As Maple Park's first permanent police chief in 18 months, Michael Acosta knows he has his work cut out for him. That's what drew him to the job.
"I like to be able to get a clump of clay and mold it," he said last Thursday, his fourth day as chief. "We've got some work to do, but I look forward to it."
Acosta is Maple Park's first chief since the village board opted not to renew a contract last year with Stephen Yahnke because of potential conflicts with his second job at the Kane County Sheriff's Department. Before Yahnke, there was Chester Morris, who left the post in 2005 after being acquitted of charges he perpetuated gambling.
Needless to say, it's time for a fresh start.
"I'm interested in moving on," Acosta, a 31-year police veteran, said. "We're at the point where the board wants to bring a better quality department to the citizens, and that's what I'm here for."
A Kane County native, Acosta, 55, had a far-reaching career with the sheriff's office before retiring as commander of administration three years ago. He served as commander of the major crimes task force and accident reconstruction team, captain of investigations, jail supervisor, sergeant and lieutenant in the community policing program, among other positions, over the years.
Acosta said he was former sheriff's candidate Kevin Williams' pick for undersheriff in 2006, though Pat Perez won the election. He also is vice chairman of the police commission in Sugar Grove, where he lives with his wife Karen, also a retired police officer.
In Maple Park, Acosta said, his first chore is cleaning up.
"Without a chief for 18 months, things just like stacked up. With the help of the officers, we're throwing out the old and bringing in the new," he said. "I think the future is getting involved in the community, being very active. I want it to be a pleasant relationship. I want the public to come in and see me, and talk to me, and tell me what they want their police department to be. I need their input."
Acosta said he wants the department of five officers to put a new focus on youth outreach "so we don't have to meet them later on down the line in the other way." He said he also plans to put on regular community forums and generally facilitate more openness with the public.
"I've been walking up and down Main Street, even though it's a small street," Acosta said. "I'm a people person. I like to talk to people."
Acosta will be officially sworn into office at the board's regular meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 5 at the Civic Center, 302 Willow St.
Oops: If you want the attention of courthouse security, try taking a metal marijuana pipe through the metal detectors.
Police say Utah resident Christina S. Moellmer, 37, learned the old-fashioned way why this isn't a good idea when she visited the Kane County Judicial Center in St. Charles on Wednesday morning.
According to a sheriff's report, Moellmer was arrested after security found a metal pipe containing marijuana residue in her purse. She told officers that "it was a relative's (and) she was just holding it," the report said.
Moellmer was charged with drug paraphernalia possession and remained in the county lockup on New Year's Eve, apparently unable to post a $1,000 bond.
Scot-free: Moellmer's run-in is reminiscent of a another report, also filed by the sheriff's office, when a man was caught entering the courthouse earlier last year with what appeared to be a marijuana pipe.
Turned out, the pipe in that case was brand new and had no residue in it to prove it was drug paraphernalia, police said at the time.
That guy wasn't charged.