Village Leaders Visit Springfield to Discuss Police Merger
Two village managers and a village president took questions from the State House's Cities and Villages Committee on a proposed bill that would make a full merge legal; the Fraternal Order of Police is currently opposing the bill.
The villages of Hinsdale and Clarendon Hills hope legislation is in place by the end of the Illinois General Assembly’s current session that will allow the two municipalities to merge police departments, according to Hinsdale village manager David Cook, who was among the three local officials that visited Springfield last week to take questions on the villages’ proposed bill.
On March 6, Cook, Clarendon Hills village manager Randy Recklaus, and Clarendon Hills Village President Tom Karaba took questions from the State House’s Cities and Villages Committee on their proposed legislation, which would legally accommodate the unprecedented full merge. The bill will need to clear the committee in order to get a House vote.
Karaba said he thought it was a successful visit.
“The feedback that I got informally was very supportive,” the village president said, while also noting that it’s going to take some work to get the bill through the House and Senate and to the desk of Gov. Pat Quinn. “This has the potential of being a difficult bill to pass simply because of the potentially controversial nature of it.”
Cook said the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) did not have the opportunity to read the bill before last week’s hearing and, because of that, currently opposes the legislation. The FOP has concerns that the villages share regarding things like pensions and collective-bargaining issues, Cook said, and the villages are working to schedule a meeting with the FOP to have further discussions.
Both Cook and Karaba used the term “neutral” to describe the police-merger bill. Cook said it’s not as much about making the Hinsdale-Clarendon Hills merger happen, but making it legal to take such an action in Illinois.
“The state’s statutes did not envision two municipal police departments merging,” Cook said.
Said Karaba, “What we’re doing is giving legal standing to that new entity.”
Hinsdale Village President Tom Cauley briefly discussed the issue during his president’s report at the Village of Hinsdale Board of Trustees on March 6. “Hopefully once we get the legislation hammered out, it [will give us] the ability to combine the two police departments and give us the ability to combine pension plans,” Cauley said.
When the villages announced the merger plan last year, both Karaba and Cauley were confident that it was something that would happen. Karaba said nothing he heard in Springfield last week “dissuaded [him] from that level of optimism.”
Even so, the village president said, there’s a lot of “give and take” to come before the legislation is in place.
“We’re not being silly here; we’re going to have to some opposition,” Karaba said.
The bill will likely get a second reading at the committee level in the weeks following the March 20 primary, Cook said. The villages hope to get the bill passed by the House and into a Senate hearing in early April, and then passed by the Senate before the current legislative session concludes at the end of May.
Hinsdale and Clarendon Hills received a $70,000 grant from the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority (ICJIA), who supports exploration of the merge, to assist the municipalities with the preliminary, legislative steps.