Elgin chief seeks to add more cops while balancing competing views on makeup of the force
Elgin Police Chief Ana Lalley wants to hire four officers to bring the department back up to maximum strength.
The push for staffing follows a slew of recent and expected retirements and against the backdrop of a task force contemplating ways to improve how Black and Hispanic residents view local policing.
Lalley discussed the recruitment effort during her weekly radio show Friday. The city's budget allows the department to have up to 184 officers. Recent retirements, including several officers leaving for promotions in other police departments, put staffing at 180 officers.
Lalley is juggling competing pressures. Residents continue to express frustration about the number of gunfire incidents in the city, which now stands at 59 for the year. That's close to the total of 62 gunfire incidents that occurred in all of 2020.
Other residents believe the department could reduce staffing even further if more social workers and addiction counselors were deployed to address underlying causes for some of the most common 911 calls.
Some of the reduction is organic with the retirements that have already occurred and those expected in the next couple of years. Lalley also said on her show that recruiting new officers is proving to be more difficult than past efforts.
"Our applications were absolutely down from years in the past," Lalley said. "I'm not surprised. It's something other agencies are experiencing."
Lalley said the department is younger than it has been. While new energy is good, the loss of veteran officers also means losing a lot of relationships those experienced officers formed through years of being in the community.
That makes attracting the right candidates to the city even more important, she said.
"My hope is the people who are coming forward now, they want to be here for the right reasons," she said. "I want to make the community better. I want to change things I believe should be changed. You have to make sure people have good hearts, good heads and understand the bigger picture of life."