Interim Schaumburg Police Chief aims to heal department
The Schaumburg Police Department began 2013 as an agency widely recognized and respected for its professionalism, competence and community outreach.
Interim Police Chief Ken Bouche is confident it will end the year the same way.
First as a member of an outside review team and now as temporary department head, Bouche is helping the force heal itself from the blow that came Jan. 16 with the arrests of three undercover officers on multiple drug conspiracy charges.
"This is a really good department," Bouche said days after his swearing in as interim chief. "But bad things happen in good places. And the reasons for them are generally clear."
Bouche is a retired Illinois State Police colonel and current chief operating officer of Hillard Heintze, the Chicago-based law enforcement consultant firm Schaumburg hired to conduct a thorough review of department operations in the wake of the three officers' arrests.
But when former police chief Brian Howerton announced his retirement last month, just as a village was completing its yearlong village investigation of harassment allegations from his former girlfriend, Hillard Heintze was called upon to recommend an interim chief.
Bouche said he understood Howerton's feelings in choosing his "right time" to retire, but it was not something the firm had envisioned or recommended.
A list of retired law enforcement officials was compiled and considered by Hillard Heintze before Bouche was put forward for the job of interim chief. In his new role, Bouche has separated himself from the review team to serve as the department's representative in the ongoing process.
During his remaining time with the village, Bouche will not only be handling the usual tasks of police chief but will be in a unique position to implement the recommendations of Hillard Heintze's study, both before and after the final report is completed.
Hillard Heintze does consulting all over the country, but it was only because of Schaumburg's proximity to Chicago that Bouche was considered for the job, he said.
As both a member of the review team and now as chief, Bouche said he's been impressed by the department's strengths.
"First I have to say the Schaumburg Police Department is not ailing," he said. "This is a group of employees dedicated to doing good work. ... We've worked with places that have significantly worse problems than this."
In fact, among the worst damage found after the three officers' arrests was the effect their alleged betrayal had on their former colleagues' morale.
"People are devastated," Bouche said. "All the employees care about their reputation."
But Bouche believes the damage will be repaired more quickly in Schaumburg than it would almost anywhere else because of the dedication of everyone from the village's upper administration to the department's patrol officers.
"I'm a bit overwhelmed by how welcomed the team was," Bouche said of Hillard Heintze's first meeting with department personnel. "We have gone into other agencies where no one would even talk to us."
Bouche also credits the quick recovery to the decisions made by Howerton and the village administration made immediately after the crisis broke.
"When you look at the response the department made, it's the perfect professional response," he said.
The department has a long history of reaching out to the community through efforts such as neighborhood beat meetings, a Citizen Police Academy and participation in National Night Out. Bouche said he is certain Hillard Heintze's recommendations won't include eliminating or diminishing those efforts. If anything, they will recommend the department enhance them.
The firm expects to complete its three-month, $148,000 review in mid-May and release its recommendations to the village. Village leaders have said they will make the firm's findings public.
While some recommendations may be incorporated into department operations even earlier, others may require the village's own review and discretion, Bouche said. The study will look at everything up to and including optimal staffing levels.
Village Manager Ken Fritz said the village won't automatically comply with every recommendation, but he doesn't foresee the village's ability to comply being a major concern.
The village will pay Hillard Heintze an additional $68,900 a month for Bouche's service as interim chief, as well as the services of a special adviser to the chief and access to the firm's senior leadership council. Fritz said he expects the contract to last six to nine months, and not extend beyond the end of the year.
During that time, Hillard Heintze will lay out criteria for the village's search for a permanent police chief. Bouche said he expects to have left the oversight of the department to a new permanent chief by the end of the year.
And while Hillard Heintze's contractual relationship with the Schaumburg Police Department will be over by 2014, he said the firm's professional relationships with all the agencies with which it's worked have carried on to both parties' benefit.