Police and Criminal Justice Reform Bill

Police and Criminal Justice Reform Bill,

Palos Park Police Accountability Reform Platform 

“It has been said, ‘time heals all wounds.’  I do not agree.  The wounds remain.  In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens.  But it is never gone.” Rose Kennedy.


On February 22, 2021, Governor JB Pritzker signed the Illinois Police and Criminal Justice Reform Bill.  The bill directs every municipality to review and provide a policing plan that builds mutual trust between the police and the communities that they serve. 

The Palos Park Police Department welcomes the opportunity to have open and frank conversations with members of our community about police and community interactions, as well as the police services provided. These conversations are so important to promote transparency and confidence in our department. We are proud of our history in community policing, best practices, partnerships and high standards of accountability.

Like any organization, every law enforcement agency needs a strong, healthy work culture to operate effectively. A culture of accountability in law enforcement is of particular importance.

Police departments need to create a system of internal checks and balances to make sure officers carry out their duties properly and act with integrity. Police accountability ensures that officers can work together effectively. They can trust their leadership commanders to make ethical decisions. They know their fellow officers will put the needs of the department and the public ahead of personal interests. A culture of accountability in law enforcement also builds trust between the police and the community.

The following is an overview of the Palos Park Police Department. It summarizes some of our efforts to provide professional police services in a manner that protects public safety with respect and dignity for all persons.    

  Joe Miller, Chief of Police 

The Village of Palos Park Police Department commits to develop and institute police reform as per Governor Pritzker’s authorization under his signing of the Illinois Police and Criminal Justice Reform Bill.   

As an organization, our department has reached out to gain input from residents and stake holders in the community to work together in an effort to answer the call for police reform.  We thank our many community members, local residents and members of our assorted advisory committees for all of their input and efforts.

We believe that through open and honest communication between the Palos Park Police Department and the public, mutual trust and respect is maintained by a process of implementing open frank dialogue.  To meet that end, 

          We publish our all Palos Park police policies on the Palos Park Village website.

Increase training of our officers in areas of bias and de-escalation techniques.

Updated our officers on recent regulations regarding strangulation and a duty to intercede.

Gaining civilian input through an our many community programs outreach partnerships.

          Tracking all statistical data / analysis of officer contacts.

Dedicated staff to deal with non-criminal incidents and to interact drug addiction, mental health, and of the community crisis needs.

          Provide all statistical data on use of force, complaints and summonses.

The Palos Park Police Department continues to strive to be a model for what local-suburban policing should be. Our goal has been to constantly change, and adapt to the needs of the residents and visitors through patrol, investigations, supervisors, administrators, Community Service Officers, and Cadets fostering a Community-Oriented Leadership, Culture and Accountability Institutional thesis.  

This starts with this culture being of the utmost importance to those in command to maintain consistency between that culture and the goals of the department. Effective policy and strong leadership will ensure that these goals are in line with the goals of the community. Departmental culture must promote the pursuit of those goals with honesty and integrity. Members must be held accountable when deviations result in misconduct. Timely and transparent addressing of this misconduct must take place in order to keep community confidence that abuses will not be tolerated.

Employing Smart and Effective Policing Standards and Strategies

Effective policing cannot be done without the support of those which are served. The standards and strategies implemented by the police department must be in line with what is expected by the community. As stated above, these standards and strategies must be imposed by the leadership and properly executed to create a police culture in line with the joint goals of the department and community. By doing this, we can reliably ensure that the individual interactions between the police department and the public will help to create a foundation of positive, trust-based relationships and advance the goals of protecting the community.

When it comes to police-community relations, the individual interactions which occur countless times each day have the largest impact. The personnel of a department are the most crucial aspect to the relationship built between the department and the community. Knowing this, recruitment of new officers, retention of quality officers and continued training are some of the most important aspects of a police department. 

We utilize the concepts of community-based outreach and conflict resolution as a vehicle to address the particular needs of the community through a police agency promoting community engagement to foster trust, fairness, and legitimacy. Implementing community-based services to assist victims and offenders by responding to their emotional and physical needs, officers can more likely to overcome barriers and enhance comprehensive community restoration. 

By increasing the availability of Police Officers in the community puts a focus on increasing and strengthening community relationships to provide more comprehensive services and responses to citizens in a geographic area. Community-based outreach and conflict resolution allows police agencies to provide education to the communities to increase crime awareness, advise of the services offered, and enhance collaboration and trust through proactive outreach.

We have found success in addressing ongoing conflicts by using nontraditional methods. They have already addressed many neighbor disputes by using mediation tactics instead of traditional enforcement. Finding the source of the problem and correcting it has proven to obtain the desired end result of problem solving and limiting the future need for police intervention.

We continue outreach and conversation with residents and leaders to build a better department through outreach so we can have a clear view what the residents want from their local police agency.  Additionally following up with residents to ensure their needs have been met to see if there is anything else the police department can offer.  

The Palos Park Police department maintains Facebook and other social media platforms featured on the Village’s website to promote transparency, allow insight to the daily operations and act as an avenue for communication. 

We use a problem-oriented policing requires the careful analysis of issues to design tailor-made solutions response to similar obstacles. Police officers identify potential matters of concern, analyze the issue using a variety of data sources, design and implement response strategies, and assess the success of the strategies. Officers work closely with citizens to address crime concerns and quality-of-life issues.

The use of force by law enforcement officers that is necessary and permitted under specific circumstances, such as in self-defense or in defense of another individual or group. The use of force requires a police officer to quickly tailor a response to a threatening situation and apply appropriate force if necessary. Situational awareness is essential, as is training to judge when a crisis requires the use of force to regain control. Police Officers should only use the amount of force necessary to mitigate an incident, make an arrest, or protect themselves or others from harm.

The use of force by members of law enforcement is a matter of utmost concern both to the public and the law enforcement community itself. When faced with a situation where the use of force is objectively reasonable under the circumstances, the guiding values of members for the Village of Palos Park Police Department shall be those principles set forth, as well as the paramount objective of reverence for the sanctity of human life. In all cases, the primary duty of all Members of the Department is to protect human life and provide for the safety of the community. 

The reasonableness of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene. Whenever feasible and consistent with personal and public safety, members should de-escalate the use of force once a particular threat and/or resistance has dissipated. The progression of force goes from verbal, physical, non-lethal, impact and firearm. Officers are trained to recognize that this progression can go in both directions from escalation to de-escalation as the situation evolves. To determine the objective reasonableness of force, members shall consider the following factors:

1. the severity of the crime or circumstances;

2. the level and immediacy of the threat or resistance posed by the suspect;

3. the potential for injury to citizens, officers, and suspects;

4. the risk or attempt of the suspect to escape;

5. the knowledge, training, and experience of the officer;

6. officer/suspect considerations such as age, size, relative strength, skill level, injury or exhaustion, and the number of officers and subjects;

7. other environmental conditions or exigent circumstances.

Members of the Department who witness another Member of the Department using force that he/she believes to be clearly beyond what is objectively reasonable are duty bound to intervene to prevent the use of unreasonable force if and when he/she has a realistic opportunity to prevent harm.

Members of the Department who observe another member using force that exceeds the use of what is objectively reasonable shall promptly report these observations to his/her supervisor. In every situation, Members of the Department are expected to act with intelligence and employ sound judgment in furtherance of the spirit of this policy. The use of non-lethal types of force should be considered during any encounter, it is recognized that the use of deadly force may be the only viable option available at times.

The Palos Park Police Department understands that in order to embolden our relationship with the community we serve; we must promote further transparency, especially with matters of use of force. 

To ensure PPPD Officers are aware of recent legislation and policy changes regarding use of force, this topic will be covered during in-service training.

Complaint Tracking and Transparency

Alleged acts of misconduct must be investigated and the results of the investigation must be reduced to a written report. The investigating officer shall summarize the pertinent facts including:

1. An abstract (summary) of the complaint or alleged act of misconduct.

2. Pertinent portions of the statements of all parties to the incident.

3. A description of the incident, physical evidence and other evidence important to the case.

4. The observations and conclusions of the investigating officer.

All complainants, no matter where or how lodged, are promptly reviewed. Investigations are conducted by supervisors, followed by multiple layers of review before findings are approved.  Interviews with the complainant and available witnesses, and collect and review all evidentiary material is key. At the completion of the investigation, findings are provided to complainants who elect to provide their contact information. 

