Wednesday, August 7, 2013

How many police entities do we need?

It seems to be a new trend; the Cook County sheriff’s police taking over patrol duties in assorted suburban communities.

It is being done because those municipalities in the southern suburbs are financially impoverished – they can’t afford to have police on the streets to maintain the public safety.

ALTHOUGH A PART of me wishes that these municipalities could provide an inspiration to all of the Chicago area. Because I have always wondered why each and every one of the 129 communities in Cook County (with Chicago being merely one), along with the hundreds of suburban communities in the collar counties, needs to have its own police department.

Wouldn’t it make more sense if the county sheriffs had jurisdiction over their entire counties? Perhaps they should be a law enforcement agency whose officers routinely cross over the municipal boundaries that define the various suburban communities?

I’d like it if the experiences of places like Ford Heights, Dolton and Dixmoor could somehow inspire the local communities to think in these terms, rather than maintaining their own departments that all too often are understaffed and ill-equipped to deal with the realities of crime and criminal activity.

In the cases of Ford Heights and Dolton, financial problems are so intense for their local governments that they’re using the county sheriff to save themselves some money.

AS FAR AS Dixmoor is concerned, the Chicago Sun-Times reported that the sheriff took over patrols on the overnight shift this week because of a labor dispute (two officers walked off the job in protest).

But even in communities where finances are more solid, the realities of municipal budgets are that the public safety entities take up a majority of the money spent. A Police Department can easily take up more than a third of a community’s tax dollars.

I can’t help but think that having the sheriff handle suburban patrols as a single entity would be cheaper (and more professional) than having each and every community try to do it themselves.

But I’m realistic enough to know that any suburban government officials who might ever read this commentary are going to be repulsed by the very thought.

BECAUSE ONE OF the biggest decisions (if not THE biggest) that any suburban village president gets to make is picking him(or her)self a police chief. Someone who has to answer to him, and can be dismissed at that official’s desire.

Having a professional lawman under their control is an ego boost that I’m sure they would resist giving up! A fight to the death? It would be pretty close.

Then again, there are times when I wonder if an idea’s unpopularity amongst political people is all the more evidence of how sound it truly is?

Seriously. I realize the current county sheriff budget would be woefully inadequate to ask them to assume such intense patrols of all 129 communities (or 120 or so, if you assume that Chicago and the largest suburban communities would keep their police departments intact).

BUT PERHAPS EACH community should make a contribution to the county sheriff to help cover the cost. I’m sure it would be less than these communities in recent weeks had to set aside for a Police Department of their own.

It also would benefit in that a county sheriff would easily cross over municipal boundaries – which many suburban cops say are the mechanism that the crooks use to their advantage to avoid arrest.

But government egos likely will prevail.

Even though I’d like to think the situation in suburban Dixmoor in coming weeks could help sway people over to realizing that change would be an improvement.


No comments: