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Officer Down

Monday, April 22, 2013

NEWS: Use of auxiliary officers at issue in Illinois

--I thought this whole issue was settled years ago when we implemented the "part-time police officers" in Illinois.
What bothers me most is this:
Axillary officers get the same amount of firearms training as armed security guards (and this isn't much, I know I am a certified instructor for it). 
Security guards have no yearly qualifying regulations and auxiliary officers are subject to their department rules.  (If they even have any).
Full-time and part-time officers go through a minimum of 400 hrs of initial training in the academy and then we must qualify at least once a year (departments can make it more, Northlake is twice a year).
As a retired/disabled law enforcement officer I am able to still carry a firearm and I have to pay $100.00 every year and qualify with the state while these guys get badges and guns because of their buddies.--
Duke

Story at Chicago Tribune

Critics question training, loopholes as Tribune analysis also finds muddled records among volunteers assisting police

By Matthew Walberg
Chicago Tribune reporter
April 22, 2013

Thomas Kritenbrink volunteers about eight to 10 hours a week as an auxiliary deputy for the Will County Sheriff's Department, often pulling traffic and crowd control details.

Kritenbrink, 52, who wears a brown uniform and badge, is armed, but by law, isn't allowed to draw his .40-caliber Glock handgun or detain anyone, except in dire circumstances.

"It's kind of fulfilling two needs — helping the community and living the dream," said Kritenbrink, who has spent the past three decades in telecommunications.

Kritenbrink is 1 of roughly 1,000 auxiliary police officers and sheriff's deputies in Illinois. They assist local law enforcement agencies in everything from providing backup to managing parade routes and walking a beat.

But the use of such officers, who usually carry weapons, has drawn scrutiny amid concerns about whether they have been adequately trained.

Detractors of the use of auxiliary officers also complain that officials grant the designation to civilians as a favor to friends and political donors.

The state agency charged with keeping track of auxiliary officers has kept incomplete or out-of-date records, a Tribune analysis of their documents shows. As a result, the agency, called the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board, has been unable to determine how many auxiliary officers have received the minimum firearm training state law requires.

Further, because some towns have also submitted incomplete paperwork to the board, the state doesn't know how many auxiliary officers have been granted by their towns the power to make arrests, or whether they've been trained to do so.

A top official with the state board admits its record keeping is inadequate, and says it is working to try to bring municipalities up to code.

"We are continually in the process of contacting these agencies to bring them in compliance with our policies and regulations," said Larry Smith, the board's deputy director.

Training unclear

State law allows for auxiliary officers to carry weapons with far less training than full-time police officers. The law requires that auxiliary officers receive 40 hours of weapons training compared with the minimum 400 hours full-time sworn officers receive in marksmanship and other subjects at police academies.

The disparity in training standards between the largely volunteer auxiliaries and full-time police has drawn criticism from some law enforcement officials.

"They have a right to carry a gun, they have a star, yet they have virtually little to no training other than a 40-hour gun course," said David Wickster, executive director of the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police Labor Council, the state's largest police union.

"As a civilian, I have an expectation that when I walk up to this person, they are a trained law enforcement officer."

But whether they even get those 40 hours of training is unclear.

Records unclear

Records indicate that 105 municipalities — most of them in the Chicago area — and 27 sheriff's departments have armed auxiliary units. About one-third of the officers, more than 300, serve as auxiliary deputies with sheriff's departments, but they are prohibited by state law from making arrests.

The rest — more than 600 individuals — serve as auxiliary police officers for municipalities, and under state law can be granted full police powers, including making arrests, by their towns.

Supporters say auxiliaries serve a vital, cost-saving function by taking over duties that relieve pressure on sworn officers, allowing them to carry out more pressing police duties.

But there are steps that are required under law to ensure those auxiliary officers are trained.

For one, under state law, towns that want to have auxiliary officers must submit a notice to the standards board, in the form of an ordinance, that tells the state it has an auxiliary force, and declares whether that force is allowed to make arrests.

The state also requires police departments to send the names of all of its officers to the board, so the board can keep track of whether those officers have been properly trained.

But many towns send incomplete information, leaving the state's records muddled, the Tribune analysis found.

For example, one-third of the 93 municipalities that told the state they have an auxiliary unit didn't submit the names of the officers that make up those units, according to an analysis of state records. Without the names of the officers, the state board cannot verify if they have received the required firearm training.

