Supply chain issues leave police facing long waits for new patrol vehicles
If you've shopped for a car recently, you know the pickings are slim. Supplies of new vehicles have been limited by COVID-19-related staffing issues at factories, increased demand from consumers, shipping delays for raw materials and, especially, a shortage of semiconductor computer chips.
For some of our law enforcement agencies, which can't go pick just any vehicle off the lot, the shortages are hitting hard.
The Lake County sheriff's office is still waiting on a vehicle it ordered in December 2020, according to Deputy Chief Christopher Covelli, and nine others ordered earlier this year.
"This delay begins to cause a strain on our fleet, as our deputies generally travel around 100-150 miles per shift, each day they work a patrol district," he told us.
For sheriff's deputies, squad vehicles are more than just a mode of transportation -- they're the office. So, it's important they're up-to-date and in top shape.
"Traditional employees working out of an actual office, or from home, have dedicated spaces. Our dedicated space is our squad car," Covelli said. "Our deputies take extreme care of their assigned squad, and it is one of their most important tools and resources they use to keep the community safe."
We polled a handful of other suburban agencies and found a mixed bag. Most have seen some delays in vehicle deliveries but say they've managed to keep it from hurting operations.
"The new vehicles have come in much slower than in prior years, but we have been able to maintain the fleet," Kane County Undersheriff Patrick Gengler said.
Arlington Heights Chief Nicholas Pecora said his department hasn't had any issues with the deliveries of its primary patrol vehicle, the Ford Intercepter. But a Chevrolet Tahoe ordered as a forensic truck "has been delayed, delayed, delayed, delayed."
On the other hand, Sugar Grove Chief Patrick Rollins told his village board in September that he couldn't get the Fords he wanted because of production delays. He instead found 2021 Chevy Tahoes that an area dealership ordered as extras when it was ordering vehicles for other departments.
But there have been delays in obtaining aftermarket add-ons, such as emergency lights, sirens, radios, in-car cameras and prisoner compartments. By the time those Tahoes are fully outfitted, they will cost $74,685 apiece.
Lake Zurich Chief Steve Husak told us his department has avoided the problem by deferring new vehicle purchases at the start of the year as a cost-saving measure.
"Now that we have seen the supply chain issues come up, I am glad our timing worked out," he said.
Des Plaines cops honored
The Des Plaines City Council gave four police officers Life Saving Awards this week for rescuing two people in separate incidents earlier this year.
Officer Robert Hanson received the award for his efforts while responding to a medical emergency March 28.
City officials said Hanson was called to a home on Michael Road, where he was told a man was ill and needed CPR. After finding the man lying on the floor and not breathing, Hanson performed chest compressions.
After about a minute, the man gasped loudly for air and began breathing again.
Officers Alyce Anderson, Ryan Kolk and Adam Sweeney received the award for rescuing a suicidal subject on Feb. 20.
According to police, the man had locked himself in a hotel room, so Kolk, using a Des Plaines Fire Department ladder, entered the room through a second-story window and, then joined by his fellow officers, was able to prevent the man from ending his life.
"These officers' quick thinking during stressful, rapidly evolving situations is a credit to their training and dedication to service," police officials said in an announcement of the awards this week.
Inmate sues sheriff
The Lake County sheriff's office was hit with a federal lawsuit last week from a county jail inmate who alleges he was coerced into a sexual relationship with a correctional officer.
The inmate, whom we're not naming because of the nature of the claims, identifies himself as the person who had two encounters with now former officer Elizabeth Blomstrand in late 2020.
Blomstrand, 40, of Gurnee, resigned from the sheriff's office in December amid an investigation into her conduct. In August, she was charged with two counts of custodial sexual misconduct and two counts of official misconduct. She's since pleaded not guilty to the felony charges and is due back in court Nov. 22.
The inmate -- who's in jail awaiting trial on first-degree murder charges -- claims in his lawsuit that Blomstrand used her authority as an officer to force him to perform sexual favors. His suit asks a court to award him what it believes acceptable for his "pain and suffering and the psychological damage and emotional damage it has caused."
Covelli said the office had not yet been served with the lawsuit but the criminal investigation into Blomstrand did not reveal evidence of coercion.
"Nonetheless, the sheriff's offices prides itself on our core values," he said. "The actions of the former correctional officer were completely unacceptable, illegal, and not even close to being in-line with our values, which is why Sheriff (John) Idleburg immediately commenced a simultaneous internal investigation and criminal investigation, and the former correctional officer resigned when she received notice of those investigations."
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