Kadner: Battling crime with part-time cops
By Phil Kadner email@example.com August 20, 2013 9:12PM
Robbins Mayor Tyrone Ward (at podium) speaks at a news conference Tuesday with new police Chief Melvin Davis (far left) and various police and village officials who expressed the hope the village can put the police department's scandal-plagued history behind it. | Phil Kadner~Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 22, 2013 6:28AM
New Robbins Mayor Tyrone Ward contends that it’s not the size of a police officer’s paycheck that counts but the size of his heart.
Here’s hoping the 21 part-time officers who patrol the streets of Robbins have big hearts because their paychecks are pretty small.
Neither the mayor nor the police chief would tell me how much the part-timers make, but several other sources said $10 an hour is the going rate. Those part-timers are the guys who patrol Robbins’ streets.
There are five full-time officers, all administrative types, and the mayor and chief didn’t like it when I repeatedly inquired about their salaries.
The Robbins Police Department has a long history of scandal and incompetence, most recently making the news when more than 200 rape kits about two decades old were found sitting in an evidence locker.
Robbins police apparently had better things to do than follow up on the complaints of rape, although no one is sure what it was they were doing.
Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart and his staff now are involved in bringing some semblance of law and order to the streets of Robbins, but that has resulted in some negative publicity for the village.
Ward, who was elected in April, wants people to give him and his new administration the benefit of the doubt.
From what I saw, there wasn’t much reason for the people of Robbins to be hopeful about the future, except that Ward insists they should be.
According to the sheriff’s staff, there were 1,000 calls for service made to Robbins police in May and four arrests. Of those arrests, I was told, three were made by “outside” law enforcement agencies and one by Robbins police.
In June, residents made 1,017 calls for assistance to Robbins police, and there were 10 arrests made as a result.
The statistics for July, by comparison, were far better. Forty-one arrests were made in response to 974 calls for assistance.
Of course, not every call actually is inspired by a crime, but making just more than one arrest a day in July still seems rather low in a village that has had more than its share of criminal activity.
The fact is that most of the time, most of the people in Illinois don’t care about Robbins at all. So if Ward is concerned about the reputation of his village, he shouldn’t be.
The only time Robbins attracts the public’s attention is when there’s a scandal, and the most recent one is a doozy.
Police in the village apparently didn’t care about women, or girls, who were raped. They rarely followed up — even when women submitted to testing, filed a complaint and gave a description of their assailants.
No one really knows what the police were doing over the past 20 or so years, although two of them were convicted of taking bribes from a drug dealer.
As a police officer in Robbins told me more than a decade ago, it’s difficult to maintain your integrity when a 13-year-old kid selling crack on the streets tells you he makes more in a month than you do in a year.
Ward, a schoolteacher, is right, in theory. It shouldn’t matter how much a man makes. He still should have pride in himself and the work he does.
But professionalism ought to count for something — especially when it comes to battling street gangs, protecting residents, collecting evidence and pursuing an investigation.
You would also like to think that sort of courage and ability might pay better than a job bagging groceries at a Jewel supermarket.
Ward made it clear that he resented my questions about village finances and police salaries. He did admit that the financial condition of the village was “dire” but indicated it was no worse off than many other towns in these difficult economic times.
The fact is that Robbins probably can’t afford a professional, full-time police force, although it needs one badly. That’s why Dart’s offer to have sheriff’s police provide assistance is absolutely essential.
At a meeting with Robbins residents earlier this year, Dart asked them to voice their concerns, and the No. 1 complaint by far was the number of home burglaries.
A gang of local youngsters, known to residents, apparently had been pillaging the community, and police had made no arrests despite the fact that neighbors and relatives of the thieves were ready and willing to identify them.
Ward and his new police chief would likely exclaim that was in the past, and this is a new day.
Maybe it is. And just maybe it isn’t.
There seems to be this notion in Robbins and some other towns beset by scandal and incompetence that if the news media just ignored the problems they would go away.
That doesn’t happen. Problems get resolved when public attention is focused on them, when public officials sweat under a spotlight and people demand solutions.
It’s not the public attention that caused the problems of Robbins but the lack of attention.
The unsolved rapes of nearly 200 women has people upset. So, for now, there is a demand that something be done.
But time will pass, things will return to normal, and Robbins and its residents will be left alone.
This is not a good thing. Robbins, Dixmoor, Ford Heights and at least half a dozen other south suburbs are in need of help.
It would be nice to see Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle focusing as much attention on their economic distress as Dart has on the criminal element.
I wish Ward and his new police chief good luck in making Robbins a better place to live.
But a police officer with a big heart still deserves more than $10 per hour.