A dozen towns also did not tell the state whether their auxiliary officers have been granted the power to make arrests as so-called conservators of the peace.

Without knowing if they have been granted that status, the state is unable to ensure those officers have gone through the additional 400 hours of training that would allow them to make arrests.

Records show that only six auxiliary officers in the state have been authorized to serve with full police powers.

Smith acknowledged that the board's files on auxiliary units are not current. The agency, he said, is trying to bring their records up to date, ensuring departments have filed the proper paperwork.

"Sometimes it takes multiple proddings from us to get some of the smaller agencies in line, but we're working toward it," he said.

Loopholes and background checks

The auxiliary law enforcement position has sometimes appeared to be as much about rewarding friends and political supporters as it has been about public safety, critics say.

State law dictates that all auxiliary police officers serve at the pleasure of the mayors of the cities and towns in which they serve, creating opportunities for elected officials to bestow a badge and a gun to their loyalists.

"This loophole of auxiliary officers is something I think is used for political appointees," Wickster said.

Last year, the Better Government Association found that virtually all of the more than two dozen auxiliary officers in Elmwood Park either contributed money to or worked on campaigns for village President Pete Silvestri.

Silvestri, who will leave office in May after declining to seek re-election, maintained there was no pressure placed on the village's auxiliaries to participate in his campaign or any other.

Now, however, he said, "We discourage any involvement, and we're reviewing the number of auxiliaries that we need based on the amount of calls we have."

Even though auxiliaries are subject to background checks, people with criminal records that should have barred them from the job have still found their way onto departments.

A federal judge in 2006 sentenced a former East St. Louis police chief to 33 months in prison following his conviction for obstruction of justice in a scheme to return a pistol that was taken from an auxiliary officer who was a convicted felon, according to news accounts.

The probe resulted in the dismissal or discipline of more than half of the city's 58 auxiliary police officers after background checks uncovered criminal convictions that disqualified them for service, according to the published reports.

Will County Sheriff's Sgt. Steve Byland said his office has not had any problems with auxiliary officers abusing their authority.

The agency has 64 auxiliary sheriff's deputies, with a dozen more who are completing their training, including one who is a priest.

"Last year, they put in close to 15,000 volunteer hours," Byland said. "That's just huge with the community. ... Especially now with everybody looking at their budgets, it's a financial help."

Byland said auxiliaries with the department must complete not only the state mandated 40-hour firearms course, but an additional 200 hours required by the sheriff's department.

Unlike auxiliary officers, state law prohibits auxiliary sheriff's deputies from being conservators of the peace, meaning they do not have the authority to arrest someone on their own. But Byland said that in an emergency, they could physically detain a person but must then call for backup and allow a sworn officer to complete the arrest, he said.

Will County's auxiliary deputies typically perform crowd and traffic control duties for the county as well as Joliet and other municipalities, providing manpower at fairs and concerts and sporting events, he said.

No guns allowed

Other cities have turned over many of these same duties of auxiliary officers to employees who do not carry a firearm.

Gurnee has six "community service officers" who help alleviate pressure on the village's 61 sworn police officers by tending to nonemergency issues, such as directing traffic, helping stranded motorists and writing parking tickets.

"They don't have arrest powers, so they're not being put in a position where they have to put someone under arrest," said Gurnee police Chief Kevin Woodside. "There's just no need for them to be armed."

Woodside said the responsibility of carrying a firearm requires regular training beyond basic gun safety and proficiency. He said he would hesitate to allow anyone to carry a firearm without more training than is currently required of auxiliary officers.

"I think what the 40-hour class does is give you rudimentary understanding of gun safety, and basic knowledge of use-of-force issues," he said. "I wouldn't be comfortable with that."

Berwyn police Chief James Ritz said his department has 60 auxiliary officers and that about 10 to 15 of them are used on a rotating basis each week.

Ritz said that while his department's auxiliaries do not have the same level of training as police officers, they are taught in the proper use of a baton and Taser in addition to receiving the required firearm training. He hasn't heard any complaints from the community about the auxiliaries' level of training, he said.

"(Residents) know that if they're out there, that they're trained," Ritz said. "They're not going to be as trained as a full-time police officer, but we make sure that we meet all the standards" required by the state.

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