DuPage police form countywide task force to combat major crimes
An unprecedented sharing of resources will ensure the "best of the best" in DuPage County law enforcement responds to serious crimes and critical cases, officials say.
Authorities on Wednesday announced the creation of the Metropolitan Emergency Response and Investigation Team, or MERIT, a countywide task force formed by consolidating the Major Crimes Task Force and the Felony Investigative Assistance Team.
"Today is about public safety," State's Attorney Robert Berlin said during a news conference attended by nearly two dozen police chiefs. "The creation of a single countywide task force will improve the quality and effectiveness of investigations, result in better cases and stronger prosecutions, and make DuPage County an even safer place to live."
MERIT is the brainchild of leaders from the previous task forces and the DuPage County Chiefs of Police Association, officials said.
Sheriff James Mendrick said the vision was to share law enforcement resources across the entire county.
"That meant evolving the way we respond to major incidents," he said. "That meant streamlining a cohesive comprehensive training regiment that is consistent through all of our agencies."
Mendrick said it also meant creating a "geographical response" so authorities could respond more quickly -- and with more officers -- to major cases of violence or disaster.
"This also meant pooling all of our resources, dropping geographical boundaries, and recognizing that we can make each and every one of our citizens safer if we worked together as one," he said.
"Mass violence is drastically increasing in our entire nation," Mendrick said. "And we as law enforcement must be the very best prepared to deal with what is happening out in our world the way it is today. We must be the tip of the spear."
Officials said MERIT will include 11 operational components: crisis negotiations, SWAT, police dog response, major crash reconstruction, incident management assistance team, planned events, crime scene investigation, computer forensics, investigations, major crimes and intelligence.
Warrenville Chief Ray Turano said one of the benefits of having a task force like MERIT is that it has 300 members "that we will be able to deploy for various types of specialties."
"They will bring their expertise to bear and make sure that we put the best case forward to be prosecuted by our state's attorney, Bob Berlin," Turano said.
Membership in MERIT is limited to law enforcement agencies in DuPage. Berlin said every department in the county is participating "or hopefully will participate."
"It's a huge benefit to the community," Berlin said. "Because the community should know that when something happens, they are going to get a massive response from the best that's out there in law enforcement."