The Oak Park Police Department continues its process of ever-widening diversity today with the promotions of two sergeants to commander.
Patrol Sergeant Phyliss Howard, a 15-year- veteran of the Oak Park police force, and Detective Sergeant Wayne Banta, a 27-year-veteran, will be promoted to commander today during a 10 a.m. ceremony at village hall.
Howard, who is African American and a native of Oak Park, becomes the department's first female officer to attain senior staff rank. Besides patrol duties, Howard had previously served as juvenile investigator, school resource officer and supervisor of juvenile investigations. She will become the new Commander of Community Policing, replacing former Commander Anthony Ambrose, who was promoted to deputy chief last month.
"Phyliss Howard brings a lot of experience in working with youth," said Oak Park Police Chief Rick Tanksley, who said he welcomed the opportunity bring Howard's perspective to his command staff.
"That will add not only to the diversity (of the staff) but adds another important element as well."
Banta will replace Commander Michael Brosnan, who retired Friday, August 5. An Oak Park resident for the past 26 years, he will be Commander of Patrol Services. Tanksley praised Banta's experience as a police officer, noting that he has experience in patrol, investigations and financial crimes.
"Sgt. Banta has worked some of our department's biggest cases," said Tanksley. "He's well qualified to be a mentor to our younger officers."
And mentoring is clearly on both Howard and Banta's minds. Both say they're keenly aware of the staffing changes sweeping through the Oak Park force the past four years that have seen some 65 new patrol officers sworn in. And both say they're excited to be a part of the process of change. Banta and Howard's own promotions continue a busy year of administrative revamping for the police department that has seen the retirement of two deputy chiefs, one commander, and two sergeants in addition to numerous other officers. Besides Howard and Banta, four new sergeants will also be sworn this week, including a female and two African Americans. The four new sergeants are: Detective Anthony Thomas, Resident Beat Officer Dave Jacobsen, Field Training Officer Dina Vardal, and former detective, resident beat officer and field training officer William Ballard.
Tanksley, said he's pleased with the in-house selections for senior staff, saying they're evidence of a successful program to train the eventual replacements for top police staff, including himself.
"I feel great, because it's my job to prepare individuals to take my place, and to encourage them to aspire to positions of greater authority," he said.
Banta said he was happy with his detective sergeant position, where he's served nine-and-one-half-years, but said he realized that it was time to move along, and decided to pursue the open commander positions.
Howard said she really hadn't thought about senior rank until she made sergeant in 2003, and began to assess the changes going on in the department.
Beyond the pride and prestige of attaining senior rank, both Banta and Howard say it's also an opportunity to further serve a town they love and respect.
"I love Oak Park," said Banta. "It's a great place to live. I want to be a part of the changes going on here."
"I have a lot of ideas," said Howard, who called youth and family issues in Oak Park "ongoing issues."
"I think Oak Park has the resources and the people to (deal with those problems)," she said. "I'm looking forward to the challenges and excitement."