New Wauconda chief: Yes to body cameras, 911 consolidation
David Wermes is excited to take over as Wauconda's police chief on Jan. 5 -- but he also knows he's got some big issues to handle.
Settling the fate of Wauconda's 911 dispatch service is at the top of the list.
After two years of often contentious debate, the village board in October voted to shut down the dispatch center to save money. Trustees are leaning toward hiring Lake Zurich to handle dispatching, and a contract decision is expected in January.
Consolidation would cost the jobs of Wauconda's 11 dispatchers. That weighs on Wermes, a commander with the Schaumburg Police Department, who saw the same thing happen there.
"I struggle with it," Wermes said. "We went through this back in 2007 in Schaumburg. Whenever you go through it, it's a difficult situation."
In an interview with the Daily Herald this week, Wermes talked about police using body cameras and the need for a chief to build a relationship with the community, among other issues.
Wermes, 49, who lives in the Marengo area, was named Wauconda's newest top cop Dec. 15.
The new chief said he supports consolidated dispatching -- one center handling emergency calls for multiple departments. It's especially useful in a large-scale crisis, when police officers and firefighters from different departments benefit by communicating with each other on the same radio frequency, he said.
But consolidation has drawbacks, too.
"The downside is, you have dispatchers who don't work in your town," he said. "They don't have the connection with the citizens. I'm sure Lake Zurich is extremely professional, but you're missing that personal touch."
Out-of-town dispatchers probably won't know the village as well, or recognize individual officers' voices at first, he said.
"Initially, that will suffer," Wermes said. "But as time goes on, that will repair itself."
Some of the issues Wauconda police face are larger than the town.
Police across the country are under the microscope because of high-profile brutality and murder cases.
Wermes said that in his opinion, police who break the law represent "half of 1 percent" of all law enforcement.
"Unfortunately, the 0.5 percent is highlighted by the community and the media," he said.
"The overwhelming majority of police officers do their jobs, and do them well."
Wermes supports putting body cameras on police officers and said he'd like Wauconda to test models sooner rather than later. The small devices help both officers and civilians "stay in check," he said.
"It prevents a lot of complaints," Wermes said. "It prevents false complaints."
Wermes sees building trust with the Wauconda community as important.
He'll start by attending public events, meeting with the local Rotary Club and getting to know local business owners.
"A police chief should be visible, out in the public eye and responsive to the public, the businesses and their needs," Wermes said. "And the only way to do that is to get out there. You have to be part of them."