While giving his most recent monthly update on activities within the police department, Police Chief Shane Woody on July 25 focused for a bit on a new hurdle he and the command staff were encountering as they continued trying to fill patrol vacancies.

But first, he called attention to a life-saving effort that involved a rescue from the Kishwaukee River.

He said a woman was reported to have jumped into the river in an attempt to commit suicide. Both the police and fire departments responded with police Sgt. Paul Deery and Officer Ethan Berillo jumping into the river and being able to get ahold of the woman. They kept her afloat until the fire department was able to get there, and all of them were extricated from the water and pulled the woman to safety.

He offered no additional information other than to say details of the incident continued to be under investigation.

In addition, over the prior month, Woody said officers made a traffic stop during which they encountered a known drug dealer. They ultimately seized $6,600 in cash, which now is going through the asset forfeiture process. If it’s awarded, the police will receive 65 percent of those proceeds, or $4,290.

Also, he said: Officer Robert Kozlowski had returned from canine training on July 8 and was rotated back into shift coverage, on the road. The new canine, for which he is the handler, is undergoing training with the state police for certifications in drug, aggression and tracking.

The annual softball game between the police and fire departments will be held Sunday (Aug. 21) at 2 p.m. at Sunstrand Park, 2288 Newburg Road. The game is free and open to the public with Woody inviting residents to come out and “watch the police department win again.” There was no immediate response, which caused him to add, “That was supposed to be funny … but it’s a historical fact.”

Filling vacancies

The chief continued his update with a report on “our personnel situation.”

“We have three officers on medical (leave), one for 10 weeks, one for 12 weeks, one currently for six weeks with a six-week extension,” he said. Also, there is a vacancy for Sgt. David Dammon, who retired in May, and the probationary officer who didn’t make it through the field training part of the process. And just recently, he said, the department learned of the resignation of Officer Berillo, who left effective Aug. 4 to join the suburban Crystal Lake Police Department.

Beyond that, he said one officer, who has been on deployment with the National Guard since January, is due back in November of this year. And one officer has returned to work from family leave—he had been caring for a sick spouse—but that return could be “on again, off again depending on conditions.”

The department currently is in the process of testing for entry-level candidates, which introduced the new hurdle being faced by the department in filling patrol vacancies.

Woody explained it this way: “My last count we had eight applicants and six turned them (applications) back in. We typically have enjoyed 50-100 applicants at one particular time. So, this is just an example of the current trend of what is happening throughout the profession. I’ve never seen entry-level numbers like this. So we’ll be struggling through that for the time being.”

Bottom line is “we may have to re-evaluate our recruiting and see what we can do to try and enhance that,” he said.

There recently was a fire and police commission meeting, he continued. The department is going through the lateral hiring process for one experienced applicant who successfully completed the polygraph as well as the interview, and will be moving on to the psychological and medical steps. “So,” he added, “depending on how he does with that, we could have the potential of hiring a lateral candidate maybe sometime in August.”

Speed trailer

Before moving on with his update, Woody took a question from Alderman Marsha Freeman about the possibility of getting another speed trailer, which she raised at a recent meeting.

“We are currently looking at getting information on that, the cost and if there’s one on state bid,” he replied. “So we are still looking at that.”

Freeman initially raised the question in response to reports she had received about ongoing speeding on the streets of a neighborhood in town, and methods of better keeping it under control.

The chief concluded his report with an update on the department’s fleet of squad cars. “We are still waiting on four squad cars that have been approved through this year’s budget process,” he said. “But according to the dealership, the 2023s aren’t even being priced yet, and there’s no expected timeframe when we could possibly get them.”

And of cars still in service, he said one of them was completely down with a blown engine.

There only was one more question from among committee members, that being Alderman Wendy Frank, who asked how long Officer Berillo had been with the department before submitting his resignation?

“Nine years,” Woody replied.

Fire equipment

Fire Chief Shawn Schadle also had an update during that meeting and after he was done, there were several items on the agenda calling for the purchase of new equipment.

One had to do with using proceeds from a $20,000 public safety grant received from General Mills, with which to buy equipment and supplies to help mitigate hazardous incidents, and an electronic sign for fire station No. 2 at 353 E. 6th St.

First off, Schadle said buying the sign had been canceled due to the estimated cost of $30,000 and limited reach of information on the sign. He said he contacted Jeremy Johnson, grants administrator at General Mills, and received permission to use the balance of the grant to send two firefighters to become certified hazardous material technicians.

The purchase of hazardous materials incident mitigation supplies and related equipment would cost $8,237.31, the chief said. That left a balance of $11,762.69, which now is earmarked for tuition for training the two as hazmat technicians ($3,600) and estimated overtime to cover their absence from work ($8,000), totaling $19,837.31.

Aldermen without discussion unanimously recommended the revised expenditure of the vast majority of the General Mills grant for those purposes. City council concurred in an 8-0 vote of final approval, at its Aug. 1 meeting.

Secondly, a dramatic increase in cost has prompted the department to buy a new fire engine that is stock and not custom-built, to Belvidere Fire Department specifications, as had been the case in the past with replacement apparatus. The new engine, due for delivery during the winter of 2022-23, does not have a master stream deck gun that has been deemed necessary for this truck. Cost is $5,314, with the expense being split between the department and its 2 percent foreign fire insurance fund.

The committee without discussion unanimously recommended purchase of the equipment for the new engine. City council agreed, also without discussion, in an 8-0 vote of final approval on Aug. 1.

Finally, the department received approval to replace the existing hydraulic cutter and spreader that currently is mounted on engine 102. This tool, which is used to extricate victims from severe car crashes, will be attached to the new engine when it arrives later this year. It will be replacing a spreader that is 26 years old and a cutter that is 20 years old.

“We anticipated this purchase and we have budgeted $19,668 for the purchase as a capital expenditure,” Schadle said in a memo to the mayor and council.

He also said the current equipment has increased portability, with its cutting and spreading capabilities having been improved significantly over older models. Yet the new tool is “exactly similar to those purchased in 2017 that are in use on 101,” he added.

Three bids were received for the Hurst unit, ranging from a low of $19,093 from MacQueen, to a high of $28,019 from Bergeron/Curtis. The committee unanimously and without discussion approved the recommendation to buy from MacQueen, as did city council, also unanimously and without discussion, one week later.

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