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Saturday, April 30, 2011

NEWS: (National) Death Toll from Devastating US Storms Reaches at Least 342

--Not generally what I report on but this is right here at home. These are friends and family to a lot of people we may know. 
Our prayers go out to all the victims of these tragic storms and we hope for quick recoveries for the injured.--
Duke

STORY AT FOX Chicago

Updated: Saturday, 30 Apr 2011, 3:42 PM CDT
Published : Saturday, 30 Apr 2011, 3:41 PM CDT

(NewsCore) - TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The death toll reached at least 342 Saturday after tornadoes and storms flattened entire communities, killed hundreds and injured thousands across the South, according to several states' Departments of Emergency Management.

Earlier this week, one of the deadliest storm systems in decades battered the region with flash floods and dozens of tornadoes. Alabama was hardest hit, with 249 fatalities. There were also 36 deaths in Mississippi, 34 in Tennessee, 15 in Georgia, five in Virginia, two in Louisiana and one in Kentucky.

Tuscaloosa, Ala., Mayor Walter Maddox said Saturday that there were 39 fatalities, more than a thousand injuries, more than 5,700 structures affected and 570 people reported missing in his city alone.

President Barack Obama, who visited Alabama on Friday, said, "I've never seen devastation like this" after touring Tuscaloosa.

"We can't bring those who have been lost back. They are alongside God at this point," Obama said, adding that "the property damage, which is obviously extensive, that is something we can do something about."

He made a commitment "to do everything we can to help these communities rebuild."

The president's short visit came a day after he signed a major disaster declaration for Alabama, making federal funding available to individuals, businesses and local governments to help cover the costs of property damage and losses. He had dispatched Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) administrator Craig Fugate to the state on Thursday.

Tuscaloosa has launched a new website to allow people to report missing persons as five cadaver teams searched through rubble for more victims, Maddox said. A curfew was in effect in the city for the weekend, and residents were advised to boil water before using it.

Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe on Saturday declared 57 counties in the state to be disaster areas. FEMA and Arkansas Department of Emergency Management are assessing damage to public and private properties ahead of Beebe's request to President Obama for direct federal assistance.

The White House announced Friday that Obama had issued federal disaster declarations for Mississippi and Georgia.

PENSION: (Illinois) Retired Pols Drawing Six-Figure Pensions

--This is totally unreal.
They blame the budget deficits and the pension shortfalls on the employees and yet they are making sure they are getting their money.
Every politician in Illinois on every level (State, County Local) is responsible for the pension crisis in Illinois not the employees that show up and do their jobs.
Employees in most systems are lucky if they can top out on a pension at $50,000 a year and that is after working for 30 years in a job that is inherently dangerous and is proven to cause shorter life spans.

I converted the entire Better Government Association report in the article into a downloadable PDF file for ease of reading--
Duke

DOWNLOAD THE BGA REPORT


STORY AT CBS Chicago

April 28, 2011 9:58 PM

CHICAGO (CBS) — They are among the best known Illinois politicians of the last 40 years. Today, they’re all out of office but still collecting big checks from the state.

Former Gov. Jim Thompson has received $1.9 million since retirement and still gets $127,000 a year.

Former Gov. Jim Edgar: $1.1 million to date, and $135,000 a year.

Former state comptroller Roland Burris, who also served as attorney general, has collected $1.6 million in total pension payments and is still paid $129,000 a year. 

Former comptroller and state senator Dawn Clark Netsch: $1.5 million since she left government, and $122,000 annually.

These expensive annual pensions are being paid even as Illinois is broke, according to a Better Government Association report. The state pension system is billions of dollars in debt.

“It seems ironic that the class of individuals who created the pension crisis in this state — that is, politicians — are still enjoying the generous pensions anyone’s seen,” Better Government Association Executive Director Andy Shaw says.

He says the biggest payouts “far exceed most of those in the private sector.”

But don’t think it’s only the best known retired public officials who are among the best paid.

Do you know Art Berman? The former state senator and education official receives $203,000 each year and has already collected $1.6 million.

Bill Zettler of the Family Taxpayer Foundation studied the pension payouts and turned his findings over to the BGA.

“They only have to work 20 years to get 85 percent of their salary for life. That’s lot of money,” he says.

Politicians typically say they’re doing nothing illegal by drawing the pensions. Shaw agrees, but adds, “It’s certainly not good government.”

CBS 2 contacted several of the retired politicians, and only one agreed to talk on camera — Netsch.

While Netsch believes people who serve the public are entitled to a healthy pension, she made a stunning revelation.

“I gave a little bit back last year to the state because I felt so guilty about it,” said Netsch, who adds she’ll return a portion of it this year, too.

“Hats off to Dawn,” Zettler, who compiled the pension information, said. “Let’s get all 300,000 of them to write a check.”

Other former politicians who are among the top pension-takers in the General Assembly Retirement System include:

–Former state Rep. John Friedland, who has received $1.9 million and is paid $140,000 a year.

 –Former state Reps. Don Moore and John Meyer, who have each collected $1.6 million.

–Jim Holloway, who was an  assistant attorney general, who has received $1.4 million.

–Former state Rep. Jim Keane, who has also collected $1.4 million.

THE TOP PENSION PAYOUTS
Rank     Amount     Name                         Job
1     $1.91 Million     Jim Thompson         Governor
2     $1.90 Million     John Friedland         Lawmaker
3     $1.64 Million     Don Moore         Lawmaker
4     $1.63 Million     Roland Burris         Attorney General
5     $1.61 Million     Art Berman         Lawmaker
6     $1.60 Million     John Meyer         Lawmaker
7     $1.56 Million     Dawn C. Netsch     Comptroller
8     $1.45 Million     James Holloway     Legislative Staffer
9     $1.43 Million     James Keane         Lawmaker
10     $1.32 Million     H. Bowman         Lawmaker
11     $1.22 Million     Alan Dixon         Secretary Of State
11     $1.22 Million     James Meyer         Lawmaker
12     $1.15 Million     Bob Kustra         Lt. Governor
13     $1.13 Million     Jim Edgar         Governor
14     $1.10 Million     Harry Yourell         Lawmaker
15     $1.09 Million     Gerry Shea         Lawmaker

PENSION: (Chicago) Daley Set To Collect $184,000 Annual Pension

--Here is a guy that laid the entire Chicago deficit at the feet of police officers and fire fighters and said that they should all be screwed. 
He is taking every advantage he can to get largest pension he can.
He played the system like a pro and is collecting his pension from a fund that is less than 40% funded. He used the Chicago Police and Fire Pension Funds as personal piggy banks for his relatives and friends and he is walking away with a windfall.--
Duke

STORY AT CBS Chicago

April 29, 2011 2:10 PM

CHICAGO (WBBM) — When Mayor Daley leaves office in a couple of weeks, no one will be throwing any tag days for him. WBBM Newsradio 780 has learned the mayor will be receiving government pensions totaling nearly $200,000 a year.

Mayor Daley has already notified the Municipal and General Assembly Retirement Systems he wants to begin collecting his pension on May 17, the day after he leaves office.

When he does, he will be collecting a pension of nearly $184,000 a year. Of that, 64 percent will come from the state pension system and 36 percent will come from the city pension system.

According to Tim Blair, the executive secretary of the General Assembly pension system, the mayor has chosen to obtain his government pension under the Illinois Retirement Systems Reciprocal Act.

In other words, all his government service is being combined into one lump—nearly 40 years, instead of getting separate pensions from every government body he worked for.

In 1991, Daley transferred his nearly 7.5 years of service credit as Cook County state’s attorney and more than $98,000 in contributions to the General Assembly Retirement System.

The mayor is also taking advantage of a rule that was in effect for legislators in office before 1994 which allows him to base his state pension on his last government salary. In this case, it’s based on his $216,000 salary as mayor of Chicago.

And, because Daley has about 40 years of government service, he’s eligible to receive the maximum of 85 percent of that mayor’s salary.

When Daley left the state legislature in November 1980, his salary was $53,000 a year. Blair says the state portion of Daley’s pension will come to more than $117,000 a year. More than $66,000 a year will come from the city pension system.

Current state legislators are only able to base their state pensions on their final salaries as legislators

NEWS: (Chicago) Newark’s top cop, Garry McCarthy, emerges as favorite for Weis replacement spot

--Another outsider? I am curious what the working folks have to say about that.--
Duke

STORY AT Chicago Sun-Times

BY FRAN SPIELMAN AND FRANK MAIN

Staff Reporters
Last Modified: Apr 30, 2011 07:08AM

Garry McCarthy — the director of the Newark, N.J., police department — emerged as the odds-on favorite to become Chicago’s next police superintendent on Friday.


Newark Police Department Director Garry McCarthy. (ED MURRAY/THE STAR-LEDGER)
The Chicago Police Board is recommending that Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel pick McCarthy or one of two Chicago Police insiders with less experience to replace police Supt. Jody Weis, whose contract expired in March.

