River Forest officials will have to make room on the display wall in Village Hall after the police department finished first in its category in the 2022-23 Illinois Traffic Safety Challenge.

The ITSC is described by the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police Traffic Committee, which coordinates the program, as a “friendly competition” between law enforcement agencies of a similar size and type throughout Illinois. The program is supported by a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration grant administered through the Illinois Department of Transportation, Bureau of Safety Programs and Engineering, as well as funding from private entities.

Scott Kristianson, program director of the ITSC, presented the first place award plaque to police Chief James O’Shea and village President Cathy Adduci at the village board meeting earlier this month after River Forest finished first in the municipal category for villages with 26 to 35 sworn officers. Awards were presented in eight municipal categories.

 “The Village Board’s number one priority has always been providing for a safe community,” Adduci said. “Under the leadership of Chief O’Shea and our Village Board, we are accomplishing our goals through training, solution driven, community engagement policing. I want to congratulate and thank our talented and professional police officers for a job well done.”

According to the IACP website, the ITSC is more than a peer competition. It is a template for law enforcement agencies to identify traffic issues, plan strategies, reduce social harm and improve the quality of life in their communities. The program helps agencies demonstrate successes to their government officials, community leaders and citizens. The ITSC provides law enforcement agencies with an opportunity to contribute to the Illinois’ Strategic Highway Safety Plan and have a significant impact on the reduction of crashes, deaths and associated injuries across the state.

“This recognition is a testament to the hard work and dedication of our officers and village officials in carrying out our priority mission to ensure the safety of motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists within our community,” O’Shea said.

Kristianson explained that the competition is not decided by which department issues the most tickets or makes the most arrests but on decreasing the number of vehicle crashes and incidents of speeding and occupant protection.

“You’ve got a lot to be proud of,” he said. “Keep up the good work.

In another police presentation Sept. 11, Sgt. Ben Ransom and Detective Denisse Zermeno provided officials with an update on the police department’s participation in the ABLE Project, which the department joined in 2022.

ABLE is an acronym for Active Bystandership for Law Enforcement. The goal of the project is to prepare officers to successfully intervene to prevent harm and create a law enforcement culture that supports peer intervention.

Deputy Chief James Greenwood said the program coordinator from Georgetown Law met with department officials and said the department was “in full compliance.”

Ransom explained that every member of the department has undergone the required eight hours of training, including the chief. A two-hour refresher training is required to maintain certification. He noted that River Forest was one of the first six agencies in Illinois to be certified. 

“The River Forest Police Department requires officers to intervene should they witness another officer using inappropriate force or harming an individual,” O’Shea said. “The ABLE training empowers officers of any rank to intervene and will ensure they have the tools to effectively navigate those types of situations. Implementation of the ABLE Program will reduce mistakes, prevent misconduct and promote health and wellness, as both the community and the law enforcement profession continue to work closer together.”

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