Joliet OKs hiring of 10 cops for neighborhood police team
BY BOB OKON email@example.com December 17, 2012 10:56PM
File photo | Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 19, 2013 6:16AM
JOLIET — The Joliet City Council on Monday approved the hiring of 10 police officers needed to bring back the neighborhood police team.
The officers are expected to be on the job as soon as January, a reflection of the city’s decision to hire experienced officers rather than follow its traditional policy of hiring recruits. Neighborhood police teams will not be restored immediately but sometime after the new officers are working.
Hiring police officers became a top budget priority after the city suspended its Neighborhood Oriented Police Team in August amid a manpower shortage. That immediately drew a response from neighborhood groups who filled a city council meeting to insist on the return of the police unit.
“It was obviously identified as a major priority in the neighborhoods of Joliet,” Councilman Don Fisher noted Monday as the council voted unanimously for the hiring.
The police unit works closely with community groups and people in the neighborhoods in an effort to take a more preventive approach to crime.
“This couldn’t come at a more perfect time in light of what happened last week,” Councilwoman Jan Quillman said, referring to the school shootings in Connecticut. She and Councilman Larry Hug, however, said the city needs to hire even more police.
“Ten is not enough, but it’s a start,” Quillman said.
Manpower is down in the police department due to attrition and early retirements as Joliet looked for ways to save money to ward off budget shortfalls in recent years. But now the city intends to replace retirees to maintain staffing levels. The 10 new officers would be added to the existing staff.
“We’re hoping to have them ready to go by early January,” Police Chief Mike Trafton said.
City Manager Thomas Thanas said the new approach of hiring trained and certified officers saves the city money and allows officers to help out immediately.
“They’re seasoned officers, and they’re ready to hit the street,” Thanas said.
In other business, the council approved an agreement that will allow One Hope United, a Chicago-based nonprofit group, to start an early learning center in the former Parks Elementary School. One Hope United announced its plan for Joliet about a year ago, but the project was jump-started recently with a $3.1 million state grant.
The council also hosted a check-presentation ceremony in which the CN railroad handed over $40,000 to the Forest Park Community Center. The money marks the first installment of a $100,000 donation from CN.