The other finalists are Chicago Police chief of patrol Eugene Williams and Debra Kirby, a deputy superintendent overseeing the Chicago Police Department’s Bureau of Professional Standards. But only McCarthy was on Emanuel’s separate list of top contenders.

Contacted Friday, McCarthy said, “I am really pleased to be considered. It is a great honor.”

Asked why he believes he was chosen, he said, “It’s not any one idea. I’ve had a 30-year police career. I’ve shown I could run the Newark Police Department in some pretty tough circumstances. My experience speaks for itself.”

If he becomes Emanuel’s choice, McCarthy said he would go through the Chicago Police Academy and get certified as an Illinois law-enforcement officer before ever putting on the uniform.

That was a sore point with Weis, who wore the uniform, but never earned it in the view of the rank and file.

“I know I don’t have the right to wear the CPD uniform,” said McCarthy, who wore a uniform in New York but holds a civilian position in Newark.

The Sun-Times reported earlier this week that Emanuel’s three favorites were McCarthy, national drug czar R. Gil Kerlikowske and Chicago’s deputy chief of detectives Al Wysinger.

Sources said the Police Board did its “own thing” during a four-hour meeting Thursday night.

Whether or not they intended to do so, the nine-member board made Emanuel’s job easier because the contrast between McCarthy’s breadth of big city, beat cop experience and that of Williams and Kirby is even more clear.

“He’s head-and-shoulders over the other two,” said a source close to the parallel search process being conducted by the mayor-elect.

Barring a last-minute glitch in final background checks, another source close to the transition team predicted Emanuel would choose McCarthy sometime next week.

“Not only can he hit the ground running by developing a summer crime plan. If, God forbid, another terrorist attack happened here, who would you want in charge? Garry McCarthy was the guy in charge on the day after Sept. 11. He’s already done it,” the source said.

Williams is described as a “solid” choice. But he is also known for his strong ties to West Side ministers, a possible red flag for any new mayor.

Kirby is an attorney with less experience in the department’s various divisions. She was also in charge of the Internal Affairs Division during the cops-as-robbers scandal in the now-disbanded Special Operations Section.

In 2008, Weis appointed Kirby to serve as his chief legal counsel, the same day that an internal 2005 memo surfaced written to Kirby by an IAD officer. In it, the officer expressed concern that the IAD investigation of SOS was not aggressive enough, noting a long list of allegations against SOS officers that were not sustained.

At the time, Weis defended Kirby, saying her office was already pursuing rogue cops “through a variety of surveillance techniques and undercover operations” when the memo was written.

In an unusual move, the FBI declared Kirby was not a target of the SOS investigation. No higher-ups have been charged.

In an interview, Chicago Police Board President Demetrius Carney said Kirby’s role in the SOS scandal “was not an issue for us. We reached out to our federal sources. She was well-respected by federal law enforcement. Our read on that is she acted properly.”

Likewise, Williams’ ties to West Side ministers was a non-issue, Carney said, adding, “He interviewed very well. He was a great commander in the 15th District. He’s held numerous high-level positions in narcotics and gangs. He’s well-respected. I don’t think he’s beholden to anybody.”

Jim Maurer, who retired from the Chicago Police Department as its highly respected chief of patrol, said he hopes Emanuel chooses a superintendent from within the department to boost morale. He said he did not know enough about McCarthy to comment on him. But he said Kirby and Williams would both do a “great job.”

“Debbie was a very, very good detective and detective supervisor,” Maurer said. “Gene is one of the nicest guys you could meet and he is very competent.”

Carney went out of his way to praise McCarthy as a “cop’s cop” who walked a beat and commanded three separate New York precincts before becoming chief architect of the Big Apple’s crime control strategy.

“My gut tells me that he understands best practices across the country. He takes those best practices, brings them back and comes up with the best strategy for the city that he’s in. That’s what impressed us,” Carney said.

“Beat patrol is the backbone of the department. He’s walked in those shoes. He understands beat patrol. He’s a cop’s cop. We, as a board, felt he could hit the ground running.”

Carney was asked if he believes McCarthy is a different kind of outsider who could overcome the morale problems that plagued Weis’ three-year tenure.

“Because of his crime-fighting strategy, we as a board felt he would be well received by the rank and file. He is an outsider. But this time, that outsider is not from the FBI. This is an outsider who understands policing and understands the plight of beat patrol. He was a highly-respected district commander,” he said.

As the New York Police Department’s former operations chief, McCarthy has an impressive background as a street cop, Emanuel’s No. 1 criterion.

He was the driving force behind the CompStat program credited with dramatically reducing New York’s homicide rate.

Under the program, police commanders are called before a review board on a monthly basis and held accountable for crime spikes.

McCarthy was a surprise finalist in the 2003 search that culminated in Mayor Daley’s appointment of Phil Cline as police superintendent. At the time, the Police Board stirred controversy by failing to include an African-American in its list of three finalists. But the board was willing to take the heat because it was “absolutely dazzled” by McCarthy.

“We knew the ticket lacked diversity, but we also felt strongly that if Garry McCarthy could bring his experience to Chicago, it would help address our homicide rate, our drug and gang problems,” Carney said at the time.

“He interviewed so well. His knowledge of the city was just unbelievable. He knew the top brass here. He knew and understood our CAPS program. If we could combine his CompStat with CAPS, what a strong city we’d have. If you’re trying to lose weight, you could go on a diet, exercise or both. We felt if we had both, it would affect our quality of life.”

Earlier this week, Emanuel said he was eagerly awaiting the Police Board finalists because “I have to respect a process that wasn’t respected” three years ago when Daley went around the board and chose Weis, a career FBI agent.

The mayor-elect also tipped his hand toward McCarthy when he talked about the need for the new superintendent to have the experience to get a running start.

“I get sworn in May 16. What do we all know about crime? It spikes in the summer. I don’t want to waste a single day,” he said.

Friday, April 29, 2011

NEWS: (National) Police Commanders Share Lessons Learned After Fatal Shootings of Officers

"In the first four months this year, 65 officers have been killed nationwide, up from 51 this time last year. Of the 65 officers, 32 were killed by gunfire; 24 in an ambush or unprovoked manner; seven while serving arrest warrants; and nine while working on a multiagency task force."

STORY AT Officer.com

By Maxine Bernstein
The Oregonian, Portland, Ore.

SEATTLE, Wash. -- Police commanders from Lakewood, Wash.; Oakland, Calif.; and Seattle attending a national conference in Seattle on Thursday described the huge emotional toll on their departments after officers were slain in the line of duty.

"March 21 (2009) was our version of 9-11," Oakland Assistant Chief Howard Jordan said, referring to when a parolee took the lives of four Oakland officers. The department later lost 11 officers to disability leave with psychological problems and one officer to suicide as a result, he said.

In the aftermath, the department offered to double up officers in patrol cars, reinforced training and reassured police of their vital role.

After Seattle Officer Timothy Brenton was fatally ambushed in his patrol car with a trainee on Oct. 31, 2009, relatives of other officers urged them to change careers.

"There was a lot of fear from families and pressure to leave the job," Seattle Deputy Chief Nick Metz said. His daughter asked him, "Why do you have to wear that uniform?"

The Seattle shooting, soon followed by the Nov. 29, 2009, killings of four Lakewood officers while doing paperwork in a suburban Tacoma coffee shop, had an especially heavy impact on the relatively young Seattle force.

Seattle has hired more than 450 officers in the past five years. Many stopped writing reports in their cars or coffee shops, instead working at their stations.

"Since then, it's been a challenge to reinforce our beliefs that they have to engage the community," Seattle Assistant Chief Jim Pugel said.

In the first four months this year, 65 officers have been killed nationwide, up from 51 this time last year. Of the 65 officers, 32 were killed by gunfire; 24 in an ambush or unprovoked manner; seven while serving arrest warrants; and nine while working on a multiagency task force.

The Washington, D.C.-based Police Executive Research Forum drew big-city supervisors to its annual meeting in Seattle to discuss recent cases, the effects and possible responses.

"There's definitely something that's happening in the U.S. that's really putting our officers at risk,'" said Joshua Ederheimer, deputy director of the U.S. Department of Justice's COPS office.

The Lakewood and Oakland shooters had criminal records, but the Seattle cop killer was well-educated with no criminal past.

"I would suggest what's common to them is severe mental illness," said Robert Lehner, who left as Eugene police chief in 2008 to serve as chief in Elk Grove, Calif., near Sacramento.

"We're not doing the mentally ill a service by leaving them free and unencumbered on our streets without treatment and observation," Lehner said. He noted he would leave the convention today to attend the memorial for Eugene Officer Chris Kilcullen, fatally shot in an attempted traffic stop.

The police commanders emphasized the need to study and learn from the shootings. Oakland police called in an independent "board of inquiry," which identified tactical mistakes.

Two Oakland motorcycle officers were shot as they walked up together on the driver's side of a stopped vehicle. Their approach made them "two easy targets," Jordan said.

