By Joe Boyle
An Oak Lawn trustee said that backers of legislation calling for police reform have forgotten one important group — the victims.
“I don’t know about you, but it concerns me that legislators can talk about police reform but say nothing about the victims,” said Trustee Alex Olejniczak (2nd) during the Oak Lawn Village Board meeting Tuesday night. “If there is such a demand for police reform, why not get information from the police? But now we have multiple criminals who come into our village and pull a gun on our victims.”
Olejniczak asked Police Chief Dan Vittorio during the meeting if legislators had asked for any input regarding police reform? Vittorio replied that he was not notified.
The trustee was angry about two recent incidents that took place in Oak Lawn. A woman and her 14-year-old daughter were approached in their driveway in the 9700 block of South Merton Avenue by a man who pointed a handgun at them and demanded their vehicle.
The offender later crashed into another vehicle near 95th and LaGrange and was apprehended by police after a brief foot chase.
In the second incident, Oak Lawn police detained eight people after several shots were fired at the Hilton Oak Lawn. Fortunately, no one was hit by the series of shots. Two offenders were later charged in the incident.
“I can tell you that the village supports the police, but we have legislators who do not,” Olejniczak said.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed the criminal justice reform package into law in February. The state is among the first to eliminate the use of cash bail. The bill was passed in the Illinois General Assembly during the final hours of the January lame-duck session.
Many law-enforcement groups and police unions opposed the legislation that they believe will tie the hands of cops and will allow criminals to run free while out on bail.
Olejniczak encouraged residents to call the offices of state Rep. Mary Flowers (D-31st), state Rep. Kelly Burke (D-36th), state Rep. Fran Hurley (D-35th) and state Sen. Bill Cunningham (D-18th) to voice their displeasure over the reform bill.
“I compel everyone to take some time, at least five minutes, to contact our legislators,” Olejniczak said. “I beg everyone to do this.”
Olejniczak called for a resolution to support the police and to oppose the police reform bill.
Trustee Tom Phelan (6th) was in total agreement with Olejniczak.
“If we don’t do something soon, it won’t matter what is done in Springfield,” Phelan said. “Mob rule is going to take over.”
Phelan mentioned the shooting death on Sunday of Daunte Wright in Brooklyn Center, Minn., which is just outside Minneapolis. Wright died because a police officer accidentally shot the 20-year-old with a gun instead of a Taser. While Phelan noted it was a tragedy, he added that the shooting was avoidable.
“If he just gave himself up, he would have not got shot,” Phelan said. “The last thing I worry about is the police. But if people think it’s going to just go away (attacks on police), they are wrong. We have to stop this and I don’t mean the police. If someone assaults an officer, they should spend a year in jail.”
Oak Lawn Mayor Sandra Bury said that she had a recent meeting with the new U.S. Rep. Marie Newman (D-3rd) and Burke. Bury said part of the discussion focused on supporting police officers. The mayor was concerned by some of the views of the new congressman.
“We pleaded for more funding for our police force,” Bury said. “I have to say that there seemed to be a disconnect. She (Newman) said that we have to look at a lot of reasons (for reform). But Kelly Burke is a rock star. She then said that’s fine 45 years from now, but what are we going to do now?”
“I will tell you this; our police need our support now more than ever,” Olejniczak said.
The board then unanimously approved the resolution.
“We need your support,” Olejniczak added. “Residents need to talk to our leaders. We are going to continue to look into this.”