Top officials from the River Forest Police Department and the West Suburban Consolidated Dispatch Center (WSCDC) presented their responses Monday night to recent criticisms leveled by the local Fraternal Order of Police Lodge. In addition, the WSCDC Telecommunicators Union filed a three page rebuttal with the village.

The presentations were made during a 90 minute special village board meeting called by President Frank Paris. Paris told Village Administrator Steve Gutierrez in a memo Friday that he believed the presentation was “too important” to be addressed in the newly resurrected Police Committee. The board heard presentations by Chief of Police Nicholas Weiss and dispatch center Executive Director Greg Riddle, as well as a brief statement by Deputy Chief Kendra Sullivan.

Police Committee Chairman Steve Hoke asked for and received assurances from both Weiss and Riddle that they would appear for further questioning before his committee this Thursday night.

Reading from a prepared memo, Weiss discussed the FOP’s charges one by one.

He refuted allegations that he has not taken steps to assure adequate staffing, saying that he informed the village board of the two most recent vacancies in a timely manner. Weiss also refuted claims that his department has not been aggressive enough in recruiting new officers, saying that the process involves a number of variables that are beyond his control.

Weiss said that none of the officers who left the department in the past year were “unhappy,” but rather left for personal or career reasons.

Addressing perhaps the most serious FOP charge, that the department faces basic staffing challenges, Weiss said that situation is neither unprecedented or unmanageable, that the department was in the exact same situation when he arrived four years ago.

“I’m sure we’ll do our best and we’ll maintain minimum staffing on the street,” he said.

Weiss said that he has still not heard back from the FOP regarding his challenge to provide him with more specific details of the charges the fraternal organization made in a June “no confidence” vote against him.

“Quite frankly, I am more and more skeptical of this whole thing,” Weiss concluded in his memo. “I believe the FOP executive board owes police management and the village’s citizens an explanation.”

Riddle gave the board a largely technical overview of the operations of the dispatch center. He defended the overall procedures to which the WSCDC adhered, saying they reflected the best practices of the dispatching industry.

“This is not the WSCDC theory of dispatching,” he told the board. “These standards are used across the U.S.”

At one point Trustee Russ Nummer, who served 30 years on the village fire department, prodded Riddle to focus on the realities of dispatching itself.

“Your presentation fits the analogy of telling us how to build a watch rather than telling us what time it is,” said Nummer, who asked him to give an overview of what occurs step by step when a citizen calls 911 with a police or fire issue.

Hoke later asked Riddle to specifically explain what happened to cause a 2 minute and 32 second delay in dispatch after a police officer called for a fire truck at Lincoln School last summer.

WSCDC Deputy Director Ron Gross stepped up and explained that there had been some confusion regarding the exact circumstances of that incident, but conceded, “Basically, it shouldn’t have taken that long.”

“We will never reach perfection,” Gross said. “But along the way we can achieve excellence.”

Speaking for the WSCDC rank and file, Marita Jorgenson, spokesperson for the dispatch employees’ union, said they wanted to “defend (their) integrity,” and refuted the FOP’s allegations in general terms.

“We strongly disagree with the image the …FOP is portraying of WSCDC and its employees.”

Jorgensen flatly denied the FOP’s allegations that there were delays of as long as seven minutes in dispatching, and that procedures there put the safety of officers and the public at risk.

“Upon reviewing the allegations by the FOP Lodge it is clear to many of us at the WSCDC that they are either misinformed or do not completely understand the daily responsibilities, procedures and priorities of this public safety facility,” she wrote.

Hoke said afterward that he appreciated all those who appeared before the board, but had additional questions to ask, and that he agreed with Paris regarding the gravity of the issues being addressed. He intended, he said, “to drill down” into specific allegations to determine the facts.

“The alleged problems are such that they’ll require quite a bit more intensive scrutiny in the committee,” he said. “This is (about) public safety. We need answers and we need answers now.”

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