Police then entered an apartment where the suspect was located without adequate "command and control," or intelligence gathering, Jordan added. "Eight officers of the SWAT team went through the door; six of them came out alive."

Now, Oakland police give presentations to other agencies on their "lessons learned," Jordan said.

Commanding officers from the stricken agencies all said the outpouring of community support and appreciation for police was remarkable.

That's why Lakewood Police Chief Brett Farrar called the day he lost four officers "the most devastating and most inspiring time in my career." The community contributed almost $3 million that police put into a trust fund, he said.

The U.S. Department of Justice plans to help fund a center for the study of violence against police and assemble a national working group on officer safety, said Ederheimer, of the COPS office.

The U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance also plans to withhold body armor funding to agencies that don't require officers to wear their bullet-resistant vests at all times on duty. About 41 percent of agencies don't have that requirement. (Portland police do.)

Despite increasing challenges, the police commanders agreed they can't back down from their prime responsibility to keep the public safe.

"It's a tough job and it's dangerous sometimes" Lakewood's Farrar said, " but you can't fold up your tent and quit."

NEWS: (Suburban) Man dies in auto accident in Melrose Park

STORY AT Chicago Tribune

By Caroline Kyungae Smith
Tribune reporter
7:52 AM CDT, April 29, 2011

A west suburban Melrose Park man died in a traffic accident Thursday, officials said.

William Devine, 81, of the 1900 block of North 17th Avenue, was involved in a traffic crash at 30 West Lake Street, according to the Cook County medical examiner's office.

At 4:41 p.m. Thursday, Devine was the driver of a 1988 Ford Taurus traveling east on West Lake Street when he crossed into westbound lanes and hit a Ford pickup truck, according to Melrose Park Police Chief Sam Pitassi.

The impact caused the Ford pickup to hit a 1999 Dodge Intrepid traveling next to it, Pitassi said.

Witnesses said they saw Devine slumped over the wheel, he said.

Two people in the pickup truck were taken to area hospitals, but were treated and released, he said.

No other injuries were reported.

An autopsy for Devine is slated for today.

NEWS: (Chicago) Chicago Police board picks three finalists for Emanuel's top cop

--So much for the reports that it was a toss-up between Newark Police Chief Garry McCarthy; national drug czar R. Gil Kerlikowske and Chicago’s deputy chief-of-detectives Al Wysinger.--
Duke

RELATED STORY:


NEWS: (Chicago) Chicago’s top cop search down to three finalists, sources say


-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

STORY AT Chicago Tribune

 April 29, 2011

The Chicago Police Board has chosen three finalists for the top cop job to submit to Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel -- two from inside the department as well as the police chief from Newark, N.J., sources told the Tribune today.

The two finalists from within the Chicago police ranks are Chief of Patrol Eugene Williams and Debra Kirby, deputy superintendent for the Bureau of Professional Standards, the sources said. The lone outsider the board picked was Newark, N.J. Police Chief Garry McCarthy, who was a finalist for the Chicago job in 2003, the sources said.

 The three finalists have all been interviewed by the board, as well as by Emanuel, who has been conducting his own search while waiting for the board to submit finalists as they are required to do under city law.

The police board communicated with Emanuel's transition team this morning to let them know who the three finalists were, according to a source familiar with the process. The board is expected to issue a release later this morning.

Emanuel is expected to make an announcement about his pick early next week.

Kirby went to law school while working for the department and has risen through a series of command staff jobs in recent years, from vice investigations to legal counsel for the superintendent. But she attracted the most public attention in her time running the internal affairs division.

Beginning in 2003, Kirby was at the helm of internal affairs during much of the time when rogue officers in the Special Operations Section were committing numerous robberies and home invasions. After the officers were charged by the Cook County state's attorney's office, the U.S. attorney launched an investigation to determine whether SOS commanders and internal affairs had helped cover up the officers' deeds.

At the center of the federal investigation were a pair of memos written in 2005 by internal affairs agents to Kirby, questioning why she was not taking a more aggressive approach to investigating what appeared to be a pattern of dozens of nearly identical allegations against the officers. In April 2008, an internal affairs officer testified before a federal grand jury that he had questioned whether Kirby was trying to get to the bottom of the brewing scandal.

Kirby and other department officials maintained they had been investigating the SOS cases, and their work contributed to the eventual indictments.

Prosecutors disputed that assertion, and the federal investigation of command staff had grown out of evidence collected by the state's attorney's office. The U.S. attorney's office recently has struck plea agreement deals with officers involved in the SOS scandal without bringing any charges against supervisors in the department.

McCarthy was a finalist for the Chicago superintendent in 2003, but lost out to Phil Cline.

McCarthy rose to prominence in the New York Police Department during the mid-1990s, when Mayor Rudy Giuiliani’s police department implemented controversial policies for fighting crime. A piece of the strategy, in which police restricted access to certain blocks of the city to residents only, debuted under McCarthy’s command in a high-crime district. Crime plummeted in the area. McCarthy, the son of a New York police detective, eventually rose to the rank of deputy commissionerand was in charge of a program that held commanders accountable for crime statistics in their districts in monthly reviews.

In February 2005, McCarthy had an embarrassing run-in with police at a New Jersey highway rest stop after they ticketed his daughter for a parking violation. The confrontation escalated to a profanity-laced shouting match and the officers arrested both McCarthy and his wife and wrote them traffic tickets. The McCarthys lost an appeal of their traffic convictions.

The incident opened McCarthy to a good deal of public criticism for his decision making and behavior, but it did not stop Newark Mayor Cory Booker from selecting him to run the city’s police department.

In Newark, McCarthy inherited a high-crime rate and a department beset by city budget woes. Hired in 2006, he immediately began implementing police strategies he'd learned in the New York Police Department. Between 2007 and 2008, the number of murders in Newark dropped by 30 percent, an improvement that was attributed largely to the more aggressive policing.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

OFFICER DOWN NEWS: La. Officer Gives His Life to Save Daughter

--What a tragic yet heroic story. 
Our prayers go out to Lt. Sharp's family and to the Covington Police Department for their loss.--
Duke

STORY AT Officer.com

As winds began to rip through a campsite in Mississippi Wednesday morning, a vacationing Louisiana police officer only had one thing on this mind: saving his daughter.

Covington Lt. Wade Sharp threw himself on top of his 9-year-old daughter who was sleeping in the tent beside him as the destruction occurred around them at the Jeff Busby Campground around 6 a.m., according to The Times-Picayune.

A tree soon fell through the tent, striking the father on the back of the head, killing him.

Thanks to Sharp's efforts, his daughter went uninjured and was quickly found by nearby campers.

Two Covington officers accompanied his wife to the campground later that day to pick up her daughter.

"He was a hero all the way through his whole career, and was a hero to the end," Covington Police Chief Richard Palmisano told the newspaper.

The storm was part of a weather system that spawned tornados and claimed the lives of more than 200 people in states throughout the south.

The 19-year veteran of the force was head of the agency's criminal investigations division, gained notoriety for several rescues during his career and was a well-respected officer.

"People always requested to work for him or with him. He was an enjoyable person to be around," Palmisano said. "Right now I think the big thing is for everyone to keep in their hearts and their prayers the family, especially his children and his wife.

PENSION: (National) NASRA, teacher retirement group slam public funding paper

STORY AT Pensions and Investments

By Timothy Inklebarger
Source: Pensions & Investments
Date: April 21, 2011

(updated with correction)

Two pension groups on Thursday attacked what they called “misleading impressions” in an academic paper often cited to show the severity of the nation's public pension funding problems.

Keith Brainard, research director of the National Association of State Retirement Administrators, said in a telephone interview that the 2010 study, “Public Pension Promises: How Big Are They, and What are They Worth?” comes to a conclusion that unfunded state pension liabilities total $3 trillion by using inaccurate liability and return assumptions.

The 2010 study was written by Robert Novy-Marx, assistant professor of finance at the Simon Graduate School of Business at the University of Rochester, and Joshua Rauh, an associate professor of finance at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management.

Mr. Brainard said the $3 trillion liability is based in part on market values as of June 30, 2009, although asset values have since grown by roughly 25%. Mr. Brainard also said the study inaccurately uses a discount rate equal to each state's borrowing rate, which is typically 4% to 5%, instead of the state's expected rate of return, which is typically 7.5% to 8.5%.

“What they're basically saying in that $3 trillion is that a public pension fund with a diversified portfolio can be expected to return 4% to 5% over next 20 to 30 years. We believe that is an unrealistically low expectation,” Mr. Brainard said.

In a joint news release with NASRA, Ronnie Jung, president of the National Council on Teacher Retirement and executive director of the $108.2 billion Texas Teacher Retirement System, Austin, said the expected return assumption is often characterized as too generous because critics ignore the long-term investment performance of such pension funds.

