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Proviso Probe

Thursday, January 12, 2006

PO-PO, Forest Park makes mayor warlord [FP]

Should a village mayor have the power to deputize six of his posse to hassle political opponents or intimidate critics?

Forest Park has passed an ordinance that gives the mayor this power. See Forest Park Review (Seth Stern) and the editorial (scroll down to "checks and balances") for background. It’s tempting to debate this in the context of the current mayor, Tony Calderone. People who like and trust Calderone will probably be more comfortable with the ordinance; people who mostly disagree with Calderone will probably be suspicious.

I’d like to ask Proviso Probe readers to subtract Calderone from the equation. In the future when somebody else is mayor, does this ordinance make sense?

Here’s a scenario that’s unlikely, but not impossible. Some individual builds a criminal organization. He decides to look for a community to use as his base. He decides Forest Park is attractive for three reasons:

1. It’s small enough that he can elect himself mayor.
2. The fourth district of the state’s attorney office has been very deferential to the community political powers when handling criminal prosecutions.
3. Existing Forest Park ordinance makes it easy to make the gang's enforcers cops.

Does this scenario seem unlikely? Maybe. But how likely is it that the mayor of Forest Park is going to need to be able to raise an auxiliary police force before he can meet with the rest of the commissioners?

These part time police officers have other problems. If the mayor decides who to hire and fire, the chief of police gets cut “out of the loop”. The loyalties of the part time officers are going to be completely different than those of the Forest Park police force. Over time this will undermine good order and discipline.

The incentive structure is completely different too. Traditional police officers get paid for their time, but are also working toward a pension. A cop knows that if he breaks the law he puts his pension at risk. These part time officers won’t be working toward a pension. So if the mayor were to ask them to do something illegal, they would be more likely to do it.

Forest Park is vesting huge amounts of power with the office of the mayor. No compelling case has been made why this is necessary.

I’m skeptical of the part time officer program, but if Forest Park is going to do it, the program should be run by the chief of police—not the mayor—with all deployments pre-approved by the village council.

BTW, what’s the insurance company say about this program? Are there any checks against abuses the Forest Park’s insurer would like to see implemented?


  • Once again you’re batting a 1.000. No good can come of a police force (part-time) that is completely beholden to one man. (Da mayor). In the best case scenario, a part-time police department can be incredibly cost efficient if it is used to complement the regular P.D. This assumes that the P.D. is run by a professional police chief not being influence by a politically dominate mayor. In Forest Park, Mayor Calderone has no experience as a regular police officer and therefore has no basic understanding of how a professional police department should be run. Combine that with the fact that he craves all the trappings of political power and you have a recipe for disaster. If Calderone thought his move went unnoticed he is sadly mistaken.

    By Blogger WhosWatching, at 9:27 PM, January 12, 2006  

  • Thanks for your supportive comments, however....

    I'd like to make the case that the policy is bad irrespective of the quirks and qualities of the individual who is mayor.

    The mayor of Forest Park doesn't need to be a warlord with an armed paramilitary force loyal to him. There is no compelling law enforcement problem that justifies having the mayor having his personal goon squad.

    These part-time officers lack the normal accountability for cops. The mayor has absolute power to hire and fire.

    All sorts of warning bells are going off in my head. It may be that the current mayor doesn't abuse this power, but some mayor will abuse it. It's inevitable.

    And there's no problem being fixed. Why bypass the board of commissioners on this?

    By Blogger Carl Nyberg, at 11:13 PM, January 12, 2006  

  • Carl, you have clearly concluded that this is a bad practice before it has even gone into practice.

    I would suggest you do your homework first before you rush to opinion and conclusion.

    1st research the commission form of government.

    2nd what and how do other towns that have part time police officers hire those individuals.

    By Anonymous Watching Watcher, at 12:05 AM, January 13, 2006  

  • Your not fooling anybody. This move was made for the future. In the unlikely event you get reelected in 07, thats when the goon squad kicks in.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:16 AM, January 13, 2006  

  • Yes, I have analyzed this program and decided it has huge potential for abuse.

    We don't have to enact every bad idea to know that it's a bad idea.

    This society embraces placing lots of power in the hands of executives. It's not consistent with our frontier traditions of individualism. And it's not good policy.

    Making it so that the mayor can get six guys with guns to go do something with one phone call isn't about law enforcement, it's legalizing gangland behavior.

    By Blogger Carl Nyberg, at 12:57 PM, January 13, 2006  

  • Hey watching watcher, was does the form of government and how other towns hire have to do with anything?

    Giving a politician the ability to form a street gang, especially when that Mayor is a Serpico-ite, puts all the ingredients for disater into one bowl ready for the mixin'! I don't even want to think about this in theory, let alone practice.

    I'll be driving around lord Calderones Forest Park from now on. Or I'll have to carry an extra hundred cash to pay the lords toll.

    By Blogger watching & waiting, at 12:56 PM, January 15, 2006  

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