Schaumburg officials announced Tuesday that an independent panel of law enforcement experts led by Chicago's former top cop and a onetime high-ranking U.S. Secret Service official will review the village's police department to determine whether its policies and procedures reflect the best practices of policing and public safety.
The assessment also will identify where the department can strengthen management, operations, and improve the delivery of service to the community in an efficient and cost-effective way, according to a statement from the village. The review is expected to cost the village about $148,000.
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The move comes a month after three Schaumburg police officers were charged with operating a criminal drug enterprise while working undercover, and about 11 months after the police chief was accused of stalking and harassing a former girlfriend. Police Chief Brian Howerton last month was cleared of any criminal wrongdoing, but an internal probe of his conduct remains ongoing.
Hillard Heintze, which the village called one of the leading private strategic security, investigations and law enforcement advisory firms in the United States, will perform the assessment. The firm was co-founded by former Chicago Police Superintendent Terry Hillard and Arnette Heintze, who retired as a senior executive in the U.S. Secret Service and the Special Agent in Charge in Chicago.
"The village, its elected officials, and leaders have full confidence in the Schaumburg Police Department's ability to deliver on its mission," Schaumburg Village Manager Ken Fritz said in a news release. "But given the challenges we have faced over the last month, now is a good time to ask ourselves if there is anything we can do better. I believe there is."
Fritz later added that there would be a difference between the new study and the recent accreditation review the department received from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA). While CALEA also looks at policies and procedures, it doesn't look at how well they're being put into practice as much as this new study will, Fritz said.
Though the study's recommendations are expected in three months, it's unclear how long it will take for the morale and public perception damage caused by last month's arrests to be considered repaired, Fritz added.
"The idea is to lay out a road map of possibilities," he said. "This review is a starting point. This is only one part of that healing process, but it's a major part."
Members of the consulting group met with Schaumburg police commanders, officers and union leaders Tuesday. Heintze said he came away from the sessions encouraged by the receptiveness of the officers.
"This morning, I saw a lot of head nodding," he said. "I don't think there's an officer in that department who hasn't heard of Terry Hillard."
A mutual respect for the insights of those who have also worn the badge is why the agency expects to have a complete and thorough report ready for public inspection within 90 days, Heintze said. He hopes for open communication from Schaumburg officers. Though there are no restrictions on the recommendations the consultants can make, the study will focus on operations within the department rather than individuals, Heintze added.
The scope of the assessment includes critical areas such as organizational culture and structure; staffing, training and HR processes; internal investigations and management oversight functions; policy development, adherence and administration; discipline and supervision; crime-fighting strategies and tactics; and ethics, integrity and public trust, among many other areas, according to the village.
The consulting firm's senior leadership council will perform the assessment. The council is an independent panel of retired major city police chiefs, federal and state law enforcement executives, leading academics and experts with outstanding career-long records of leadership and achievement.
"In more than 40 years in law enforcement, I have yet to come across an agency that
does everything perfectly," Hillard said in the village's announcement. "I am all too familiar with the type of challenges the Schaumburg Police Department is facing. Schaumburg residents should be pleased that the village is addressing this assessment in an independent and proactive manner."
In the release, Heintze spoke more specifically about the people who'll be doing the work and their goal.
"The team we have assembled to work with the village on this assessment brings to this critical initiative extensive knowledge and experience of best practices in policing and public safety that should prove very valuable in helping the village achieve the levels of excellence it is targeting," Heintze said.
In the release, Fritz calls last month's arrests of officers John Cichy, Matthew Hudak and Terrance O'Brien "a very unfortunate episode, especially for the scores of police officers who serve our community faithfully and honestly every day."
"To move forward, we need to challenge ourselves to learn from this incident and seek ideas on how we can do things better in the future," he said.
Fritz also asked the assessment team to include in its recommendations any new measures necessary to identify and prevent improper, unethical, or illegal behavior by officers.
"The opportunity to gather insights about our police department from national experts is worth every penny," Fritz said of the assessment's cost. "The cost of doing nothing would be far greater."
The final report will be shared with members of the Schaumburg village board and made available for public review.