Problems in the Schaumburg Police Department extend beyond a now-disbanded unit where three officers were charged with drug dealing and include a broader deficit of effective leadership and supervision, a consultant reported Tuesday.
The consultant said the department has a strong core of good officers but recommended 55 changes in the way it operates. Among 10 key findings: The force's organizational structure needs reform, there are "key deficiencies" in some investigative practices, and the handling of disciplinary matters "is seen as ineffective by employees."
But the "greatest challenge" cited in the consultant's report was "ineffective leadership."
"Many of the department's current issues -- from discipline, communications and compartmentalization to low morale -- stem ... from a deficiency in management and reporting relationships," the report states.
The village commissioned the top-to-bottom police review, at a cost of $148,000, from former police supervisors at the Chicago consulting firm Hillard Heintze in February. That came after the department was rocked by the January arrests of three officers accused of stealing from drug dealers and selling the proceeds. The officers -- John Cichy, Matthew Hudak and Terrance O'Brien -- have all quit and are awaiting trial.
The men worked in the Special Investigations Bureau, which the village has disbanded. Interim police Chief Ken Bouche, who was hired from Hillard Heintze, said it wasn't appropriate for a midsize department like Schaumburg's to have such a high-risk undercover narcotics unit when outside anti-drug agencies or a proposed regional police group could do the job better.
The three officers' supervisor didn't have the experience or direction to scrutinize them closely enough, so cases and informants were not documented and vetted as they should have been, and some warning signs were missed, Bouche said. The report said there was no oversight of confidential informants.
More generally, the study found, the department does not use data analysis effectively to justify its staffing and investigations.
"For example," the report states, "data is reviewed in its most rudimentary form and is acted upon as if small patterns of activity (i.e. residential or vehicle burglaries) are solvable without addressing their root causes such as drugs, gang activity or juvenile misconduct."
In addition, the consultants found that employees see the handling of internal disciplinary cases as unfairly harsh, which has led officers to limit their work to avoid punishment.
One major aspect of the department leadership has already changed. Chief Brian Howerton resigned in April, saying he was leaving because allegations by his ex-girlfriend that he had harassed her, which he denied, had become a distraction. State police investigated, and prosecutors declined to press charges, but noted that their decision did not mean the chief's actions were "professional or appropriate."
After Howerton's departure, Bouche, a retired Illinois State Police colonel who had been managing the assessment, became interim chief. Besides the cost of the department evaluation, the village is paying Hillard Heintze $69,000 a month for Bouche and assistants to implement the recommendations.
The department already has begun implementing some recommendations. Last month, to add a level of supervision, two lieutenant positions were created that previously had been eliminated. Investigations Cmdr. Dawn McDermott has been reassigned to patrol, but Bouche complimented her work and said no one is "on the chopping block."
The Village Board will consider acting further on the recommendations this summer and fall, and hopes to hire a permanent chief by September.
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