Winfield asking sheriff's office to help provide police services

 
 

In a move that could free up cash in Winfield's budget, village officials are seeking assistance from the DuPage County Sheriff's Office to provide some police services.

But Sheriff John Zaruba insists the discussions, which are very preliminary at this point, don't include talk of dismantling the Winfield Police Department.

"There was no discussion in regard to supplanting or replacing their police department - nor would I advocate that," Zaruba said Monday.

Village President Deborah Birutis said she approached Zaruba last month with the idea of having the sheriff's office help the small village save money.

"My meeting with Zaruba was to see what type of programs we could share so that possibly Winfield can cut some costs," she said.

There are multiple ways that could happen. Examples include having the sheriff's office offer SWAT team support, provide forensic technicians for Winfield cases or handle the village's 911 calls and emergency dispatching.

Zaruba said it's up to Winfield officials to decide what specific help they would want.

"They are going to have to come back to us and say, 'Can you do these things?'" he said. "Then we are going to have to say, 'Do we have the manpower to do it?' None of those discussions have been done."

It will be up to village board members to finalize any agreement between Winfield and the sheriff's office. The village's finance committee is expected to review the issue within the next month.

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While there are ways the sheriff's office could help Winfield, Zaruba said it's unlikely his deputies could regularly patrol the town.

"They have a different communication system," Zaruba said. "They have a different reporting system. They've got different policies and procedures."

Zaruba also said residents need to clearly know who their police are. "And if you've got a hybrid of police, that's really not a good idea," he said.

Birutis said officials are taking a very close look at Winfield's budget, in part, because the village needs to raise $3.3 million to resurface its most deteriorated streets. Right now, the village only has $150,000 for annual repairs to its roads.

"We would not be doing our job if we did not look at all line items in the budget," she said. "And that includes the police department."

Of Winfield's roughly $4 million general fund, about $3 million is spent on the police department, according to Birutis. In addition to Chief Frank Bellisario, the department has a deputy chief, three sergeants and 13 patrolmen. There also is a soon-to-be rookie officer who is still in training.

Birutis said there is no magic number that she's trying to cut from the village's budget.

"We are looking at all types of line items at this point," she said. "There is not a 'I want to cut this amount.' We are trying to see where can we cut costs on every line item, if possible."