“The last 10 years have been rough ones for the capital markets and public pension funds, but public pension investment returns have actually exceeded their assumptions over the last 20- and 25-year periods,” Mr. Jung said in the release. “In addition, strong returns since the end of 2010 suggest that capital markets continue to recover and to increase public pension fund asset values.”

In a separate telephone interview, Mr. Rauh, however, said in response to the NASRA/NCTR news release that liabilities have also grown at a rate of five to six percentage points per year, adding that “the fact that they haven't mentioned that is extremely problematic.”

He said “it does not make financial sense” to use a rate to determine liabilities that exceeds the risk-free rate of 4% to 5% “if we're talking about risk-free promises the government is making.”

“Based on June 2009 values, our calculations showed over $3 trillion in unfunded pension obligations at the state and local level,” Mr. Rauh said in an e-mail. “If recent market behavior has led to increases in asset values of $500 billion, the aggregate unfunded liabilities would still be in the $2.5 trillion to $3 trillion range — even assuming stated liabilities didn't grow at all, which as I mentioned would not be in keeping with recent history.”

PENSION: (National) Pension fund chief defends Tenn. police plan

--Retirement security among other benefits are key in recruiting in all sectors of employment. In the public sector however, I cannot see how you can ask a person who chooses to dedicate 30 years of their lives to a dangerous service and not have anything after they retire. It is wrong in the private sector and it really wrong for public safety employees.--
Duke

STORY AT PoliceOne.com

04/28/2011

"Without assured retirement benefits, the city will have a tougher time recruiting and keeping qualified officers"

By Cliff Hightower
Chattanooga Times Free Press

CHATANOOGA, Tenn. — Changing the retirement benefit plan for police officers and firefighters will harm recruitment and retention efforts and force those employees to work long-er than desired, the chairman of the Chattanooga Fire & Police Pension Fund board argues.

"You're going to go back to where you have older policemen and older firefighters," said Terry Knowles, board president.

Without assured retirement benefits, he said, the city will have a tougher time recruiting and keeping qualified police officers and firefighters.

Knowles sent detailed fact sheets about retirement benefits for officers and firefighters to City Council members last week. He said some council members have talked about changing the retirement plan from a defined benefit plan to a defined contribution plan, much like a 401(k) plan.

However, Richard Beeland, spokesman for Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield, said changes to retirement benefits are not on the table.

"There are no plans from the mayor or from the council to change the pension plans," he said.

Councilman Jack Benson has been the only council member in the past to say the city may need to look at a defined contribution plan.

The city, like most other municipal governments, faces a financial crunch as elected officials put together budgets for the new fiscal year, which starts July 1.

The council's Budget, Finance and Personnel Committee is set to meet at 1:30 p.m. today about pension plans. Chairwoman Carol Berz said there may be some discussion about the pension plan as a whole.

Discussions about specific parts of the pension plan have not happened, she said.

"We've had no conversations about this," she said. "It's kind of like putting the cart before the horse."

Council Chairwoman Pam Ladd said the council needs to evaluate compensation packages for employees and whether they are costing too much and whether they're in line with other benefits packages across the country.

Some of the costs might not be seen now, she said, but they could be seen growing "years and years" down the road.

More information about an alternative pension plan would be helpful in case the council is presented with such a plan in the future, she said.

Benefits Explained
The fire and police pension fund represents 790 current firefighters and police officers, 540 retired members and 152 beneficiaries, records show.

The city adopted a retirement benefit called the Deferred Retirement Option Plan, or DROP, about 10 years ago to cut the number of police officers and firefighters working past 30 years. Since then, disability cases have been reduced by 25 percent and there has been a "significant reduction" in officers and firefighters working more than 30 years, according to pension fund board.

The fact sheets from the pension board analyzes the differences between the current pension plan -- a defined benefit plan -- and a 401(k)-type plan.

Knowles said police officers or firefighters would have to work longer under a defined contribution plan to secure the same amount of money in their defined benefit plan.

Because public safety workers have a shorter career span than other public or private sector workers, they likely would not have the years needed to fund their retirement plans fully.

Knowles acknowledged that Fire and Police Pension Fund managers are still uncertain about whether a defined contribution plan could save money for the city.

"We don't really know if there will be a cost savings," he said. "We're still looking at that."

PENSION: (Illinois) Editorial: Change pensions for current state workers

--At least this editorial recognizes where the problem comes from.
But it still calls for the fix to come from the backs of the employees.
Reducing benefits of current employees is part of the over all problem not part of a solution.
A solution is making current and future employees contribute a higher percentage (10%) and making the state and the municipalities more liable for not making their payments on time. 
Also, put a law into effect that prohibits Illinois and Chicago from borrowing from the pension funds to give their friends and relatives bad loans.--
Duke

EDITORIAL AT Chicago Sun-Times

Last Modified: Apr 28, 2011 11:41AM

Illinois is dead last. Again.

A new report out this week says Illinois is in last place among states when it comes to putting away enough money for benefits promised to its employees in retirement.

Illinois had just 51 percent of the $126 billion it needed in 2008-2009 to pay promised pensions, according to the Pew Center on the States. This was the largest shortfall in the nation, as Illinois’ was in the previous year.

Few dispute the main factor driving this shortfall: the state’s repeated and prolonged failure to contribute what it owes to its pension systems. Meanwhile, state employees and teachers have faithfully kicked in their share paycheck after paycheck.

This is profoundly unfair, and public employees have every right to scream that from the rooftops.

But that doesn’t change the reality Illinois now faces: The state’s annual pension bills, along with accumulated debt, are so high they will soon gobble up resources needed for core state functions, including educating our kids, treating the sick and staffing our prisons.

Take the recent income tax increase, which is expected to generate an additional $6 billion a year. The state’s pension bill for next year, plus debt service on borrowing to pay recent pension bills, totals $6.2 billion.

Ouch. It is time for Illinois to tackle its pension problem.

The General Assembly got started last year by dramatically reducing pension benefits for new public employees. But that does little to reduce the state’s $84 billion pension liability, leaving no choice but to keep plugging away at pension reform.

This means changing the pensions of current employees. Not the retirement benefits already accrued, but changing benefits going forward.

Whether such a change is allowed under the Illinois Constitution is a matter of great debate, with skilled lawyers on both sides making their cases. No one disputes language in the Constitution that prohibits the diminishment of benefits, but which changes actually would cross that line is unresolved. It’s time to answer that question. Legislators should move on reform and let the courts ultimately decide the constitutional question.

House Minority Leader Tom Cross has proposed a bill to dramatically reduce non-vested benefits for current workers. The bill would let them stay in the current benefit system but only by significantly increasing their contributions. Alternatively, they could move to a 401(k)-style plan or accept the lesser benefits now given to new state employees.

Cross is right to get the ball rolling, but his bill goes too far. In a sweeping way, it breaks promises made to state employees and wipes away the prospect of a modest, decent retirement.

That said, nibbling at the edges won’t cut it.

We’d like to see legislation emerge from Springfield — or, better yet, emerge from the negotiating table with public employee unions — that is tightly focused on twin goals of limiting the pain inflicted on state employees and passing constitutional muster.

Two good places to start: Raising the amount employees contribute toward their pensions and/or raising the retirement age. Workers closest to retirement should be exempt.

PENSION: (Illinois) Illinois leading states facing a pension crisis

STORY AT Chrsitian Science Monitor


In a crisis that built up over years of paying in too little, Illinois's pensions were only half-funded by 2009, according to a new report. They're the worst offender, but they're not alone.

By Mark Guarino, Staff writer
posted April 26, 2011
Chicago

State pensions are badly underfunded – and the situation is getting worse, fast.

That's the upshot of a study released this week by the Pew Center on the States, a nonprofit, public-policy think tank located in Washington.

In 2009, 31 states were underfunding their pensions. The year before, 22 states were in the same boat, according to the report, which tracked retirement benefits of state employees over the last two years.

The divide between the amount states owe and the money they’ve set aside over the decades yawns even wider than previously suspected: Nationwide, state pensions were underfunded by $600 billion in 2009. That accounts for about half of the $1.26 trillion gap in overall retirement benefits owed to public employees that year.

...... Story continued at CSMonitor.com

BREAKING NEWS: Body in Des Plaines River near River Grove

--We will be monitoring this for further information.--
Duke

***UPDATED 3:50 pm***

Woman's body pulled from Des Plaines River near River Grove

By Serena Maria Daniels
Tribune reporter
3:50 PM CDT, April 28, 2011

A woman's body was pulled from the Des Plaines River this afternoon, about four hours after a passenger on a Metra train told a conductor about seeing the body, state police said.

Divers pulled the woman's body from the water south of Belmont Avenue near River Grove just after 2 p.m., said Illinois State Police Master Sgt. S. Nowak. A passenger aboard a Metra train first reported seeing the body to a Metra conductor at 10:19 a.m., he said.
Rescuers found the body caught on several branches and debris in the water. The body was clothed and appeared to have been in the water "for some time," Nowak said. Police believe the body had been carried downstream from somewhere farther north, he said.

