Des Plaines has hired Lakemoor Police Chief William Kushner, a 35-year law enforcement veteran, as the city's new police chief, ending a nationwide search following the retirement of Police Chief James Prandini, officials said Friday.
Kushner's annual salary will be $136,000. Kushner, who lives in Chicago's Beverly neighborhood on the far Southwest Side, has 12 months to relocate to Des Plaines, per city code.
Kushner, 59, served 29 years with the Chicago Police Department in a number of positions, retiring in 2006 as a lieutenant/watch commander. He is currently collecting an annual pension of $89,850 from the Chicago Police Department.
After retiring from Chicago, Kushner became the police chief in Berwyn, where he was paid an annual salary of $111,000. He served four years in Berwyn and left, he said, when a new mayor was elected and decided to bring in a new police chief.
Kushner then took the helm in Lakemoor, where he has served as police chief since 2010. His current yearly salary is $83,000.
Kushner said he accepted the police chief position in Des Plaines because it presents more of a challenge than his current job managing a staff of eight full-time and six part-time officers. Des Plaines' department is more comparable to the Berwyn Police Department, which had 112 sworn officers, he added.
"I like to try and rectify whatever problems an agency might have," he said. "Des Plaines is an agency that is going through a little bit of a rocky straight right now and I think it can be turned around. There is a morale issue within the department and I want to see what we can do to change that."
Kushner said he was aware of issues within the Des Plaines police department resulting in the firing of an officer and the disciplining of another cop earlier this year under allegations of using excessive force, the sudden resignation/retirement of a police commander, and a "no confidence" vote taken by rank and file officers against Acting Police Chief Mike Kozak.
"I want to sit down with the command staff, supervisors, and as many rank and file officers as are willing to sit down," Kushner said. "I want to get each group's perceptions on what they feel is wrong with the agency and what changes they feel need to be made. I want to find out everybody's impressions."
Kushner said he is looking forward to meeting with everyone within the police department and city leadership. He also invited residents who want to reach out to him to write letters addressed to the city of Des Plaines.
"I want to get input and I want to find out what everybody perceives their problems to be, and we can work toward resolving the issues," he said.
Kushner was chosen from among 51 applicants from Illinois and several states, including one internal candidate.
"He is an outstanding choice for our department," Des Plaines City Manager Mike Bartholomew said in a news release. "I have every expectation that he will distinguish himself as an effective leader both in the community and for the men and women in the police department. I look forward to Chief Kushner joining our management team."
Bartholomew acknowledged Kozak's leadership in running the department in the interim since Prandini retired in December after 31 years with the city, eight as police chief.
"My thanks and gratitude are extended to the entire police department for continuing to provide exceptional police services to the community these last few months," Bartholomew said in his statement.
Kushner holds a bachelor's degree from Saint Xavier College and a master of science degree in criminal and social justice from Lewis University. He is a graduate of the School of Police Staff and Command at Northwestern University.
He will be sworn in at the Sept. 4 city council meeting, which also will be his first day on the job.