The West Suburban Chiefs of Police Association has joined the opposition to Cook County's cost-saving plan to close its suburban courthouses on weekends.
The county estimates it will save $1.9 million this year by consolidating weekend hearings from the Skokie, Rolling Meadows, Maywood, Bridgeview and Markham courthouses and holding them all at the Cook County criminal courts building at 26th Street and California Avenue in Chicago.
The closings will begin at the Bridgeview courthouse this weekend, and then at the other courthouses in the next 60 to 90 days.
Suburban police departments immediately opposed the plan, saying traveling to Chicago's South side for bond court will drain their finances and staff. Now, the WSCOPA has sent a letter to Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans, saying the change would increase overtime costs for most of the 35 police departments it represents (some are in DuPage County).
"We don't have the authority to say 'no' at this point ... but we'd like to open some lines of communication," said Riverside Police Chief Thomas Weitzel. "We're not in this to argue, or to get into any power match, but is there another alternative?"
Weitzel says they are sympathetic to the county's financial problems, because every department is facing them. However, he and other police chiefs are upset they weren't consulted or asked to come up with compromises -- such as hearings via closed-circuit video or closing two courthouses instead of four.
No one from the Chief Judge's office could be reached for comment Monday, as the offices were closed for the New Year's holiday.