The end of an especially painful year for the Schaumburg Police Department will be heralded by the announcement Monday of a new permanent police chief to lead the force into 2014 and beyond.
The top candidate among 83 applicants from throughout the region and country will likely start on Monday, Dec. 30, Schaumburg Village Manager Brian Townsend said Friday.
Putting 2013 behind it probably couldn't come soon enough for the department, whose year began with the Jan. 16 arrests of undercover officers John Cichy, Matthew Hudak and Terrance O'Brien on drug conspiracy charges.
The three members of the department's Special Investigations Bureau were accused of shaking down drug dealers and peddling narcotics their bureau itself had seized.
Charges of criminal drug conspiracy, armed violence, theft and official misconduct were filed against the men just two days after then police chief Brian Howerton was cleared of criminal wrongdoing by the Cook County State's Attorney's office over a complaint he had stalked and harassed his ex-girlfriend during and after their 18-month relationship.
Howerton subsequently retired in April, just as the results of an internal investigation of the same complaint were released. That investigation determined Howerton had violated police department rules by allowing his girlfriend into the police station for non-duty-related purposes, but also found no evidence of her claims he had stalked and harassed her.
As the prosecutions of the three arrested officers proceeded, many of the court cases against others that relied on their testimony began to collapse.
Then in June, officer Bryan Woodyard resigned after being charged with misconduct for keeping a .22-caliber revolver that a resident had attempted to turn into the department after refusing Woodyard's offer to buy it.
As these incidents were occurring, Chicago-based law enforcement consultant group Hillard Heintze was conducting a three-month study of the department's operations and forming recommendations for improvement.
Following Howerton's resignation, Hillard Heintze's Chief Operating Officer Ken Bouche stepped in as interim police chief and remains so today.
The department has been pursuing implementation of Hillard Heintze's 10 general findings and 55 recommendations ever since -- among the most key being dropping the undercover vice unit the three arrested officers belonged to. That unit had allowed its investigators to follow leads and suspects into other communities.
Bouche said Friday the new chief is coming aboard at an important time and with important tasks still ahead. Forging a five-year plan for the department is a job for its permanent leader and one Hillard Heintze would never have presumed to write itself, he said.
"The person who was picked I think is going to be a great leader for the department," Bouche said. "The village of Schaumburg has the capability to be a leader in best practices. You can do some really great things here."
As much as the department has already recovered, the memory of what happened in January will never be erased entirely, Bouche said. And it's the dedicated members of the existing force who are driving it back to higher ground, he added.
"They'll move heaven and earth to make sure that will never happen again," he said.
Village manager Townsend likened the department today to a ship that's already built and has a solid crew but is still looking for its captain.
"Without that leader to take the department forward, the people are kind of waiting," Townsend said. "It also brings stability."
Schaumburg Mayor Al Larson said Townsend himself was an instrumental part of the police chief search. He joined the village in August, succeeding Ken Fritz, who retired. His input was considered essential for such a long-term decision, Larson said.
"I think he's gained the support and the trust of the department," Larson said of Townsend.