Though an autopsy by the Cook County Medical Examiner's office must be conducted, the body did not appear to have any signs of foul play, Nowak said. Police are conducting a death investigation, Nowak said.

Illlinois State troopers were sent to River Road and Belmont Avenue near River Grove to assist in the recovery of a body late this morning, a Chicago District state trooper said.

Several divers finished their work about 2 p.m. and came out of the water. Soon after, fire personnel could be seen carrying what appeared to be a body bag up the riverbank and loaded it into a sport-utility vehicle.

Early reports that there was a car in the water were incorrect, Nowak said.

The DesPlaines River is overflowing the banks, just below the flood stage, which made recovery of the body risky for fire department personnel, said River Grove Fire Deputy Chief David Atkocaitis.

"We're right on the verge of flooding," Atkocaitis said.

To reduce the risk of being swept away, rescuers from the mutual swift water rescue crew set up safety lines in several areas up and down stream from where crews worked to recover the body.

Dozens of fire personnel from departments including Glencoe, Franklin Park, Highland Park, Rosemont, Evanston, Bellwood and Northbrook were at River Road next to railroad tracks, assisting River Grove authorities with the investigation.

Metra workers also were at the scene. Several freight trains that crossed the intersection then crossed the train trestle at slow speed. Traffic was backed up on both sides of the tracks as the trains passed.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

By Serena Maria Daniels
Tribune reporter
12:08 PM CDT, April 28, 2011

Effort were under way this morning to recover a body from the Des Plaines River near River Grove.

Illlinois State troopers were en route to River Road and Belmont Avenue near River Grove to assist in the recovery of a body, a Chicago District state trooper said. River Grove and other area fire departments were on the scene.

Check back for more details.

NEWS: (Suburban) Five Arrested in Elmhurst for Prostitution, Solicitation

--I know alot of people feel these are victimless crimes. While that may true it attracts an element to the town that you do not want there. These people drive up the drug related crimes as well as crimes against innocent children that may become the targets of these people.--
Duke

STORY AT Elmhurst Patch

These encounters will cost subjects a lot more than they had planned.

By Karen Chadra

Several people were arrested April 26 after agreeing to meet an undercover police officer posing as a potential sex partner at an undisclosed location. The officers first made contact with the subjects online. Earlier this month, Elmhurst police Chief Steve Neubauer explained why Elmhurst police feel the stings are important.

Victor Nuno, 37, 5004 W. Lotus, Chicago, was arrested and charged with solicitation of a sex act at 2:34 p.m. Nino met with a female officer and agreed to give her $125 for sex.

Artion Sciderscha, 22, 6630 N. Washtenaw, Chicago, also was arrested and charged with solicitation of a sex act at 3:35 p.m. Sciderscha met with an undercover officer with the intent of exchanging $200 for sex.

Vanessa Mahone, 22, 860 Grand Apt. F, Spring Valley, Calif., and Trisha Nungesser, 23, 888 S. Hydraulic, Wichita, Kan., were arrested at 5:17 p.m. and charged with prostitution after they met with an undercover officer and agreed to have sex for $400.

Jennifer Powers, 27, 5329 W. North, Chicago, was arrested at 5:29 p.m. for prostitution after agreeing to have sex for $250

NEWS: (Oak Brook) Rush on chief's early retirement wrong

--It seems like things just never stop in certain towns. 
Early retirement package equals more unfunded liability that will be blamed on the employees rather than the politicians who misuse the system. 
Sounds to me like they are trying to get the sheriff out of Dodge before the gallows are built.--
Duke

STORY AT Pioneer Press

April 28, 2011

The outgoing Village Board in Oak Brook is pulling a fast one on residents in its waning days by approving an early retirement package for Police Chief Thomas Sheahan.

Sheahan has been the subject of much controversy of late. His police officers in February issued a no-confidence vote in his leadership, shortly after the firing of Stephen Peterson from the force. Peterson is the son of former Bolingbrook Police Sergeant Drew Peterson.

Some trustees have called for an outside investigator to look into the police department, to determine what ought to be done to improve relations within the department. The subject arose most prominently during the last village election.

But in the final days of the John Craig administration, the board is considering an early retirement package for Sheahan.

A meeting was set for last Thursday to approve the early retirement package, but it was canceled. Instead, the early retirement approval was scheduled for Tuesday's Village Board meeting.

This remains within the board's powers, even if the current administration's days are numbered. But it is wrong, and emblematic of why Craig was rightfully not re-elected at the start of this month.

This is not a pressing matter that requires quick action by the Village Board. Sheahan's future should be left to the new board, which is scheduled for a May 2 swearing in.

This has the looks of an outgoing village president trying to take care of one of his own before a new board comes along and investigates his work.

If the new board wanted to bring in an outside investigator to analyze the department, it should have been allowed to. If Sheahan's conduct was found to be unworthy, there would be no reason to offer him anything to leave.

Instead, he's getting a soft landing. With Sheahan leaving the department under the umbrella of an early retirement incentive, bringing in anyone to look at the department and the administration's decisions becomes a wasteful and near useless exercise.

There's a temptation to just let Sheahan go, perhaps, and put the whole matter behind, to start fresh. But Oak Brook could benefit from a departmental analysis. What's learned may not just make the police department better, but improve all the village's public services.

There's no reason to believe that an investigator would find any wrongdoing on the part of the police administration. The new board may even have decided to keep Sheahan on board to shape the department and work with its officers.

Some people have their doubts, it seems. Now Sheahan is getting paid to leave, offering a final tip of the hat and leaving employee relations within Oak Brook's police department in shambles, a final legacy of the Craig administration to the village.

Police Blotters April 28, 2011

Click on the town you are interested in.


Franklin Park, Northlake, Leyden Township


La Grange, Lagrange Park, Westchester


Oak Brook, Oakbrook Terrace


Elmwood Park, River Grove


Niles


Norridge, Harwood Heights


Oak Park


Park Ridge


River Forest


Skokie


Forest Park


Elmhurst


-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

PENSION: (National) Pension ruling riles Detroit workers

RELATED STORY:


PENSION: (National) Public Pensions, Once Off Limits, Face Budget Cuts
STORY AT Detroit News

April 27, 2011

Decision widely watched because it impacts current employees

LEONARD N. FLEMING
/ The Detroit News

Detroit —A recent arbitration ruling that allows Detroit to reduce pensions to police sergeants and lieutenants could save the cash-strapped city millions of dollars but has irked public employees.

The decision from arbitrator Thomas W. Brookover came down this month, just days before Mayor Dave Bing issued his budget address that called for reductions in pension contributions because of the city's growing deficit and declining tax base.

Among the changes: The city can reduce the multiplier the city uses to calculate pensions for sergeants and lieutenants from 2.5 percent to 2.1 percent; suspend for two years longevity pay awarded after five, 11, 16 and 25 years; and make modifications to health care.

Bing's staffers did not respond to requests for comments, but the decision is widely watched because it impacts pensions for current employees — not future ones.

The changes wouldn't affect benefits already accrued, and the city's 47 other unions aren't impacted by the ruling.

Jeffrey Pegg, a 15-year Detroit firefighter and a member of the Detroit Police and Fire Pension board, said the decision is "devastating" and could affect recruiting.

"I don't know how the city's going to get good, qualified people knowing the fact that they won't have a defined benefit plan," Pegg said.

"Back in 1948, when the city was growing and they were trying to capture people to come and get jobs, the pension was the primary thing that brought people to get jobs in the city."

Pegg said that despite perceptions about huge benefits, the average retiree draws an annual pension of about $28,000.

Brookover wrote that Detroit's current pension obligations threaten to sink the city. The city pays pensions to 8,424 police and fire retirees — more than twice the amount now on duty — and their pensions next year are scheduled to cost $150 million.

That's 65 percent of the police and fire payroll.

The Police and Fire Retirement System that administers the pensions, meanwhile, lost hundreds of millions of dollars in market share over the past few years, Brookover wrote.

"These obligations threaten both the city's fiscal viability as well as its wherewithal to provide public services," the arbitrator wrote.

Sgt. Erik Eide of the Detroit Police Mounted Division, said the changes are difficult but "the way the city is right now, we probably did better than some of the other unions. Considering the circumstances, we probably didn't do that badly."

NEWS: (National) 106 San Jose cops get layoff notices

--This trend just does not seem to be changing. Public safety being sacrificed to fix budgets.--
Duke

STORY AT Mercury News

By Sean Webby and John Woolfolk

swebby@mercurynews.com
Posted: 04/26/2011 07:45:49 PM PDT
Updated: 04/27/2011 05:39:08 AM PDT

After months of nervous anticipation, 106 San Jose police officers are getting notices this week that they may be laid off as the reality of the city's dire financial picture cast a gloom over police headquarters and City Hall.

An additional 20 more cops learned they may soon be demoted. And overall, the city could lose about 9 percent of its police force in what could be the first layoffs of officers in the city's history.

