How Fox Lake plans to avoid a Gliniewicz repeat
Fox Lake police personnel will get structured performance evaluations and be given more training opportunities, and the department will strengthen its accountability and procedures -- only the beginning of what could be a complete revamp of the department, village officials told the Daily Herald Editorial Board on Wednesday.
Village Administrator Anne Marrin and police spokesman Christopher Covelli said the investigation into the Fox Lake Police Department so far has turned up serious administrative problems, including a lack of basic communication.
Marrin said the village will hire a temporary chief of police who will be tasked with shaking things up, a "real change agent," she promised.
The shake-up is the result of the Sept. 1 death of police Lt. Charles Joseph Gliniewicz, first thought to be a homicide and then discovered to be a carefully staged suicide meant to cover up years of thefts from the Explorers program.
Meanwhile, Fox Lake isn't waiting for a new interim chief. Marrin and the department's temporary leadership borrowed from the Lake County sheriff's office -- interim Police Chief Mike Keller and interim Deputy Chief Scot Kurek -- have instituted or updated programs designed to make officers accountable and build rank-and-file morale.
Together with Keller and Kurek, Marrin and village leaders are slowly but methodically working through their processes and procedures at the police department to create an agency that is effective, accountable and professional, they said.
Covelli said the department has changed the command structure from three lieutenants to two, adding sergeant supervisors to head up the investigation division. The change enables more fluidity among police officers in the investigation and patrol divisions.
"At the end of the day, the community of Fox Lake deserves a well-functioning and transparent police department," Covelli said.
Also planned is increased training, including diversity training, more officer documentation, and processes that hold all members of the police department accountable.
The changes at the police department come at a time when the police department has been trying to come to grips with two scandals -- Gliniewicz's death and the retirement of the former police chief.
The former police chief, Michael Behan, retired in late August during an investigation into an altercation between a Fox Lake police officer and a prisoner at the Fox Lake jail. The incident was under investigation, partly over how well Behan handled it after the fact.
Officials say Gliniewicz killed himself in fear his embezzlement of funds from the youth Explorers post would be discovered. Court documents show he used the money to pay for mortgages, vacations, adult websites and personal loans.
Marrin, however, said changes at the police department started even before Sept. 1. She was hired in 2014 as Fox Lake's first professional administrator after the village board decided to redirect the village government into a more manager-driver one.
She said after she was hired she began methodically looking at every village department, including police -- a scrutiny that increased with Gliniewicz's death.
"Over the last several months, we have cast a very critical eye over the police department," Marrin said. "Our residents expect and deserve a police department that's professional and accountable, as well as effective."
She said an internal audit and investigation into the police department continues. There is no timetable on when that audit and investigation would be completed.
Keller was brought in as interim chief Sept. 5, Covelli said, with the full support of Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran and Undersheriff Raymond Rose. Keller and Kurek are essentially on loan to Fox Lake to give the department stability and leadership.
"Rose has been extremely supportive of the work being done here," Covelli said, adding he has attended numerous meetings with Marrin and other department leaders.
Marrin added that the Fox Lake village board also has strongly supported their efforts at change.
Meanwhile, Marrin said the village is conducting a search for the next interim police chief, whose job it will be to make tough changes and recommendations, adding additional policies and making personnel changes as needed.
"We welcome the change but acknowledge we have plenty of hard work ahead of us," Marrin said.
Eventually the interim chief's work will be done and the village expects to hire a new, full-time police chief going forward.