With behavioral problems among Oak Park youth continuing to be a major focus for police and other officials, village officials are considering assigning two police officers to serve as resource officers for the village's eight public elementary schools.
"That's a proposal," said Police Chief Rick Tanksley Monday. "What I'm envisioning is dividing the town into north and south. The two resource officers will then be responsible for elementary schools."
Tanksley said that the move has not yet been approved, but that Village Manager Carl Swenson mentioned it at last Thursday's preliminary budget meeting.
Tanksley said the new approach would serve two purposes. The additional officers will give police formal contact with all three levels of schools in the village.
"I want to keep a closer eye on safety around the schools," Tanksley said. "I want some people who focus strictly on youth issues. I want a little more intensive interaction with children and parents and teachers."
Expanding the force by three
Tanksley also said the village is considering expanding the police force, creating three new entry-level officer positions.
Tanksley said that he's had no discussion with anyone besides the village manager, but hopes to discuss details further in the near future.
"They're going to be discussing this at the budget hearings," he said.
Tanksley noted that new school resource officers would free up the resident beat officers, or RBOs, who are currently responsible for dealing with schools in their areas. Such a move, he said, will allow them to focus more closely on other neighborhood issues. "[School resource officers will] take on some of the roles that RBOs take on now," he said.
In making the announcement Monday, Tanksley called the RBO program "a key piece of our policing effort."
New RBOs named
"This is an excellent time for new blood and new ideas to come into the program," Tanksley said. In all, four new resident beat officers were announced Monday, including the department's first woman RBO. All three of the new officers already live in the areas to which they'll be assigned.
Zone 7 and 8 represent a division of the sprawling old Zone 7 South Oak Park beat. Zone 7, which now extends from Austin Boulevard to East Avenue and from the Eisenhower Expressway to Roosevelt Road, will be the territory of new RBO Greg Hyppolite.
The new Zone 8 will be handled by veteran Zone 7 RBO John Rumoro. Though Hyppolite has only been on the force 18 months, he's lived in the village for 20 years, and currently resides in the 1100 block of South Lombard Avenue. Before becoming a cop, Hyppolite taught math and reading to special ed students at Oak Park and River Forest High School.
The developments come in response to a request by members of the South East Oak Park Community Organization (SEOPCO) at a community meeting in the wake of the Peter D'Agostino killing. Tanksley said he'll discuss the new configuration with members of SEOPCO as soon as a meeting can be scheduled.
Officer Mark Scott will replace Dave Jacobson, who was recently promoted to sergeant, as Zone 6 RBO, with responsibility for the area between the Eisenhower and the elevated tracks, and from Oak Park Avenue to Austin Boulevard. Tanksley praised the 2-year veteran for his "excellent work ethic" and his patience in dealing with people and community issues. Scott currently lives in the area with his wife and children.
Officer Elizabeth Fox, an 18-month department veteran who will be assuming RBO duties in Zone 2, has lived in Oak Park for most of her life, and is a graduate of OPRF. The former Cook County Sheriff's probation officer will be responsible for an area bounded by Harlem and Ridgeland avenues, and North to Chicago avenues.