Casstevens talks about police reforms, meeting with Barr
By Charles Keeshan and Susan Sarkauskas
Buffalo Grove Police Chief Steve Casstevens' year as president of the International Association of Police Chiefs formally ended this fall, but his opportunities to rub elbows with the nation's top leaders in the halls of American power aren't done yet.
That included a trip last weekend to Washington, D.C., where he attended a Christmas party at the White House. And on his way out of town, he met Monday with Attorney General William Barr -- shortly before it was announced that Barr had tendered his resignation -- and gave him a handful of cigars and bottle of "Justice" bourbon.
We checked in with Casstevens on Thursday to ask him about the visit. After that is part two of our earlier Q&A with the chief about his experiences guiding the world's largest association of law enforcement leaders.
Part one is here.
Q: You met with Attorney General Barr on the day his resignation was announced. Did that ever come up in your discussions or was it business as usual?
A: No, it didn't come up. We've known each other for a little while, so it wasn't really a business meeting or a policy discussion meeting for the two of us. This was just a one-on-one, personal meeting, just kind of telling him thanks for all he's done working with IACP during my presidency. And I dropped off a Christmas gift to him, as you probably saw, and that was it.
Q: We talked about some of the criticisms of law enforcement raised this year that you don't agree with. What critiques came up this year that you believe were fair or valid?
A: I was one of the first ones that came out with a statement after the George Floyd incident. That clearly should have never happened. That was reprehensible, and any police officer who thought that that wasn't a problem shouldn't be a police officer. The fact is that there are 850,000 or so police officers across the U.S. People forget that they all come from the same human race as every other professional. Just because a human puts on a police uniform doesn't make them instantly a bad person. And that's the thing I struggle with that there are people out there that despise the law enforcement profession as a whole. I'll be the first to tell you -- and every police chief and every police officer will be the first to tell you -- the person who hates a bad cop more than anybody is a good cop. And nobody wants a bad cop working with them. And so, do we have police officers in our profession who maybe shouldn't be in our profession? Absolutely, same as any other profession, by the way. Our profession is just more in the spotlight and under scrutiny than any other profession on the planet.
Q: What initiatives has the IACP launched in the last year to address the issues raised?
A: When the conversations came out about neck restraints and chokeholds and things like that, the IACP had already published a consensus use of force policy. And the reason it was called a consensus use of force policy is because we came to consensus with 10 other entities, including the Fraternal Order of Police, the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives and numerous other law enforcement-related entities. We all agreed on a model and use-of-force policy. And one of the things in that policy was chokeholds of any kind are absolutely prohibited, unless it's a life-or-death situation for an officer, where deadly force would otherwise be authorized. And so we came out with that consensus use-of-force policy that prohibited chokeholds, and we put that out to all of our membership.
Q: You referenced this earlier and it's something we spoke about before you became IACP president, and that was your goal of making efforts to reduce officer suicides a priority for your presidency. Were you able to address that?
A: We were able to address all three of my priorities, but certainly not to the level that I wanted to. We got a grant from the Department of Justice and we were able to put together a national consortium on preventing law enforcement suicide. It was a group of about 40 multidisciplinary experts in law enforcement, in mental health and in suicide prevention. We led that conversation with this group, and then let them break out into different focus groups to determine how we should address this issue and (provide) tools and resources to assist police leaders and officers and their families. Toward the end of my presidency, that group finally came together and published a paper, which is on the IACP website, on the tools to address police officer suicides. I'm hoping that law enforcement leaders will use this and then we'll be able to see those numbers come down, because they've been rising every year for the past six years
Q: In recent years there's been a shortage of new police recruits. Has 2020 made it even worse?
A: Yeah, it has been worse. There's no shortage of news stories of massive retirements from departments like New York and (Los Angeles) and Seattle. There are a percentage of officers that feel like they're not being supported by their community, and they've made a decision to move on and go to another profession. It is tough to recruit officers, because of everything that you see in the media, and so many vocal people with such vitriol against the law enforcement professionals. There are a lot of people who are second-guessing and going in different directions, but at the same time, I believe that this is probably one of the best times to become a cop, because you can get into a profession that is clearly changing right now and you can be part of that change. So that's the message that I try to get out to people. But still, we're looking at recruitment numbers across the country that are 30%, 40% of what we used to see.
Q: Now that your term is over, what are you doing with all your spare time?
A: (Laughs) I still have a great police department to run here. I'm very blessed to be working for the agency that I am. I get such great support from our elected officials and from my boss (Buffalo Grove Village Manager) Dane Bragg. I have such a great crew here, the supervisors and the officers on the Buffalo Grove Police Department. It's such a joy working here.
Santa Claus supervises DuPage County Sheriff's Lt. Mark Garcia, left, and Sheriff James Mendrick as they wrap a present to be given to the child of a DuPage County jail inmate.
- Courtesy of the DuPage County Sheriff's Office
JUST in time for Christmas
Employees and volunteers with JUST of DuPage turned a lump of coal -- the inability to have a holiday party this year -- into a blessing for children of DuPage County jail inmates.
They took the money they would have spent on a party and Secret Santa gifts and spent it on presents to give to 51 children enrolled in the jail's Story Book Program. The story program is a once-a-month program where parents detained in the jail record themselves reading a story or a chapter of a longer book. The recording is then sent to their child or children.
Workers and volunteers wrapped the presents Tuesday.
JUST provides educational, spiritual, vocational and addiction-recovery programs at the jail.
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