Kane, DuPage sheriffs: Chicago police shortage due to vaccine mandate isn't an emergency for us

At least two suburban county sheriffs say they will send their deputies to help the Chicago Police Department only if city officers are in distress or under duress.

So they say they will not respond if Chicago is short-staffed because it has suspended officers in a dispute about a COVID-19 vaccination mandate.

"ILEAS (the Illinois Law Enforcement Alarm System) typically responds to emergency situations where there is no opportunity for planning," Kane County Sheriff Ron Hain said Tuesday. "This situation to me is much different."

"It's like a preplanned police shortage," DuPage County Sheriff James Mendrick said. "The lack of logic is the thing that astounds me."

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has said officers who don't obey the city's vaccination mandate for its workers can be suspended. The deadline to be vaccinated was Oct. 15. As of Monday, only 64% of police had reported their status. The head of the Fraternal Order of Police lodge representing city officers has told officers they don't have to obey the mandate. The union is suing the city.

The Illinois Law Enforcement Alarm System is a statewide mutual aid system. On Monday, one of its leaders emailed officials in 13 suburban police departments, including those in Libertyville, Glen Ellyn, Elgin, Barrington, Batavia and Lisle, asking the departments about their availability to aid Chicago in an emergency.

Chicago has not asked for any help.

The message stated suburban agencies would not be asked to routinely patrol the city or answer calls for service. It said Illinois State Police and the Cook County sheriff's office would be assigned patrol tasks if needed.

Lake County Sheriff John D. Idleburg said his priority is to keep Lake County safe but that he routinely assists agencies outside Lake County.

"If there is a qualifying emergency situation and emergency assistance is requested, we will deploy personnel to assist, so long as we are able to maintain adequate staffing levels to keep the Lake County community safe," Idleburg said.

Hain said the city of Chicago has not supported its police officers.

"So now they are bleeding that out to us," Hain said. "This is all begotten by a lack of planning and support of the Chicago Police Department."

Hain said he is also concerned about criminal liabilities his officers might face if they shoot someone, or are accused of using excessive force, in Chicago.

He said he fears the officers would be subject to a different standard of review by the Cook County state's attorney because the Chicago department is operating under a federal consent decree requiring reform of the department's abuses.

Mendrick likened a request for nonemergency help to the Chicago Bears football team suspending all its players and asking the Green Bay Packers to play for them.

The players wouldn't know the coaches or the playbook, he said. So if trouble develops, "put them (the Chicago officers) back in the game," Mendrick said.

He said he has 12 vacancies in his department. So his ability to help depends on who he has and what the specific emergency is. Typically it would be a SWAT team assisting, Hain and Mendrick said. But agencies can ask ILEAS for patrol officers, search dogs, drone teams and other help.

Neither Hain nor Mendrick requires their deputies to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

That could mean, Mendrick said, that Chicago could end up with unvaccinated DuPage deputies helping, which doesn't make sense to him given that Lightfoot wants vaccinated officers. "Only one of these two things can be true," he said.

Kane County Sheriff Ron Hain
  DuPage County Sheriff James Mendrick Joe Lewnard/, 2019
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