Meeting Minutes:  Coffee with the Chief ~ Dec. 5, 2022

Location: Park Ridge Public Library

Meeting Moderator:  Alissa Goldwasser

Guest: Chief Frank Kaminski, Park Ridge Police Department

Attendees:  Noreen Gayford, Joan Bludeau LaVelle, Nan Parson, Ginger Pennington, Chris Parson, Liz Swanson, Lee Joosten, Bill Baty, Shel Neuman and Caroline Kubzansky (reporter for the Herald-Advocate)

Start Time:  2:05

Chris Parson opened the meeting by asking the Chief for his thoughts about the Resolution to ban assault weapons that is being brought forward by the Northwest Metropolitan Conference (NWMC) and was to be discussed at the Park Ridge City Council that evening.  The Chief feels that the Resolution needs further work and clearer wording.

The Chief said that his opinion depends on the final, exact wording, of the Resolution. He thinks that, in general, legislators do not engage in sufficient collaboration with law enforcement agencies and other stakeholders during the drafting of legislation, using the Resolution and the Safe T Act as two examples.  He said that the Chiefs of Police are frustrated by the lack of clarity.  The Chief said he had spent the morning reading the trailer bills to the Safe T Act but he had yet to study the Resolution. There’s lots of confusion about both.

Regarding the Safe T Act, the Chief said that he has no problem with the no bail part of the bill. But he would rather that Illinois had followed New Jersey’s example. He believes that their bill is much clearer. The Chief wishes more time had been spent considering the impacts of the bill and wishes that there was a 6-month delay to allow more details and procedures to be worked out before implementation.

Ginger Pennington pointed out that various aspects of the bill were discussed with multiple stakeholders, including Chiefs of Police, over the last 5 years—beginning with the Illinois Supreme Court and a Task Force. The Chief replied that some aspects were discussed but noted that various confusing aspects still needed to be changed, for example, the provision on tazor use, which conflicted with safety instructions from the manufacturers.  He stated that, early on, the Park Ridge Police Department had been considering provisions that are now in the bill.

Each community/Circuit Court District does things differently and the Chief finds this very confusing, as well. He wishes there could have been a chance to do dry runs or to implement the bill in sections. It’s been overwhelming, he said.  He noted that the precise paperwork changes/forms have not been provided for our district.

Alissa Goldwasser asked the Chief to comment on how things were done in Park Ridge before the Act and how they’re done now and how the Act will affect the future. The Chief said that previously the police were the “gate-keepers” during police actions; but now, if a perpetrator isn’t dangerous, isn’t committing a felony, he/she should be released. The local departments have less decision-making power.  For lower-level offences (Class B and C misdemeanors and petty offences), Officers are to issue a ticket at the site rather than bringing offenders into the department. He does not understand how fingerprinting is to be handled for Class B misdemeanors or exactly what counts as proper identification under the new law.

Liz Swanson summarized the problem as being complex, with a lot of vague verbiage. The Chief talked about the problem with trespassing, for example. Now it’s been clarified that the police can bring someone in, if there is a danger to the public or the perpetrator has obvious mental health issues or if they continue to violate the ordinance. He said that this clarification has helped. In the past, the officer tried to deescalate a situation and only take someone in if necessary. This is still the case.

Also, he said that there was so much confusion, since the bill was passed, regarding who can be detained and who can’t. If there’s clarification, the Chief will be happy with trailer bill #3. He still doesn’t understand about press releases, however. Now the police are not allowed to talk about what happened in court. The Chief isn’t clear why there is this limitation and when and if they can issue press releases.

Some departments are concerned about the 3 phone calls requirement. Police Departments worry that the calls could jeopardize a case. Departments often want to delay the process till things can be cleared up; but now an arrestee can call three people right away, perhaps warning others, etc.

