Oak Park, River Forest cops battling drugs on a larger scale, too

Farming out the fight

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By Ben Meyerson

Chicago Journal Editor

Oak Park and River Forest's fight against drugs goes beyond just local arrests. Both departments have assigned their officers to bigger roles in the war on drugs both regionally and nationally.

Both departments are members of a special gang and drug task force that combines resources from nine west suburban police departments, called WEDGE. River Forest Detective Sgt. Marty Grill is one of WEDGE's two street commanders.

Since it was founded in 2007, WEDGE's member departments — Oak Park, River Forest, Forest Park, Riverside, North Riverside, Brookfield, Lyons, Berwyn and Stickney — have farmed a few of their officers out roughly six days per month for special targeted missions.

One of WEDGE's main missions, Grill said, is to let people know they're out there and they're watching out for any nefarious activities.

"When we stop kids, we want them to know who we are. We have a lot of people, we have a lot of resources, and we can follow them around," Grill said. "We don't want them to have this invincible attitude that they can do whatever they want."

The very existence of the task force, Grill hopes, is a deterrent.

"If we pick up some of the smaller-time dealers, we send them back with a message: Stay out of our area and don't come back here, because we'll be watching, and when you come back, we're going to be watching again," Grill said.

While WEDGE focuses on regional collaboration, Oak Park has an officer who devotes his time to working on an even bigger scale, as well — detailed full-time to federal Drug Enforcement Agency.

Oak Park police asked that the officer's name not be used because he is occasionally involved in undercover work, but the officer, a veteran of the Oak Park police department, has been working with the DEA full-time for roughly the last five years.

Oak Park still pays his salary despite the fact that he's rarely in the Oak Park police station, but he more than pays for himself, say officials.

That's because Oak Park gets to share in the proceeds from goods and cash seized by the DEA as part of investigations. That's a substantial amount of money, Oak Park Police Chief Rick Tanksley said. It has amounted to as much as several hundred thousand dollars some years.

"We've outfitted the police department with police vehicles and computers and other sorts of equipment," Tanksley said. "If it wasn't for this relationship with the DEA, it would have to come out of our general fund. ... The village, through its general fund, hasn't replaced a police vehicle in a very long time."

Of course, there's also a great institutional value in having an officer working with the DEA. Whenever the department is working on a larger case, Oak Park's DEA agent can be consulted — or brought into the mix.

"He is available to us whenever we need him — we're in constant contact with him," said Oak Park Police Detective Commander LaDon Reynolds. "If we get an informant who has some information, we'll call up our officer."

Reader Comments

6 Comments - Add Your Comment

Comment Policy

James  

Posted: October 22nd, 2010 8:02 PM

So finally the suburbs are admitting they have a drug problem. Your commentors seem to think Marijuana is a harmless drug lets legalize it alcohol is legal and causes more problems than most drugs in health and welfare. Its about time somebody uses the taxpayers money to keep drug dealers off the streets. Promoing substancwe abuse tx and prevention maybe a better choice for people but they must be mandated to tx I never met anyone with a drug alcohol problem even though their lives around them

james  

Posted: October 15th, 2010 2:31 PM

i sincerely dissappointed in you police squad, nobodys life has been ruined by a joint, but plenty lives have been destroyed by the drugs mentioned earlier, and they are EVERYWHERE! and i mean EVERYWHERE! so why dont you fight the real dangers, and arrest the real criminals. my aplogies to locke for airing him out,he is a great guy/ locke maybe you should put the rest of your team in check. OPD,FPPD,RFPD you do not serve and protect, you harrass and arrest. it is really a shame

james  

Posted: October 15th, 2010 2:24 PM

(3/4Cont)....here you are boasting on the internet saying you are watching, know everything, following people, trying to use intimidation. well just as the task force has eyes everywhere, you are SADLY mistaken if you think the people dont have ears and eyes on you just as heavy. this is not a threat, this is not a competition, just a reply to your message to the world.i read one of you said you dont want these kids thinkin theyre untouchable well we wantto let you know the same goes for you! ->

james  

Posted: October 15th, 2010 2:14 PM

(cont. from previous-->) ... what outrages me the most is that officers have the nerve to arrest people for pot, when i know for a fact there are officers in oak park who smoke marijuana themselves (drug test a strand of officer Locke's hair, you will see that your department is one giant hippocrite!) and what about the officers who sometime ago were involved with a young man by the name of justin lynch?? some of you officers got your hands a little dirty. here you are .....(cont-->

james  

Posted: October 15th, 2010 2:00 PM

Question to the task force, why do you spend months on end watching gorre, put cameras on his house and invade his privacy over something that is legalized or decriminalized in multiple places thruout the usa and rest of the world? when there are people selling heroin, Rx pills, exstacy, and cocaine right under your nose, but these people still remain at large, and have remained at large for years on end because you are focusing on pot (cont)->

ramon from oakpark   

Posted: October 12th, 2010 10:46 PM

wedge these nuts to the task force

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