Depending on the nature of the activity, repercussions for substantiated complaints range from verbal discipline and retraining.  Officers that engage in activity which may contain criminality, are screened by the Cook County States Attorney’s Office for evaluation and if necessary, prosecution. 

Officers that engage in excessive force may find themselves in criminal, civil and civil rights proceedings. Members found guilty of criminal activity are subject to the same sanctions and penalties imposed by the law as the civilian population. Founded investigations for violation of rules or regulations are referred to the Department’s Command Staff and police staff legal counsel for consideration of discipline, which is ultimately determined by the Command staff.

We issue an annual report on civilian complaints and this report includes the nature of the complaint along with details and the investigative findings.

In addition to the annual civilian complaint report, and to further the transparency into the actions taken by our police officers, the department will also release bi-annual data regarding use of force.  All officers have responsibility when faced with misconduct observed by themselves or other officers. 

Whenever command or supervisory officers observe or are informed of the misconduct of other departmental employees, which indicates the need for disciplinary action, they shall take authorized and necessary action and render a complete report, in writing of the incident and their actions to the Chief of Police or other Command Staff officer

The actions of members of the department off-duty can have drastic effects on the perception of the department as a whole. It is clear that the perception, whether justified or not, must be considered in the department’s ability to achieve its overall goal in crime prevention. “Police officers are the most conspicuous representatives of government, and to the majority of the people, they are symbols of stability and authority upon whom they can rely. 

All Palos Park officers' conduct is closely scrutinized, and when their actions are found to be excessive, unwarranted, or unjustified, such actions are criticized far more severely than comparable conduct of persons in other professions. Since the conduct of officers, on or off duty may reflect directly upon the Department, officers must always conduct themselves in a manner which does not bring discredit to themselves, the Department, or the village.

The Village of Palos Park Police Department understands procedural justice and police legitimacy play an essential role in establishing a positive relationship with the community. Police legitimacy exists when the public views the police as authorized to exercise power to maintain social order, manage conflicts, and solve problems in the community. We have established long-lasting community partnerships when the public has confidence in the morality of the police and in its ability to safeguard the communities it serves. 

The ability to maintain procedural justice directly impacts the public’s willingness to defer to the authority of law enforcement and reaffirms their belief that police actions are morally justified and appropriate. The public reacts favorably when they believe officers are sincerely trying to act on behalf of the best interests of the citizens with whom they interact. 

Procedural justice policing has the potential to facilitate the role of citizens as agents of social control. When officers are perceived as legitimate, there is less resistance to their actions and greater potential for compliance without the use of force, making officers more effective at policing. Officers reduce racial disparities and build trust by promoting engagement over enforcement.

The Palos Park Police Department prescribes to four principles that are fair in process, transparent in actions, providing opportunity for voice and being impartial in decision making. Officers are reminded to give others a voice. People want to be able to explain their situation or tell their side of the story to the Officer. The opportunity for the citizen to make arguments and present evidence should occur before the Officer decides how they are going to resolve the encounter. It is imperative to remain neutral in order to achieve impartial decision making. 

Consistency in decision making must be achieved at all times. Decisions need to be reasoned, objective and factually driven. Transparency and openness regarding the rules and procedures being employed to make decisions facilitates the perception of neutrality. 

It is important we as an organization right our wrongs, when appropriate: we admit it, apologize for it, and work to correct it. Pride should not get in the way of doing the right thing. Respect is an active process of engaging people from all backgrounds in a non-judgmental manner. Respectful treatment is practiced to increase our awareness and effectiveness. Individuals are sensitive to whether they are treated with dignity and politeness and to whether their rights are being respected. People may not remember the details but they will remember how they feel around the Officer. 

Racial justice in policing is the concept that racial bias impairs the perceptions, judgment, and behavior of police personnel and obstructs the ability of police agencies to protect and serve the communities in a fair and just manner. The missions of a law enforcement agency are only effective when it incorporates the experience, judgment, knowledge, and energy from a wide spectrum of racial, ethnic, economic, and geographic backgrounds. In order to succeed in these missions, police officers must earn and retain the trust and confidence of the citizens in how they fulfill their responsibilities as custodians of justice. Police officers must earn and retain the trust and confidence of citizens in order to effectively fulfill their responsibilities in preserving peace.

