Des Plaines hires new police, fire personnel
The Des Plaines police department added six officers to its ranks Wednesday, while the fire department swore in three new firefighter recruits, all of whom will be starting their respective academy training this month.
It's the largest group of new hires in the city since budget cuts began and citywide staffing reductions were implemented a few years ago.
No new positions were created and all of the new hires are replacements filling existing or impending vacancies, officials said.
The police department actually is down seven officers, but only six could be effectively put into field training at one time, Police Chief William Kushner said.
The department had four retirees in 2012 and a couple of earlier vacancies that resulted in restructuring.
"We've been paying overtime and we've been adjusting schedules and taking personnel from other units to fill in (on) the street," Kushner said. "It's far from an ideal situation."
The police department's roughly $20.4 million budget for expenditures in 2013 factors in salaries for seven potential new hires, which amounts to $59,000 yearly per officer.
"It's a very big deal anytime you can fill vacancies," Kushner said. "It gives the department an opportunity to get back to the staffing level. We're still going to be one short."
With the new hires, the department now has 94 sworn officers — considerably less than the 108 officers it had before city finances got tight.
The six new hires will begin police academy training Monday and graduate in March/April, after which they will be in field training for three months, he added.
More police officers will be patrolling the streets by summer. One of the targeted areas for stepping up patrols is Apache Park and Pine Court, where residents from surrounding apartment complexes have complained of increased gang activity, Kushner said.
"I'm anticipating that we're going to have the manpower to put the bike patrols out on a daily basis, instead of an intermittent basis," Kushner said. "If all goes well, we will be able to hire the seventh (officer) in May. That person will hit the street toward the end of August just in time for the Labor Day holiday."
Kushner said he is putting together a targeted enforcement team of six officers who primarily will work afternoons on mission-driven policing to address problem areas in the city that have seen an increase in gang activity, graffiti, property damage and vehicular burglaries.
The three new firefighter recruits bring that department's total up to 92 sworn personnel. They begin academy training Monday, Jan. 14, but it will be mid-May before they are fully-trained, certified and join the staff.
Two of the new hires are filling existing vacancies that have been open since fall, while the third will replace an anticipated retiree, Fire Chief Alan Wax said.
"We could not fill (the vacancies) right away because our eligibility list expired and the state changed the statute for firefighter hiring," Wax said.
The new eligibility list has 37 potential candidates on it and expires in two years, so the department has a pool to choose from should more people retire, Wax added.
"We budget for three new hires in our budget every year," Wax said.
The fire department's 2013 budget for expenditures is roughly $18 million. The starting salary for a firefighter is currently $60,009; however, city officials are negotiating with the firefighters' union on a new contract that will be effective Jan. 1, 2013.
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