The topic of Acton Ridge’s Oct. 8 virtual meeting was ambitious: “Policing in Park Ridge: a Closer Look After George Floyd.” The local social activist organization has been trying to improve racial justice as one of its ongoing public education issues.
Park Ridge Police Chief Frank Kaminski participated in dialogue with several area residents on various topics. His experience, more than four decades in policing, included serving as chief of police in Evanston, and heading the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police.
One aspect of the discussion was the national reaction to the May death of Floyd, an African American, after a Minneapolis police officer held him down against the ground too long and suffocated him.
In Chicago, Black Lives Matter marches protesting that treatment turned violent. In Park Ridge there were several large and loud rallies.
Kaminski and Park Ridge police later organized an “8 Can’t Wait” discussion, encouraged by Mayor Marty Maloney to explain to key community leaders the city’s policing procedures and training. The two-night discussion (which ended up completing its agenda in only one longer evening July 29), can be viewed on video on the city’s meeting archives under “Mayor’s Task Force on 8 Can’t Wait.“ Rev. Carol Hill from Park Ridge Community Church and her husband, Adrian Hill, participated in that discussion.
A third topic focused on recent discussions between Maine Township High School Dist. 207 and the Park Ridge police and City Council over renewal of the school resource officer (SRO) agreement. Ginger Pennington, a local parent who has been objecting to the SRO agreement during the negotiations, appeared as a third speaker.
One of the points of debate was how well Park Ridge relates to its non-white residents, to the families in its schools, and the non-white employees who work within its borders.
Adrian Hill, who is African-American, said, “I think we know we are very privileged to live in the area we do.” While Park Ridge is predominantly white, without a lot of diversity, “It is what it is,” he added. He said he was encouraged by what he heard from police speakers at the July workshop.
But what is the next step for diversity, and what can Action Ridge do, he and Rev. Hill asked.
There is already a 10-step agreement at the state level, developed by an NAACP task force and the Illinois Association of Police Chiefs. Kaminski said it had been adopted by the police departments several years ago, but was not known by the general public. Park Ridge adopted the same agreement Oct. 5, the third Illinois city to bring it to municipal enforcement.
Audience members had read the police department’s annual report. Some statistics don’t match between the year before they had officers wearing body cameras and the year they did. Kaminski had insisted he needed equipment that could produce videos that were compatible with other departments in their dispatch system, despite objections from some aldermen on the purchasing process.
There were questions from the Action Ridge audience on what happens if the victims didn’t make complaints. Would there be records available of use of force? Would there be a way to check the mental health of officers?
Kaminski had his entire department go through special training several years ago. Provided by University of Illinois in conjunction with Lutheran General Hospital, Park Ridge was one of six U.S, cities supplied with a two-year grant, looking at better ways to respond to mental health situations. That includes knowing how to approach someone in apparent mental distress on the scene to mediate instead of intensify a situation.
The city also switched several years ago to having a full time social worker, who is available to accompany officers or to reach out to individuals. Kaminski discussed in-house departmental training and efforts to keep the coursework fresh with new materials. Currently there are less training opportunities available because of COVID, and some specific courses have priority to offered because they are required to become a sworn officer in Illinois.
Kaminski spoke of his efforts to encourage his department since he was hired as chief.
Previous administrations had postponed renovations of the police station, which is in the basement of City Hall. The 14 aldermen during Mayor Howard Frimark’s administration watched the city hunt for any site other than the basement and reject nearly all of them. They finally bought a house next door, which eventually became replaced with an evidence storage building.
Only after Maloney became mayor and Joe Gilmore the city manager did progress start. The need to rewire for new required equipment prompted the beginning of the three-year project.
Kaminski fought hard to include a workout room for officers in the building, which he says they have appreciated. Investigators were assigned more secure places to do interviews, keeping witnesses away from suspects. New video cameras in squad vehicles and body cameras were required through Park Ridge’s dispatch network agreements.
He also got the pay scale increased so they are up to a mid-range level.
With a number of veteran officers nearing retirement, he is watching for ways to recruit new officers. Park Ridge is one of four departments who conduct testing together. The city has started a cadet program for students in college who are interested in becoming officers. They get some exposure in the department and can apply to test when they graduate.
