 20 years ago to serve as a statewide “mutual aid” force, according to its website.
During a press briefing Monday morning, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said any municipality can request state police, and in the event of a serious emergency, National Guard personnel. When asked if the state police force is large enough to meet the demand, he said it depends how many people decide not to come to work in those cities.
“We have deployed hundreds, when asked, when needed, and we would continue to do so, but we also have responsibilities everywhere in the state, so we need to make sure that we’re carrying out those responsibilities as well,” Pritzker said.
At a Tuesday afternoon news conference Chicago police Superintendent David Brown reiterated that the state’s request for assistance for Chicago was merely contingency planning.
The request to suburban police officials comes after a “very small number” of Chicago police officers were placed on no-pay status for refusing to comply with the city’s requirement that they report whether they’ve received a COVID-19 vaccination, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Monday afternoon. John Catanzara, president of the local Fraternal Order of Police, has said he believes the number could eventually reach about 3,000.
A Cook County judge issued a temporary restraining order against Catanzara on Friday — the same day as the city’s deadline for employees to report their vaccine status — that bars him from publicly encouraging his members to disobey the reporting requirement.
Lake County Sheriff John Idleburg said as of Tuesday afternoon, his office has not received a call for assistance from Chicago or ILEAS, but he is willing to deploy officers to help should the situation arise.
The Cook County sheriff’s office released a statement Tuesday also saying it had “not been asked to assist Chicago with policing in relation to any potential emergency staff shortage but have offered assistance. The sheriff’s office currently assists Chicago police in the 15th and 6th districts as part of our anti-violence initiatives and will continue to offer support as resources allow.”
Hain said that since he posted a statement on Facebook expressing his issues, he has received three calls from Chicago police officers in one hour asking if he is hiring.
Chicago Tribune’s Stephanie Casanova contributed.
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