What suburban police chiefs are telling their officers

  • Arlington Heights Deputy Chief Mike Hernandez.

    Arlington Heights Deputy Chief Mike Hernandez. Daily Herald file photo, 2013

  • Naperville Deputy Police Chief Brian Cunningham.

    Naperville Deputy Police Chief Brian Cunningham. Daily Herald file photo, 2014

  • Aurora police Lt. Jeffrey Wiencek.

    Aurora police Lt. Jeffrey Wiencek.

  • Many flowers, a lot of food and countless messages of support were received by suburban police on Friday. These flowers were brought into the Gurnee police station.

    Many flowers, a lot of food and countless messages of support were received by suburban police on Friday. These flowers were brought into the Gurnee police station. Courtesy of Gurnee Police Chief Kevin Woodside

  • Daniel White/dwhite@dailyherald.comNaperville Patrol Officer Jason Duffy displays a black band he and many officers have placed across their badges to mourn the loss of fallen officers.

    Daniel White/dwhite@dailyherald.comNaperville Patrol Officer Jason Duffy displays a black band he and many officers have placed across their badges to mourn the loss of fallen officers.

  • Daniel White/dwhite@dailyherald.comNaperville Police Sgt. Ken Gettemy conducts a late afternoon roll call at the Naperville Police Station.

    Daniel White/dwhite@dailyherald.comNaperville Police Sgt. Ken Gettemy conducts a late afternoon roll call at the Naperville Police Station.

  • Daniel White/dwhite@dailyherald.comNaperville residents have dropped off food and various letters to support the police department in the wake of five murdered Dallas police officers this past Thursday night.

    Daniel White/dwhite@dailyherald.comNaperville residents have dropped off food and various letters to support the police department in the wake of five murdered Dallas police officers this past Thursday night.

 
 
Updated 7/9/2016 12:10 PM

Heading to work in the morning, deeply affected by the deaths of five Dallas police officers, Naperville Deputy Chief Brian Cunningham thought about how difficult it is to be a cop in these times.

Then he thought about how many people have gone out of their way to say thanks to Naperville officers in person and in a "flood of emails and texts." Just recently, a Korean War veteran came into the station to say thanks, and a dry cleaning businesswoman offered unsolicited praise and well-wishes.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

So when he got to work, he knew what he was going to say.

"I was telling officers to remember how supportive everyone has been of us and not to close ranks," Cunningham said. "There are a lot of people who stand with us."

It's nearly 1,000 miles from the suburbs to Dallas, but here, there and everywhere in between are police who were struggling Friday to come to terms with the killings. In Illinois, the Chiefs of Police association has asked all officers in the state to wear mourning bands over their badges until the Dallas officers are laid to rest.

In Schaumburg and Arlington Heights -- and most departments -- officers were told to be extra cautious. In Chicago, police worked in pairs on Friday.

"The Schaumburg Police Department is reminding its officers to remain vigilant and continue to do their jobs with the highest level of integrity and professionalism," Lindhurst said.

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"This is just a horrific event," Arlington Heights Deputy Police Chief Mike Hernandez said. "It's unimaginable."

He said the thoughts and prayers of the Arlington Heights Police Department are very much with the Dallas and Dallas Area Rapid Transit police.

Aurora police Lt. Jeff Wiencek was reminded of a tip he was given 24 years ago when he first took the oath.

"Someone told me, 'That badge you're pinning on your chest is also a target; I hope you remember that,'" Wiencek said Friday. "I always keep that in the back of my mind, and today it seems especially to ring true."

Officers accept the risks of the job when they put on their uniform, Wiencek said, and are careful to mitigate those risks each day.

"We can't allow a small segment of our society to change who we are," Wiencek said. "Regardless of what happened to our brothers and sisters out there, we have a job to do that is much bigger than something as horrible as what occurred."

As officers approached their first full day after the shootings, many were encouraged by calls and texts from citizens, some well before 7 a.m. At the Aurora station, four dozen doughnuts were delivered; a few hours later, a radio station sent over Jimmy John's subs for lunch.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Flowers, lunches, snacks and hundreds of emails and letters poured into suburban police departments on Friday.

Wiencek said the generosity of strangers is a reminder that while police frequently deal with the bad in society, they should "never lose sight of the good."

Wheaton Police Chief Jim Volpe sent a letter to his force Friday morning that expressed his sadness, frustration and anger over the Dallas shootings.