Kaminski said in a few years there probably will be a shortage of applicants in many law enforcement departments. He said the first priority is to find candidates who are healthy and good officers.
Pennington said there were not racially diverse applicants in the SRO program in Park Ridge. She insisted that Maine South and its enrollment do not have enough diversity while Maine East and Maine West are very diverse. She said she suspects “systemic racism.”
Park Ridge’s contract covers South and East, the two buildings in Park Ridge, and runs for pages. It was rewritten by the district this year, to address concerns its board had. Further revisions discussed between aldermen and Dist. 207 Supt. Ken Wallace, were approved by the school district in early October.
The contract for Maine West with Des Plaines police is much shorter, Pennington noted. She is trying to collect responses from families where students had negative experiences with SROs.
Pennington has been insisting that far more stringent courses are needed to prepare SROs for working with students with individual education plans, but Wallace told aldermen that supervision of students with IEPs is assigned to 207 staff who monitor and supply support under state guidelines. It’s meeting state education guidelines, not social media proposals, that the school district has to follow.
Kaminski said he sends officer candidates to D207 and they choose the candidate to hire for their buildings.
Pennington and another parent activist, Alice Dobrinsky, are also raising their concerns about the role of an SRO in a school where students are caught vaping.
Park Ridge passed stricter ordinances against smoking and vaping (e-cigarettes) for those below 25 several years ago, to discourage purchase or possession for teens and younger. The SRO at Maine South alerted the City Council that students were using flavored vaping products, concealed so teachers were unaware of the problem. Aldermen imposed high penalties to convince parents that taking an alternate, less expensive workshop on the dangers of vaping was a better deal for their teens’ health.
Last year, as the state headed toward legalizing recreational cannabis, the warnings Park Ridge had about health dangers in the flavored vaping products were verified with deaths and hospitalizations as those using vaping products began sickening around the country.
Counting To 10: City Endorses Pact To Build Trust
In March 2018, the NAACP Illinois State Conference and the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police developed and adopted Ten Shared Principals designed to build trust between law enforcement and the communities and people they serve.
The two statewide associations vowed “by mutual affirmation to work together and stand together in our communities and at the state level to implement these values and principles, and to replace mistrust with mutual trust wherever, whenever, and however we can.”
Park Ridge Police Chief Frank Kaminski says the police departments adopted them, but Illinois generally was less aware of them. In a year when there has been so much civilian protesting, he and Mayor Marty Maloney asked the Park Ridge City Council to adopt the same principles as a city. He said Oct. 5, when it passed unanimously here, that he believes Park Ridge is the third Illinois municipality to do so.
1. We value the life of every person and consider life to be the highest value.
2. All persons should be treated with dignity and respect. This is another foundational value.
3. We reject discrimination toward any person that is based on race, ethnicity, religion, color, nationality, immigrant status, sexual orientation, gender, disability, or familial status.
4. We endorse the six pillars in the report of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing. The first pillar is to build and rebuild trust through procedural justice, transparency, accountability, and honest recognition of past and present obstacles.
5. We endorse the four pillars of procedural justice, which are fairness, voice (i.e., an opportunity for citizens and police to believe they are heard), transparency, and impartiality.
6. We endorse values inherent in community policing, which includes community partnerships involving law enforcement, engagement of police officers with residents outside of interaction specific to enforcement of laws, and problem-solving that is collaborative, not one-sided.
7. We believe that developing strong ongoing relationships between law enforcement and communities of color at the leadership level and street level will be the keys to diminishing and eliminating racial tension.
8. We believe that law enforcement and community leaders have a mutual responsibility to encourage all citizens to gain a better understanding and knowledge of the law to assist them in their interactions with law enforcement officers.
9. We support diversity in police departments and in the law enforcement profession. Law enforcement and communities have a mutual responsibility and should work together to make a concerted effort to recruit diverse police departments.
10. We believe de-escalation training should be required to ensure the safety of community members and officers. We endorse using de-escalation tactics to reduce the potential for confrontations that endanger law enforcement officers and community members; and the principle that human life should be taken on as a last resort.
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