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posted: 2/21/2013 5:00 AM

Good first steps in Schaumburg

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The Daily Herald Editorial Board

Solving a tough police case takes time, patience and the hard work of following a lot of leads and attending to many details.

Solving the crisis of confidence that arises from allegations of police corruption in Schaumburg is sure to be just as long and hard to do, but the village has taken a good first step with the announcement this week that it has hired the Chicago consulting firm Hillard Heintze to examine how the police department operates and how it is managed.

Hillard Heintze, co-founded by former Chicago Police Superintendent Terry Hillard and former U.S. Secret Service Special Agent in Charge of Chicago Arnette Heintze, will spent up to 90 days and $148,000 in village funds to assess the Schaumburg Police Department and recommend steps to identify and stop any improper, unethical or illegal behavior by officers.

Launching the study is just a beginning toward restoring faith not just for residents of Schaumburg, but in surrounding suburbs where former Schaumburg undercover officers John Cichy, Matthew Hudak and Terrance O'Brien are accused of shaking down drug dealers and selling cocaine and marijuana. Consultants and studies sometimes are used by governments to bury an issue or sweep it from the public eye; this can't be one of those times. We're satisfied so far that Schaumburg administrators, elected leaders and Hillard Heintze recognize that.

"This review is a starting point. This is only one part of that healing process, but it's a major part," Schaumburg Village Manager Ken Fritz said. "The idea is to lay out a road map of possibilities."

Just as Schaumburg begins its investigation, Des Plaines Police Chief William Kushner suspended several officers for padding overtime hours. It's commendable that the city itself reported its problem to authorities administering a traffic safety grant that paid for the overtime. That kind of openness is an important first step toward assuring citizens leaders are serious about keeping their departments clean.

In Schaumburg, Hillard Heintze sent representatives to meet with Schaumburg police commanders, officers and union leaders this week, and Heintze said he's encouraged that they appear to be on board with the investigation.

The fallout from the alleged drug conspiracy is extensive, with criminal charges dismissed against 18 people so far because of the three officers' involvement in their cases and with two civil lawsuits against Schaumburg and the police department. People in Schaumburg, and across the suburbs, need and deserve a thorough and open examination of what went wrong. Fritz promises Hillard Heintz's report will be available for public review, but beyond that, what's needed is an opportunity for public input and discussion.

Restoring confidence in the police department won't be easy, but it's crucial for the safety of the public, not to mention the reputations of the many officers who keep high professional and ethical standards as they police our towns. We're glad to see the investigation under way and look forward to the report, whatever it may show.

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