City officials have been threatening layoffs for months, and City Manager Deb Figone last week broadcast a total of more than 600 city employees. But that doesn't make the layoff-warning letters any easier to accept.

"I was sold a bill of goods and the city did not hold up their end of the bargain," said J.P. Bottega, a former New York City cop who was recruited by the San Jose Police Department three years ago. "They asked me to make a lot of sacrifices. They asked me to go all in with this city. And I did."

Bottega blames Mayor Chuck Reed and the City Council, which, he said, "doesn't have the intestinal fortitude to make the tough decisions" to protect the city's public safety.

"I pay my mortgage first before I go out to dinner," he said. "Public safety is the mortgage of the city's future."

Budget woes

But Reed and other city officials say they have little choice. San Jose, they note, is in its 10th straight year of budget deficits, largely driven by employee costs outpacing revenues. Officials say half of this year's deficit is driven by soaring employee pension costs, and have asked employees to agree to reduced retirement benefits.

Police Chief Chris Moore has been holding small group meetings in a conference room to notify the officers whose jobs are in peril.

"It's hard to be the chief at a time when we are laying off officers for the first time ever," Moore said. "Our best, brightest and youngest are being forced out of their jobs."

This week Officer Bottega and most members of Team 65, a respected unit that patrols the East Side all night long, will personally be handed letters by Moore warning them that their jobs could end in late June.

On Monday, Figone laid out the bad news contained in a proposed budget she plans to release May 2. That news is the elimination of about 620 positions, about a 10th of the workforce, to close a $115 million deficit. About 230 other employees are expected to be "bumped" by more senior colleagues into lesser jobs.

And it could get even bloodier.

The estimate of 600-plus jobs targeted for elimination assumes 10 percent pay and benefit concessions from all 11 of the city's employee unions, which would shave $38 million off the deficit. But so far, only firefighters and three civilian employee unions have agreed.

If the city doesn't secure similar concessions from the rest of the workforce, Figone said, an additional 155 cops and 300 other workers will be cut. The council can vote to impose pay cuts for a year on the civilian workforce but not on cops.

The only member of Bottega's six-member team who is not slated to lose his job is Sgt. Dave Woolsey. But he is scheduled to be demoted.

Bottega had been an officer in New York City for years when he saw a recruiting billboard on Manhattan's West Side Highway that spoke of the SJPD's superior professionalism and good salaries. He spoke with his wife, who was from California, and a San Jose police recruiter, Lt. George Beattie.

He liked the idea of lots of trees and working for a department that had an excellent national reputation. So he and his wife sold their house on Long Island in 2008, taking a beating on it, and headed west.

Changing course again

Now, with his wife in graduate school, Bottega looks at his house in Santa Cruz with the chickens and the black lab and figures it, like his job, will soon be gone. At 37, the veteran officer can't realistically go back to NYPD. He gets depressed thinking of how hard he will have to compete against the flood of other cops who are being dumped on the job market.

Even so, Bottega said he is not so cynical and depressed that he has become an empty shirt.

Last month, he pulled over a van with expired plates that seemed to be driving erratically.

Bottega had a moment in which he asked himself if it was worth it. But he knew it was.

The first thing he noticed on the floor of the van was a machete, then a Taser, then they found guns and a homemade explosive. He made the arrest and later received a letter of commendation signed by Chief Moore.

"I've lived an upstanding life to become a police officer. I'm happily married, looking to start a family. In that respect its disappointing. But you can't get upset about things you cannot change. I have to look forward."

That was the inspirational message of Woolsey, who says he came to San Jose from Hollywood hoping to make a difference.

A few months ago Woolsey noticed his patrol team's morale flagging as the rumors of layoffs swirled around the department. Years before, Woolsey had felt depressed about his own police career back in the days of the scandal-plagued LAPD.

So now he grabbed his officers after briefings and in parking lots and told them to keep their heads up.

"If you dwell on things you have no control over, you can get cynical and depressed. It affects every aspect of your life," he told them. "Remember the reasons you became a police officer and hold tight to those beliefs."

He said that to his delight, his officers responded.

"They do this job for a reason," said Woolsey, 40. "Despite morale problems they still want to do the right thing."

Now Woolsey is trying to remind himself why he spent so many Sundays at the library away from his wife and two young children studying to get his sergeant stripes. He and about 19 others may lose them in July.

He knows the pain of Bottega, the rest of his patrol team and other people in other industries in Silicon Valley who are losing their jobs.

But it still hurts.

"I really felt like I've hit that point where it is time for me to lead others and have a positive impact on people I work for and the community I work with," he said. "So this is a morale breaker."

Meanwhile, the union has been compiling a list of the officers who have over the past 16 months left the budget-beleaguered department for such agencies as the Round Rock (Texas) Police Department, the Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office and the Palo Alto Police Department. The union estimates the city has lost about $2.45 million in training costs.

Jim Unland, the vice president of the officers' union, said the mood at the police department is somber.

"Some of our best people are affected by this," he said. "I fear that once we lose them, we will never get them back."

NEWS: (Illinois) 10 shootings in Ill., Wis. linked to slain suspect?

STORY AT Chicago Tribune

Associated Press
11:59 AM CDT, April 27, 2011

A man killed by police in Wisconsin may be connected to at least 10 random shootings in that state and across Illinois, authorities say.

Police in the town of Tomah, north of Madison, fatally shot Seth McCloskey, 28, on Friday during a traffic stop after he jumped out of his pickup truck and started shooting, wounding one officer, investigators said.

The red truck McCloskey was driving matches one that witnesses have described in recent random drive-by shootings at homes and businesses across Wisconsin and Illinois, including seven in Winnebago County, according to officials.

Investigators from both states met Tuesday to share information.

Winnebago County sheriff's officials said it had no leads on seven shootings there on April 20 until McCloskey was killed in Tomah. "There's a strong possibility they are connected," said Deputy Chief Dominic Iasparro.

Bullets from the Illinois shootings have been sent to a crime lab for analysis to see if they are linked.

Dane County sheriff's investigators believe all the shootings in Wisconsin came from one vehicle traveled on Interstate 90.

Tomah police stopped McCloskey April 22 thinking the truck may have been involved in a drive-by shooting earlier in the day in which a home was struck by three bullets.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

PENSION: (Illinois) Report: Illinois owes most for pensions

STORY AT ABC7 Chicago

April 26, 2011 (CHICAGO) (WLS) -- A new report shows Illinois trailing every other state in the country at covering future pension costs.

DOWNLOAD THE PEW REPORT

The Pew Center on the States found that Illinois set aside only 51 cents for every dollar it has promised to pay out. Other states owed more to their retirement systems in raw dollars, but none matched Illinois in percentage terms.

The closest was West Virginia, which had 56 percent of the money to cover its long-term costs.

Experts often recommend states build up assets worth 80 percent of their future pension costs.

Illinois state government has frequently failed to make its full contribution to retirement systems. In some years, it didn't make any contribution at all. At the same time, it continued promising more benefits to retirees. The result has been a huge gap between the money available to invest and the amount that will have to be paid out in decades to come, particularly as Baby Boomers retire.

Skimpy payments in the past mean Illinois now faces even bigger payments to catch up. Pension costs in the next budget are $4.2 billion, or nearly two-thirds of all the money Illinois will take in from the recent income tax increase.

There is no danger that pension checks will stop going out, but eventually Illinois will have to come up with billions of dollars or find a way to reduce pension costs.

Already, the state has cut benefits to future employees. Some officials want to do the same for people already on the state payroll.

The report, "The Widening Gap: The Great Recession's Impact on State Pension and Retiree Health Care Costs," looked at figures from fiscal 2009, when the economy and stock market were at their worst.

Illinois had $126.4 billion in pension liabilities, and assets worth just over half that amount.

California owed far more, $490.6 billion, but had assets totaling 81 percent. New York owed $146.7 billion but actually had more money than it owed -- a 101 percent funding level.

NEWS: (Chicago) Reputed ringleader of corrupt cops pleads guilty

--Reaching the end of this one? We can hope.--
Duke

STORY AT Chicago Tribune

By Becky Schlikerman
Tribune reporter
2:48 PM CDT, April 26, 2011

The alleged ringleader of a notorious crew of corrupt Chicago police officers pleaded guilty today to plotting to have another officer killed for assisting investigators.

Jerome Finnigan, who was assigned to the now-disgraced Special Operations Section, also pleaded guilty to tax-related charges stemming from a series of robberies of suspected drug dealers and others in which he pocketed more than $200,000 in cash in 2004 and 2005. 

He faces up to 13 years in prison at sentencing.

NEWS: (Chicago) Chicago’s top cop search down to three finalists, sources say

STORY AT Chicago Sun-Times

BY FRAN SPIELMAN AND FRANK MAIN
Staff Reporters
Last Modified: Apr 26, 2011 10:17AM

The competition to become Chicago’s next police superintendent has come down to a three-man race between a veteran Chicago cop and a pair of outsiders, with a final decision possible later this week, City Hall sources said Monday.

