It’s not a done deal. We’ll stipulate that LaDon Reynolds, currently the police chief of Oak Park, Illinois, is not already the U.S. Marshal for the Northern District of Illinois.
But he has been nominated for the job by Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, the two Democratic senators from Illinois. The nomination has been received by the Biden administration. And while things have been known to go haywire in D.C., Reynolds is too well qualified and too far down the political food chain to have this upended.
That means Oak Park is soon going to have an opening for a new police chief. There will also be an opening for a new village manager as Cara Pavlicek departs mid-August for Northbrook, or, as Neil Steinberg, Sun-Times’ columnist and resident of said burg calls it, “the leafy suburban paradise.”
Add in the new and more progressive village president and board Oak Parkers chose in April and we have an interesting and complicated situation.
When does Reynolds go on the federal payroll? Before or after Pavlicek departs? Who appoints an interim police chief or, maybe from within, a permanent police chief? When does the village board appoint an interim village manager? Hard to see an interim manager picking the next police chief.
Somewhere in this tangle, there are going to be conversations about policing in Oak Park, about the need for a national search for the next chief. This conversation is so long overdue, and now the three fundamental impediments to having a bold, pragmatic and aspirational talk about public safety are gone or going. Anan Abu-Taleb, the past village president, was allergic to this topic. Not entirely sure why but he was. Pavlicek, taking her cue from Abu-Taleb, or too inside, having appointed the last two top cops from inside the department, was not going to lead on this one.
And then there is Chief Reynolds. This man has an intellectual and philosophical take on policing that is vast and fascinating. It is why he has been appointed to important state tribunals on policing. It is why he was on Durbin and Duckworth’s radar for the federal post. But on his home turf, Reynolds got quieter and quieter on issues of policing.
He should have been a leader on this. He decided not to be. And now he is leaving.
The challenge for Village President Vicki Scaman is to set the order of the conversation, the promised audit of the department, and create a timeline that allows for voices to be heard while not leaving this critical department too long without a rudder.