Chief: Courthouse closing would affect River Forest patrols
Updated: February 6, 2012 8:45AM
Cook County’s decision to close suburban courthouses on the weekend has displeased River Forest and other suburbs.
The River Forest Police Department is only a few minutes drive away from Maybrook Courthouse in Maywood, but it will soon be closed on weekends. The courthouse provides services to many suburban communities and their police departments.
The closings are a cost-saving measure made by the Cook County Board to help balance the county’s budget. It was announced in December. Now on weekends and holidays prisoners will have to be transported to a courthouse in the city.
River Forest Police Chief Greg Weiss said the impact will be felt by the village.
“It’s going to be inconvenient for us to say the least,” Weiss said. “I don’t know how we’re going to work it out. It might cost us extra money.”
Usually on weekends one police officer would transport the prisoner to Maybrook, but if the prisoner is prone to violence another officer would follow in another vehicle. When they arrived at the courthouse, the second car would return to patrolling the village.
Now Weiss will likely send two officers in one vehicle to escort a prisoner to court. It will reduce the number of officers on the street and possibly increase overtime.
He’s not alone with his concerns. West suburban police chiefs collectively are not in favor of the change.
On Dec. 26 a letter was sent on behalf of West Suburban Chiefs of Police Association (WSCPA) to Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans asking him to reconsider the decision.
“Consolidation places an operational burden on police agencies including drop-off times for prisoners, increased overtime, increased travel time to the jail, longer bond court hearing thereby increasing overtime and safety issues during transports as increased travel time will provide more opportunity for prisoners to escape,” the letter stated.
Riverside Police Chief Tom Weitzel, president of West Suburban police chiefs organization, said they are not trying to pick a fight, but want to be included in the process.
“Maybe there are some other options,” he said.
Weitzel acknowledged with the change allows the county to balance its budget, but it effects his village’s budget and other the budgets of other villages.
“They’re passing it on to us, but our budgets are already set,” he said. “These municipalities, including River Forest, are at minimum (police) staffing and this is going to be expensive.”
Weiss, who is a member of WSCPA, said he stands behind the association’s request.
“There are no positives for the local municipalities,” he said regarding the county’s decision.
Weiss said suburban police departments convening on one location on the weekend would also cause problems.
“When you’re adding more (people) to one location it’s going to get a lot more crowded,” he said.