"We are working in a time when police officers are presumed to be wrong in almost all that we do and we are judged before anyone really knows the facts," it read. "The people who conduct themselves as barbarians when a police officer's conduct is in question are not the people we work for. We work for the law-abiding citizens who need us to serve and protect them from criminals."

Lake County Undersheriff Raymond Rose sent a memo to his department Friday morning that said, in part, "Our charge remains unchanged; keep the community secure and our residents safe."

Bensenville Police Chief Frank Kosman said he is telling his officers that in a country as large as ours bad things can happen. "But all we can do is go about being the most professional department we can be. And we do so knowing that a large majority of the people support us. And we appreciate that."

In Elgin Police Chief Jeff Swoboda's message to his staff Friday, he said in part that all cops enter their profession knowing it will be difficult.

"It's in moments like this we show our professionalism," he went on. "On every call we answer, we continue to be the community leaders we are, recognizing that the Elgin community supports us and cares about our safety. So while we all have heavy hearts we know there is important work to be done. And this important work will be done by all of you, people who have dedicated your lives to making our community better."

Chief Dave Dorn, in Barrington, told his officers Friday: "Be safe, stay vigilant. Stay on point and know a majority of the public supports you."

In Lake Zurich, Police Chief Steven Husak advised his officers to be respectful and appreciative when residents offer words of support, but not to get into debates.

"Violent situations can happen anywhere," Husak said, "and I am confident (in) the caliber of our personnel."

Volpe, of Wheaton, told his officers not to lose focus and said he believes most citizens respect police.

"I write this to remind you, and myself, that we serve and protect for a righteous cause -- to keep our city peaceful and safe from people who do not care about their fellow human beings," his letter read. "Your hard work and dedication do not go unnoticed by our citizens."

Meanwhile, Des Plaines Police Chief William Kushner said there's an old saying that "when a police officer is killed in the line of duty, part of every policeman dies."

"And it's very true," Kushner said. "There's a very somber attitude, somber mood in the police department in general."

He said what happened in Dallas is "a horrible, despicable attack" and said he hopes it was an isolated incident and not a trend.

"Each (officer death in the line of duty) affects you. It's impossible for it not to," added Wood Dale Chief Greg Vesta. "So we just want to make sure our people are taken care of and make sure they know that we know they're doing a good job."

Bloomingdale Police Chief Frank Giammarese said his message to officers Friday is no different from any other day.

"Go out there and do your job. Represent the department well and treat everyone respectfully," he said. "That's the way it's always been."

"We know how much better situations can be handled when everyone is respectful," he said. "We, as the police, are never looking to be at odds with the very people we are paid to serve and protect."

At Batavia roll call, officers were reminded to be extra vigilant, "because anything can happen anywhere at any time."

"Everybody (police, civilians, protesters) needs to slow down and listen to the other side. ... Everybody has the same goal in mind -- peace, and just let's get along," Detective Kevin Bretz said. "It should be a lot better."

He urged people to pursue peaceful remedies when they have complaints about police, including filing complaints with the department or if needed, through the court system.

Gurnee Police Chief Kevin Woodside said the fact that the dead officers were working security to provide a safe environment for a Black Lives Matter protest has been called ironic, but instead he sees it as symbolic.

"Police officers making the ultimate sacrifice protecting people they do not know, supporting a cause springing from adverse circumstances is not ironic at all. It is the ultimate expression of what you were each called to do," he said in a statement. "You serve and protect those who cannot protect themselves, whether you agree with them or not.

"The fact that this tragedy occurred after the highly publicized loss of two lives as a result of police use of deadly force, followed by the quick judgment and public condemnation of the officers involved makes this even harder. ... There is a pervasive narrative in the country right now that people of color are at risk when they encounter the police, a narrative that is fueling the rhetoric in the national media and has inevitably led to violence toward police officers.

Woodside told his officers they can help change the narrative -- "each time you have an interaction, a conversation, a traffic stop, an arrest and every time you are required to use force in the performance of your job. Each presents you with an opportunity to dispel the expectation that someone will be treated unfairly because of the color of their skin. By treating everyone without bias you prove it wrong and you continue to earn the respect and support of our community."

• Daily Herald staff writers Lee Filas, Justin Kmitch, Madhu Krishnamurthy, Bob Susnjara, Jessica Cilella, Vanessa Daves, Justin Kmitch and Susan Sarkauskas contributed to this report.

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