The Palos Park Police Department does not condone racial profiling and Members of the Department will not engage in racial profiling. Racial profiling undermines the efforts of law enforcement by causing a loss of respect for the law and a loss of creditability for the Department. Even the perception of racial profiling creates a distrust that discourages participation in the criminal justice system. Racial profiling occurs when a police officer relies on race or ethnicity as the primary basis for law enforcement action such as a traffic stop, pedestrian stop or request for a consent search. 

A Fourth Amendment basis to stop does not legitimize stops which are initiated essentially because of race or ethnicity. Discriminatory or bias-based stops, searches and arrests are strictly prohibited. Such stops can cause deep cynicism about fairness and the legitimacy of law enforcement and the judicial system. 

All members of the Palos Park Police Department apply the golden rule in all of their law enforcement contacts with the public. If the facts and circumstances were exactly the same and you were standing in the other person's shoes, would you genuinely feel that you had been treated fairly, courteously and properly?

We ensure respect for individual dignity. Individual dignity is highly valued in a free society and all persons have a right to dignified and respectful treatment under the law. Respect for individual dignity is an obligation that all Department Members must consider in their daily contacts with the public. The Police Department attempts to treat all persons with dignity and respect as individuals, and to exercise additional patience and understanding where language or cultural differences might be encountered.

We operate on the standard of proof of reasonable suspicion. Reasonable suspicion is defined as a quantum of knowledge sufficient to induce an ordinary prudent and cautious man under the circumstances to believe criminal activity is at hand. Factors to establish suspicion are: time of day, day of week, season, sights and sounds, proximity to scene, presence at scene, carrying objects associated with criminal activity, clothing or disguises, description, furtive gestures, change direction or flight, independent knowledge, training and experience, and evasive, false, inconsistent statements. 

This standard is reached through an officers training and experience and is based on a number of the aforementioned factors that are observed by the Officer to get him to conduct a field stop. In order for an officer to frisk a field stop subject, the officer must reasonably suspect he is in danger of physical injury. Officers can frisk for weapons and only weapons during this encounter unless the subject gives consent to search for evidence. Frisk of an individual is never automatic and only undertaken to pat down for items that can harm Officers.

To demonstrate the Police Department’s commitment to fair and equitable policing and to provide unbiased and professional police service to every member of the community, the Palos Park Police Department utilizes a Traffic Stop / Pedestrian Stop field interview report. This requires officers to record the gender and race/ethnicity of the person(s) subject to field stops. Officers are also required to record a disposition indicating if the person(s) stopped were issued court notices /tickets, warned, no police action was taken, interviewed, indicate if a case was generated, a search was made or if an arrest was made. By tracking demographics in this capacity, the Department can ensure there will be no biases and disparities in ticketing.

Department Quantitative numbers reflect a year of COVID: 2020

•             Service Calls / Incidents / Events                       48, 630

•             Arrest Adult / Juvenile                                       55 / 1

•             Local Adjudication Violations                               687

•             Written Warning                                                 647

•             Moving Violations                                              2018

•             Verbal Warnings                                                 468


Department Qualitative:

Efficiency and Daily Accountability   

Active Partnerships: ILEAS, Region 4 MFF, SWMCT, SWMCU, SWCD, South Suburban Chiefs, 5th District Detectives, FBI Law Enforcement Executive development

Department Qualitative:

•             Levels of Fear

•             Levels of Satisfaction

•             Fairness

•             Courteousness

The Palos Park Police Department and our partner, Cook County Emergency Dispatch (CCSPD 911) records response times from the time the call is received until the first police officer arrives on scene using a Computer Aided-Dispatch system.

Needless to say a key factor in response time is the number of officers in the field.  Our staffing varies predicated on peak times and historical data on demands, between a low of 2 officers to a high of 4 officers.       FY2020                          High 5:17      Low      5:02

Uniform Crime Reporting Statistics

Part One Crime Per 1,000 Residents:

•             FY2018:  0 Robbery     4 Burglary      57 Thefts      61 Part one offenses

•             FY2019   0 Robbery     9 Burglary       38Thefts      47 Part one offenses

•             FY2020   1 Robbery     5 Burglary      35 Thefts       44 Part one offenses