Reforms coming to troubled police departments

News-DemocratOctober 25, 2013 

The newly established Metro East Police District Commission has completed a first draft of in-depth reforms for operations of four local police departments.

The detailed reforms are a top to bottom codification of law enforcement best practices that sets policies and procedures for a broad range of law enforcement functions from officer integrity, arrest procedures and training to specific investigative techniques and evidence retention, as well as routine towing procedures and equipment inventory, according to commission chairman Calvin Dye.

The district includes Alorton, Brooklyn, East Saint Louis and Washington Park. A nearly 500-page policies and procedures manual being considered by the commission is the result of input from the four police chiefs, the St. Clair County State's Attorney's Office, leaders and citizens from the four communities, law enforcement experts serving on the commission and consultants from the federal Department of Justice.

Most police departments across the country have detailed departmental policy manuals. Alorton, Brooklyn, East Saint Louis and Washington Park either have no policies or policies which are over a decade out of date, Dye said.

"State and federal grants or private funds will not be coming unless those funding agencies see that there are strong standards and controls in place," Dye said. "And the chiefs and officials in the departments will use these strong and straightforward policies as the foundation to train their officers and hold them accountable."

State's Attorney Brendan Kelly said the policy standards will help police in the four departments to better do their jobs.

"This goes a long way in confronting the issues of police ethics and troubled investigations these departments have struggled with for decades," Kelly said. "In the face of so much violent crime, daily operations tend to break down without clear policies. It's hard to ask the officers in these departments to do things by the book when for years there has been no book."

The policy manual establishes procedures for the investigation of crimes. The proposed reforms also sets an officer code of ethics, rules on nepotism, conflicts of interest, inspections of vehicles and equipment, and routine traffic operations.

"It will really be a great tool for me and to train my guys how to do things the right way," said Brooklyn Chief of Police Tony Tomlinson.

The commission will complete its final review this month and will place the new policy on the November meeting agenda for consideration and approval by the full commission.

"There are a lot of cynics who think good law enforcement is impossible in these four communities," Kelly said, "but I think the local leaders who have been part of the collaboration of the commission are really stepping up and will prove them wrong."

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