There’s also concern about having enough staff to implement this bill. For example, if the police are going to charge a person with a felony, the State’s Attorney’s office must approve the charge (felony review). The Chief said that he has no problem with felony review, that checks and balances are necessary. However, there were once local offices that could be contacted to do the review; but now the office is centralized in Chicago and staffed by people the local departments don’t know. This centralization makes felony review more difficult. Also, there are a lot of inexperienced State’s Attorneys now. The Chief said that checks and balances are good; but we need good people to do it. He worries about inexperienced attorneys having so much responsibility.

Alissa asked how the Chief expected things to go once anonymous complaints against police officers are allowed under the SAFE-T Act as of January 1, 2023. The Chief said that they have always been allowed and still are in Park Ridge. But now that requirement is codified. There is sometimes a need to limit frivolous complaints so sometimes departments have not allowed anonymous complaints. Now all departments are required to allow them.

Noreen Gayford asked how a robbery is handled. She gave as an example, someone robbing a gas station. The Chief said that nothing has changed in a situation such as that. The robber is detained, and a judge decides if the person should continue to be detained, pre-trail. When there’s harm or potential harm to other people, the police are clear that the person will be detained.

Chris Parson asked about the FRO (Firearms Restraining Order)—how has this bill affected that? The Chief said that there hasn’t been much use of the FRO in PR., partly because restraining orders often require the removal of a firearm; so the bill has not affected the use of a FRO in Park Ridge.

The Chief agreed that a person should be 21 in order to be issued a FOID card at the State Level and everyone should be finger-printed. There should be portals for FOIDs and they should be shored up more. Someone asked who’s responsible for removing FOID cards and guns? The Chief replied that removing the card and guns creates a volatile situation. Police do it, if necessary; but it’s risky.

Bill Baty asked if we can prevent people from buying a gun. The Chief said that it’s hard if a person has a FOID card in Illinois. People often go to Indiana to get guns, where the requirements are less strict. That’s why there should be federal laws controlling gun sales. Many states require nothing in order to buy a gun.

The Chief accepts the Act but doesn’t like the lingering points of confusion and speed at which they are required to make changes. Ginger Pennington asked if the difficulties with clarifying the bill, the negative rhetoric, and the spread of disinformation regarding the bill, have created problems for the police and the public at large.  She pointed out that multiple stakeholders have been negatively affected by the vitriol and disinformation that has been spread. 

Also, someone asked whether these caused potential applicants not to want to be policemen and women? The Chief said that the negative rhetoric has caused dissention in many ways and has hurt police recruitment. He and others in the meeting expressed worry about technology taking over if we don’t have enough personnel and if they can’t be safe. We could have “Robocops” someday. Many agreed that the shortfall of not having enough police will not go away. This is a long-term problem.

Ginger said that it would be a win-win situation, for everyone, if there could be less divisive rhetoric and more communication and cooperation among responding agencies (police and other social services). Getting everyone to a center position is tough, however.

The Chief said that he’s proud that the Park Ridge PD is fully staffed—very lucky at the expense of other communities, he realizes, who have more difficulties recruiting candidates. He’s also very happy with the cadette program. Police officers want to come to PR for a variety of reasons, one being because it’s less dangerous than Chicago, particularly.

Shel Neuman, of the Fire and Police Board, talked about why police officers want to work here and how much easier his job is now that the PRPD is fully staffed.

Lee Joosten brought up whether the department conducts safety checks and active shooter drills for officers, schools and other institutions. He cited what happened in Uvalde, Texas as an example of needing to have safety drills; so police are clear about protocol in potentially violent situations. The Chief assured the group that the Park Ridge Police Department does conduct those drills.

The meeting ended on a high note with agreement from the Chief that the Safe-T-Act, once it’s clarified and less confusing, can bring about positive change in law enforcement.  The Chief reiterated that he supports many aspects of The Safe T Act, that his main issues are with the processes.

As the meeting concluded, all in attendance thanked the Chief for taking time to talk to the group and address our questions.

Meeting ended at 3:15

The date of the next Coffee with the Chief is TBD.

Respectfully submitted by Nan Parson, Alissa Goldwasser and Ginger Pennington

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