The Hinsdale and Clarendon Hills police departments may merge services in the future, according to releases Thursday from both villages.
The two villages are discussing combining service for the sake of operational cost savings and a long-term manpower reduction. The merge discussion is in an early phase, according to the releases, and both sides are focused on the “operational and logistical challenges” of such a move.
“In this difficult economic time, the Villages of Clarendon Hills and Hinsdale are committed to looking at new and innovative ways to achieve the high level of services our communities demand,” Clarendon Hills Village President Tom Karaba is quoted in the Clarendon Hills release as saying.
In the Hinsdale release, Village President Tom Cauley makes a similar statement.
"We believe that consolidation of the Hinsdale and Clarendon Hills police departments will result in significant cost savings to both communities and will provide greater job security to police department employees without in any way compromising the first-rate police services that Hinsdale now enjoys."
There's no specific time frame on the merge, according to Chief Brad Bloom.
"We're in the perfect position to do this," he said. "We're not facing huge [immediate] budget shortfalls, but we can't continue to operate under this organizational structure."
The chief said he'd be concerned about quality issues if the merge had to be figured out quickly.
The two police departments regionally share dispatch and tactical response teams, and they assist one another on major investigations already.
Bloom said his department has dealt with budget reductions by laying off two officers in 2010, leaving one position unfilled, converting some positions from full-time to part-time, and increasing its volunteer force.
"We think we’ve gotten as lean as we can be without affecting the services we provide and lessening the quality of the service we provide," Bloom said. "We think [a merger] is the next natural step going forward."
Both releases said the departments have been considering the merge for the past six months, "given the communities’ similar demographics and strong working relationship." The two villages’ fire departments have had an automatic aid agreement since 2010.
There will be obstacles to overcome should the merger idea go forward. Village leaders and police union leaders will both have to be convinced of a merger’s benefits. Bloom said the unions were brought in as a stakeholder early in the process.
"Certainly communication in something like this is key," Bloom said.
He said he does not think any officers will be laid off as a direct result from the merge. Instead, the new department would reach its optimal number through "attrition and people retiring."
The Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority (www.icjia.state.il.us/public/) will provide research and legal assistance to the merger effort.
Bloom did not speculate on what the potential department would be named. Will it be Hinsdale-Clarendon Hills Police or Clarendon Hills-Hinsdale?
"That’s way down the line," the chief said with a chuckle. "That’s not something we’re concerned about yet."