Mundelein chief: Wait before reaching, know the police
Mundelein police forum aims to grow trust
Seeking to strengthen communications with residents after some high-profile cases of police violence across the nation, Mundelein Police Chief Eric Guenther on Tuesday led a frank community discussion about his officers' duties and interactions with the public.
About 100 people attended the gathering at the Mundelein Park District's Regent Center. They listened intently and politely as Guenther and other officers talked about why police do what they do during traffic stops, street encounters and visits to people's homes.
Audience members also asked important questions, such as when is the right time to reach for a driver's license during a traffic stop.
Guenther and the dozen or so officers present all agreed: Wait until an officer asks for it. Otherwise, an officer might not know what you're trying to grab.
Someone also asked if the department would be acquiring body cameras for officers. Guenther enthusiastically supported the idea and said he hopes his officers will have them by this time next year -- once Illinois' eavesdropping law is changed to allow them.
"Technology helps us," Guenther said. "Technology is good."
The goal of the 90-minute session, Guenther said at the start of the event, was to discuss "what's going on in our nation (and) what's going on here in Mundelein."
Guenther talked about the distrust that preceded a police-involved shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, and the riots that followed. He also expressed gratitude for the Mundelein community's "level of trust" in his agency.
But he also admitted his officers occasionally make mistakes.
"No doubt about it," he said.
In an unusual bit of openness, the officers who attended the meeting introduced themselves to the crowd and told them about their families, their professional experience and even their hobbies.
The attempt at humanization wasn't accidental.
"The next time you deal with us, remember who's in that uniform," Guenther said.
Forum: Police chief says he hopes to have body cameras by next year