The top three are: Newark Police Chief Garry McCarthy; national drug czar R. Gil Kerlikowske and Chicago’s deputy chief-of-detectives Al Wysinger. Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel was asked Monday whether an outsider can improve the morale problems that dogged career FBI agent Jody Weis.

“My No. 1 goal … is what do we have to do to reduce violent crime in the city,” he said.

“I’m looking for a person who understands that the beat officer is the backbone of the law enforcement community. …. The measure is, how do we get results and who is the right leadership to get results.”

If Emanuel chooses to go with an outsider, McCarthy appears to have the edge.

That’s because of his background as a street cop and the role he once played as the driving force behind the CompStat program credited with dramatically reducing New York City’s homicide rate.

Under the program, police commanders are called before a review board on a monthly basis and held accountable for crime spikes.

McCarthy was a surprise finalist in the 2003 search that culminated in Mayor Daley’s appointment of Phil Cline.

At the time, the Police Board was willing to take the heat for choosing three whites as finalists because it was “absolutely dazzled” by McCarthy.

“We knew the ticket lacked diversity, but we also felt strongly that if Garry McCarthy could bring his experience to Chicago, it would help address our homicide rate, our drug and gang problems,” Police Board President Demetrius Carney said at the time.

“He interviewed so well. His knowledge of the city was just unbelievable. He knew the top brass here. He knew and understood our CAPS program. If we could combine his CompStat with CAPS, what a strong city we’d have.”

Kerlikowske is a former Seattle police chief. But, his current job as national drug czar would likely make him more of a federal bureaucrat in the eyes of rank-and-file Chicago Police officers. That could be a liability after Weis.

The only hitch for McCarthy could be a 2005 disorderly conduct conviction stemming from McCarthy’s attempt to get his daughter out of a parking ticket.

At the time, McCarthy and his wife had been driving down New Jersey’s Palisades Parkway while their teenaged daughters followed in another vehicle.

The McCarthy daughters separated from their parents, stopped at a rest stop and parked in a handicapped space without the required placard.

When a pair of plainclothes Parkway police officers issued a ticket, McCarthy’s daughter allegedly explained that she had an ankle injury caused by a prior accident and had been issued a placard, but didn’t have it with her.

Garry McCarthy was then accused of driving up in a police SUV, blocking the unmarked New Jersey police car and engaging in a shouting match with the plainclothes officer. He was placed in handcuffs and led away as a crowd watched.

Wysinger earned his chops on the day in 2007 when he ran down a gunman who shot a woman in a West Side gangway near his grandmother’s 80th birthday party. His appointment would almost certainly play well with the rank-and-file.

But, his level of experience pales by comparison to McCarthy, who would be surrounded Emanuel-style by a diverse team of insiders to soften the blow, City Hall sources said.

NEWS: (Cook County) Cops: Off-duty sheriff's officer shot himself

--There has been just way to much of this across the nation this year. Nothing should be that bad that you feel this is your only way out.--
Duke

STORY AT Chicago Tribune

By Carlos Sadovi and Deanese Williams-Harris
Tribune reporters
11:50 AM CDT, April 26, 2011

A 40-year-old Cook County Correctional officer used his service weapon to kill himself Monday after an argument with his girlfriend, police said today.

William Washington, of the 20100 block of Sequoia Avenue in Chicago Heights, was pronounced dead at 7:06 p.m. at Saint James Hospital and Health Care Centers in Chicago Heights, according to a spokesman for the Cook County medical examiner's office.

Washington sustained a gunshot wound to his chest at about 6:15 p.m. on the 400 block of West 34th Street, officials said.

While an autopsy is scheduled for today, police are treating the case as a suicide, said Steger Police Chief Richard Stultz.

Police were called to the home at about 6:15 p.m. The apartment belongs to Washington's girlfriend, who is also a Cook County correctional officer, said Stultz.

Washington and the girlfriend were at the woman's apartment, where they were arguing, Stultz said. The woman had just been dropped off by a male friend, who left and walked down the stairs when the argument began, Stultz said.

After the woman stopped the argument and was about to leave, Washington went to a back bedroom. The woman heard a gunshot and then found him wounded on the floor, said Stultz. The male friend called 911.

No charges are expected, said Stultz.

Washington had worked for the Cook County sheriff's office since March 2, 1999, and was assigned to work at Division 1, a maximum security section of Cook County Jail, said Steve Patterson, a spokesman for the office. Washington worked a 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. shift, Patterson said.

"Everything we've heard indicates he was a good employee," said Patterson.

Washington, who was in uniform at the time of the shooting, apparently used his service weapon, officials said.

PENSION: (National) Public Pensions, Once Off Limits, Face Budget Cuts

--Not exactly good new for those of us in Illinois where they are considering the "let's do it and worry about the law later" approach.--
Duke

STORY AT New York Times

April 25, 2011
By MICHAEL COOPER and MARY WILLIAMS WALSH

When an arbitrator ruled this month that Detroit could reduce the pensions being earned by its police sergeants and lieutenants, it put the struggling city at the forefront of a growing national debate over whether the pensions of current public workers can or should be reduced.

Conventional wisdom and the laws and constitutions of many states have long held that the pensions being earned by current government workers are untouchable. But as the fiscal crisis has lingered, officials in strapped states from California to Illinois have begun to take a second look, to see whether there might be loopholes allowing them to cut the pension benefits of current employees. Now the move in Detroit — made possible, lawyers said, because Michigan’s constitutional protections are weaker — could spur other places to try to follow suit.

“These things do tend to be herd-oriented,” said Sylvester J. Schieber, an economist and consultant who studies pensions.

The mayors of some hard-hit cities have said that the high costs of pensions have forced them to lay off workers: Oakland, Calif., laid off one-tenth of its police force last year after failing to win concessions on pension costs.

Elsewhere there is pension envy: some private sector workers, who have learned the hard way that their companies can freeze or reduce their pensions, resent that the pensions of public workers enjoy stronger legal protections. But government workers, many of whom were recruited with the promise of good benefits and pensions, say that it would be unfair — and in many cases, very likely illegal — to change the rules in the middle of the game.

It has been far more common for cities and states to adopt more modest retirement plans for future workers. But the savings from new plans are initially small, growing only over time. Other states have gone further, requiring workers to work more years before retiring, or to contribute a higher portion of their salaries toward their pensions. A few states have rolled back cost-of-living increases for retirees, prompting lawsuits. Reducing the rate at which government workers earn pension benefits — even modestly, as Detroit did — has been rare.

Pension funds can run out of money. In Prichard, Ala., a small city outside of Mobile, the fund ran out in 2009. The city stopped sending pension checks to its 150 retired workers, defying a state law that requires it to pay what it has promised. In the 19 months since the checks stopped, 18 retirees have died while waiting for their money.

When Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, a Republican, moved to curtail the collective bargaining rights of public worker unions in the state, he exempted police and fire unions. But they often have among the most expensive pension benefits.

That is, in part, because they must be paid for more years. Because police work and firefighting are dangerous, physically demanding jobs, it is not uncommon for cities to promise workers full pensions after as little as 20 years of service, even if that means paying retirees from their 40s until they die. Such pensions are powerful recruiting tools.

When the mayor of Jacksonville, Fla., addressed a recent conference there for the trustees of police and fire pension funds, he said that he would not attend the “Guns ’n’ Hoses” boxing tournament on the last night. The mayor, John Peyton, had spent the past year in rancorous, fruitless negotiations trying to get his local unions to agree that future police officers and firefighters should have to work 25 years before getting full pensions, instead of 20, among other things.

“I fear that if I showed up, I’d be put in the ring and I’d come out unrecognizable,” he said, joking.

In Omaha, the police union recently agreed to reduce the benefits being earned by current officers after the city agreed to put more money into the teetering pension fund.

The struggles of Detroit, of course, are extreme. The report by the arbitrator, Thomas W. Brookover, noted that although the city’s unemployment rate was officially 28 percent, there was evidence that less than 37 percent of the city’s residents were actually working. The population had crashed. Property tax revenues were dwindling. Detroit had drained its rainy day fund, reduced overtime, offered property-tax amnesty, sold public assets, borrowed money, allowed casinos to set up shop — and still its deficits kept growing.

The average pension for retired police officers in Detroit is not especially rich: it is $28,501 a year. But with more than twice as many retirees as active workers, Mr. Brookover wrote, the costs of paying for the pensions “threaten both the city’s fiscal viability, as well as its wherewithal to provide public safety for its citizens.”

Detroit’s efforts to cover those costs through aggressive investing have not helped. In a 2010 report, an auditor warned that $103 million of alternative investments were unaccounted for. The city’s bets have included Tradewinds Airlines, which went bankrupt for the third time in 2008, and a luxury hotel in Detroit. The Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating.

