A Better Government Association report is questioning the DuPage County Sheriff's Department for permitting Sheriff John Zaruba's teenage son to repeatedly accompany deputies on patrol.
On at least one of the patrols, the report says, then-18-year-old Patrick Zaruba left a patrol cruiser to chase a suspect and later appeared with his father and other officers in uniform as they sought to question a suspect at his home.
The BGA examination, reported in conjunction with CBS2-TV Chicago, acknowledged that many police departments routinely operate "ride-along" programs in which members of the media, aspiring police and other interested parties can tag along with on-duty officers to get a feel for real-life law enforcement.
However, the BGA also cited experts who questioned the liability concerns and potential risks to officers if an observer is permitted to participate in police activities.
Citing a DuPage Sheriff's Department statement, the BGA said Sheriff Zaruba confirmed that his son, now a 19-year-old freshman at Illinois State University in Normal, participated in ride-alongs with deputies, including one case on April 23, 2011 when he left the squad car to chase a fleeing suspect on foot. The BGA obtained video of the incident taken from a squad-car camera.
Neither Zaruba nor his son returned requests for additional comment Thursday morning.
The BGA said Zaruba's statement indicated that his son, an Explorer scout for several years, "responded in an appropriate way."
According to the BGA, the incident occurred when Patrick Zaruba, then 18, was accompanying a sheriff's officer in the Woodridge area who tried to pull over a white Ford Tempo driving west in the eastbound lanes of 75th Street. The squad followed the driver as he pulled into a parking lot of a strip mall, stopped and then fled on foot. Patrick Zaruba left the squad car and gave chase, but the suspect got away, the BGA said.
Police, however, were able to determine the name of the suspect, and later showed up at his Woodridge home to arrest him, according to the BGA. The suspect's father told the BGA that the sheriff, his son, Patrick, and other deputies showed up "all in uniform" and tried to enter the home but he refused them because they had no warrant.
The father told the BGA he assumed the sheriff's son was an officer.
The 18-year-old driver eventually turned himself in and was charged with four misdemeanors, including obstructing a peace officer, according to the BGA. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 30 days in jail.
Court records do not include an account of Patrick Zaruba's chase, but instead indicate the subject "ran from Sgt. (Richard) Rushing on a traffic stop to avoid being arrested," the BGA said.
Rushing declined to comment, the BGA said.
Paul Fichtner, chairman of the DuPage County Board finance committee, called the ride-along "disturbing.
"This concerns the board because in the event of a liability issue, (Zaruba) is not the one paying the bills -- the county board has to find taxpayer money for that," said Fichtner, of Elmhurst.
Joe Mazzone, chief counsel of the Metropolitan Alliance of Police, told the BGA he has received "numerous complaints from a number of road deputies" about the practice of allowing Patrick Zaruba to participate in ride-alongs.
The report said that Patrick Zaruba, who the BGA could not reach for comment, sometimes dons a duty belt and bulletproof vest for the ride-alongs and carries items such as a flashlight and police radio, but doesn't carry a gun.