While lavishing praise on retiring Oak Park Police Chief LaDon Reynolds for both his long service and his policing expertise, Village President Vicki Scaman said Monday that “we have to look at this as an opportunity for new blood and to bring about significant changes” to policing in the village.
Reynolds’ retirement from the force after 28 years of service was announced by the village government last Friday. His final day will be April 15.
Scaman said Reynolds told incoming Village Manager Kevin Jackson of his decision to leave during the two men’s first one-on-one meeting. Jackson has announced the village will conduct a nationwide search for a new police chief.
Scaman said that, under the village manager form of government, the hiring of the next chief is fully under the manager’s domain. “My responsibility is to accept that the hiring will be the manager’s job. We can’t micromanage.” Scaman lauded the work of the past three chiefs — Rick Tanksley, Tony Ambrose and Reynolds — and said that, thanks to the current command staff who rose up during those tenures, the department is in strong hands during the interim period.
News of Reynolds’ impending departure arrives as his nomination to become the U.S. Marshal for Northern Illinois remains tangled in party politics in Washington D.C. Nominated by Illinois’ two Democratic senators, a vote on the nomination has been put on hold, Wednesday Journal recently reported, in a procedural move by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark).
Scaman said she expected the political logjam in Washington will “not be long lasting” and her understanding is that Reynolds expects to be pulled quickly into his new job once the Senate approves his nomination, so spending time with his young family now is a priority.
Scaman acknowledged that Reynolds’ departure comes as the village board has launched an ongoing assessment of the police department by an outside consultant. Uncertainty over Reynold’s continued role in the department had previously been discussed as a challenge to the review effort.
The review process underway, she said, is “going to be foundationally the start of change” in the department and in its relationship with the community. “We will need to continually address our unconscious biases and will need to constantly and intentionally change.”
Scaman said the department has “very good people who are invested in Oak Park.” But, she added, we need to create more partnerships and collaboration related to public safety in Oak Park.
She wants the next police chief to “lead the department with people from the community.”
Reynolds’ retirement announcement came just days after Jackson arrived in the manager’s office. In the statement released by the village, Jackson praised him and stated he had been “really looking forward to getting to know [Reynolds] better.” Jackson expects the village will conduct a nationwide search to find his replacement.
For his part, Reynolds was quoted in the release saying, “Oak Park is a great place to be a police officer. The community is engaged and supportive and a community policing model has always guided my sense of service here. The village board has made sure the department has the resources needed to keep the community safe. But it is time for me to move on and let a new generation of law enforcement professionals take the lead.”
The news release referenced Reynolds’ nomination to be a U.S. Marshal. The release said his retirement from the Oak Park Police Department is “not likely to be the end of Chief Reynolds’ law enforcement career.” Reynolds himself has been consistently tight-lipped regarding his nomination, despite numerous requests for information from Wednesday Journal.
Reynolds joined the Oak Park police force in 1994 as a patrol officer, rising through the ranks to become a detective, sergeant and commander. He was made deputy chief in 2017 then stepped in as interim police chief in April 2018. Reynolds officially became chief in 2019.
He expressed gratitude in the news release, stating, “I also want personally to thank Village President Vicki Scaman and members of the village board, both past and present, for their support during my long career in Oak Park. And, of course, a special thanks goes out to the men and women of the Oak Park Police Department, many of whom I have known for many years. Without their support and commitment to service, I could never have achieved so much in my career here.”