The city initially sought to freeze its pension fund immediately, which is almost unheard of in the public sector. The arbitrator rejected that proposal, but agreed that the city could reduce the rate at which lieutenants and sergeants earn pension benefits from 2.5 percent of their salary per year to 2.1 percent. Although rare, the reduction is not particularly large, given the magnitude of Detroit’s problems. The arbitrator did not try to find a solution to the fund’s imbalance.

Michigan’s new Republican governor, Rick Snyder, has taken a carrot-and-stick approach to the state’s troubled cities. The carrot: He scrapped the old way of distributing state aid, and wants to make aid contingent on having cities adopt “best practices,” which he says should include reducing the rate at which workers earn pension benefits. The stick: A new law allowing the state to appoint fiscal managers with broad powers over distressed local governments.

Mayor Dave Bing of Detroit referred to both carrot and stick in his budget address this month, when he spoke of the need to reduce pensions for current workers, and to move away from traditional pension plans to those more like 401(k)’s for “at a minimum all new hires.”

“If we are unable or unwilling to make these changes, an emergency financial manager will be appointed by the state to make them for us,” he said. “It’s that simple.”

NEWS: (Suburban) Northlake raises towing fees

--Even at $350 I think they still one of the cheapest in the area. There are towns that charge $1000 for administrative towing fees. I would just question what is done with the money. I think it would be put into the police department funds and not the towns general fund.--
Duke

STORY AT Pioneer Press

April 25, 2011

By MARK LAWTON mlawton@pioneerlocal.com

Northlake has increased its towing fees from $250 to $350.

"Everyone's having money problems," Northlake Mayor Jeff Sherwin said. "This is a way to increase revenues in one area."

The city towing charge is not for vehicles that break down. Rather, it's for police stops where the driver is found to have a suspended license or is intoxicated or otherwise allegedly breaking the law.

The increase is in addition to what towing companies contracted with the city charge. These companies include O'Hare Towing and S&S Towing.

Monday, April 25, 2011

NEWS: (Illinois) Probe of Quinn's former security chief turned over to prosecutors; no charges yet

--Everything around Governor Gumby is embroiled in controversy.--
Duke

STORY AT St Louis Today

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. • Illinois State Police have closed their investigation into a former chief in Gov. Pat Quinn's security detail, who resigned his post following a St. Patrick's Day bar fight, and turned the matter over to the state appellate prosecutors office, officials confirmed Monday.

"The matter has been referred to us," said Special Prosecution Unit Administrator Chuck Zalar. "Beyond that, I can't make any further comment, as the case remains under review and consideration."

No charges have been filed and State Police spokesman Scott Compton says the transfer follows standard post-investigation procedure.

State Police have been investigating the trooper, since a March 18 barroom altercation at the Anchor Inn in Carlinville.

Local police were dispatched to the bar shortly after 1 a.m., in response to a call placed by Illinois Trooper Ken Snider. During an exclusive interview with the Post-Dispatch Blackburn College student Bryan Reynolds alleged, that Snider used a racial slur against him, causing a bar fight. No arrests were made.

Hours later, Snider resigned his post as head of Quinn's Southern Illinois security detail.

The investigation was handed over to Illinois State Police, who have kept details under wraps.

"It's not uncommon at all for any investigation, including internal investigations, to be turned over to the appellate prosecutor to review for any possible criminal charges," Compton said.

PENSION: (Illinois) Some state retirees may pay more for insurance

STORY AT State Journal-Register

By DOUG FINKE (doug.finke@sj-r.com)
THE STATE JOURNAL-REGISTER

Already embroiled in a controversy over changing health plans for state workers, Illinois lawmakers may soon find themselves in another over charging retirees premiums for their health insurance.

A consultant’s report is due May 2 that among other things is supposed to recommend options for having retirees pay more for health insurance.

The focus will be people who retire at a younger age and begin collecting a state pension and also aren’t old enough to qualify for Medicare benefits. For many of them, they can continue to be covered by state health benefits but do not have to pay premiums for that coverage.

“What we’re looking at principally is that group between (age) 55 and those who are Medicare eligible,” said Sen. Jeff Schoenberg, D-Evanston.

Schoenberg co-chairs the General Assembly’s bipartisan Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability. It was COGFA that voted in March to hire Mercer Health and Benefits of Dallas for $22,000 to prepare the analysis.

Mercer’s contract requires it to conduct a review of what other states charge retired employees for health-care coverage, as well as how private-sector companies handle health-care charges for retirees.  The company is supposed to develop a “multi-tiered premium structure in which current and future state of (Illinois) retirees would contribute towards the cost of their group health insurance.”

The contract specifies the contribution plan should be “means-tested” in which retiree households with higher incomes would expect to pay more for insurance.

“It would operate on the assumption that people who entered into lucrative second careers after taking early retirement would be in a position to contribute more,” Schoenberg said. “I expect what Mercer will come back with are suggestions that are weighted more towards those who were bosses and their superiors as opposed to (rank-and-file union) members.”

Didn’t plan on it

Schoenberg asked the Department of Healthcare and Family Services, which administers state health benefits, about the average family income for early retirees.

DHFS said it worked in conjunction with the Department of Revenue to analyze tax returns of retirees participating in the state’s group health plan. Based on that analysis, the average household income for those people was $77,900 in 2009, DHFS said.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees called that number “bogus” because Illinois doesn’t tax pensions.

“If you don’t have retirement income, you don’t have to file a tax return,” said AFSCME spokesman Anders Lindall. “The pool they drew on is totally skewed to higher-income people, people with retirement income plus outside income.”

For Rep. Raymond Poe, R-Springfield, the whole idea of charging premiums to retirees who weren’t expecting it smacks of unfairness.

“We have people who went ahead and took (early) retirement and are on a fixed income,” Poe said.  “It would be quite a surprise to them if they had to pay more for insurance. If you’re 55 and retired, and they change the rules at 60, that’s not so good.  You didn’t plan on that.”

Schoenberg, however, said, “I think it’s inherently fairer to have people who are able to do better financially to pay more towards their health-care premium. I think you need to do it based on overall household income rather than retiree income.”

82,000 covered

The Mercer study covers mostly people who are members of the State Employee Retirement System, State University Retirement System, Judges Retirement System and General Assembly Retirement System. A relative handful of Teachers’ Retirement System members could be affected, but most teachers are covered by a separate retirement health plan.

In response to questions from Schoenberg, DHFS said that as of January, nearly 82,000 retirees and survivors get coverage under the state health insurance program. Most of them are covered by Medicare, with state insurance serving as a Medicare supplement policy. But DHFS said more than 27,500 retirees and survivors are not covered by Medicare.

Whether a retiree pays premiums for that health care depends on when the person retired and how long they worked for the state. People who retired before Jan. 1, 1998, do not have to pay premiums.  Those who retired after that date have to pay premiums, but the amount is reduced by 5 percent for each year of service. Someone who retires with 20 or more years with the state does not have to pay a premium for coverage. However, they are required to pay for dependents on their coverage and make co-payments and related service charges required by their health plan of choice.

Adding to the cost is that the state’s traditional fee-for-service plan remains more popular among retirees than managed-care plans. More than 66 percent of retirees and survivors in the state’s group health plan are in the higher-cost Quality Care Health Plan.

Most of the managed-care plans are not available to employees who chose to relocate out-of-state after retirement. But only about 23 percent of retirees in the Quality Care plan live out of state, according to DHFS.

No dog in fight?

AFSCME’s role in the debate will depend on the results of the Mercer study and what lawmakers decide to do with it.

“The  proponents have said frequently this is about top managers and agency directors,” said the union’s spokesman, Anders Lindall.  “Jim Thompson has gone on to a very lucrative career as a trial attorney. If this is about asking Jim Thompson to pay a health-care premium, it has nothing to do with our union. We don’t have a dog in that fight.”

If, however, retired union members will be affected, Lindall said, AFSCME will be involved.

“We’ll be extremely vigilant to make sure retirees we represent who are already paying significant costs for their health care and that of their spouses are not facing added and unaffordable health costs,” Lindall said.

By the numbers

Average monthly health-care costs.

Managed care
Quality care
Medicare retiree
$294.55
$332.47
Non-Medicare retiree
$791.08
$964.10
One Non-Medicare dependent  
$450.16
$722.39
Two or more dependents
$773.85
$978.19
Source: Department of Healthcare and Family Services 

Monthly health-care premiums for active employees.
Salary cap
Managed care
Quality care
$29,800
$47
$72
$45,000
$52
$77
$59,900
$54.50
$79.50
$74,900
$57
$82
>$74,901
$59.50
 $84.50

 Non-Medicare dependent monthly charges.

One
Two+
HMOIllinois
$83
$116
PersonalCare
$92
$130
Humana Health Plan
$92
$130
Health Alliance HMO
$94
$133
Health Alliance Illinois
$103
$145
HealthLink OAP
$105
$149
Humana Winnebago
$107
  $152
Quality Care Health Plan
$196
  $226
 Source:  Department of Central Management Services