Darien Village Board votes to hire part-time officers
DARIEN Help wanted: Part-time, certified police officers with experience.
At a meeting Thursday, the Darien Village Board worked to fill shifts left empty by the resignation of two police officers.
In June, officer Mike Maltese resigned after an investigation into an incident involving an eight-time drunken driver.
Another officer recently left the department to work for the Walworth County Sheriff's Office, leaving the five-man department two people short.
Earlier this year, the board agreed to use the unreserved fund balance to replace Maltese.
On Thursday, Darien Police Chief Hunter Gilmore told the board that he would like to hire another person but recognized the near financial impossibility of such a choice.
He said he is concerned about liability with having unstaffed shifts and wanted "direction and clarification from the board."
He has a group of a nine part-time officers who also work at other departments—and many of those departments pay more.
"It's hard enough to fill all the shifts with the fifth position," Gilmore said. "Without that fifth position, it's going to be really hard."
Trustee Cheryl Kaufenberg made a motion that the chief immediately advertise for more part-timers. Her fellow trustees endorsed that option.
"Personally, I don't feel that we can take on a full-time officer until January," Kaufenberg said. "I think that it's the only viable option until the end of year."
Gilmore expressed "respectful" skepticism about finding enough part-time officers through such a method.
What about leaving shifts open during less busy times and allowing the sheriff's office to fill in?
In an interview with The Gazette in August, Sheriff David Graves said he didn't have a problem filling in, since residents were "already paying taxes" for the service.
That's not the message the village said it always hears.
"What the county always says is that they have to cover us no matter what," said Village Administrator Diana Dykstra. "Do they want to? No."
"We get a lot of grief from the sheriff's department," Gilmore said during the meeting.
Village working to staff department
This isn't the first time Darien has struggled to find the correct the staffing equation at its police department.
Chief Hunter Gilmore was hired in 2010 after more than a year of turmoil at the village police department.
In 2009, the Darien Village Board dismissed Chief Steve DeVoy for a variety of reasons, including unauthorized surveillance of village offices, sharing offensive material, having an inappropriate relationship and lack of leadership.
The department went several months without a permanent police chief, and Gilmore spent much of his time catching up—creating and updating policies and providing supervision and training.
Things were going smoothly until earlier this year, when Officer Mike Maltese resigned after a complaint from the Walworth County Sheriff's Office and an internal investigation.
According to the complaint:
At 8:39 p.m. June 1, Maltese was dispatched to the Mobil station, 500 N. Walworth St., Darien, in response to a report of an intoxicated driver. Back-up was called in from the sheriff's office because the driver had eight previous drunken-driving arrests.
Sheriff's Sgt. Robert Hall was monitoring the radio traffic and was "surprised that the S.O. squads were told to cancel and Darien PD advised they were not needed," the report said.
Hall interviewed the clerk of the station, who showed Hall a video of the car pulling into the gas station, and the intoxicated male "staggering around."
In an email to Capt. Scott McClory of the sheriff's office dated June 15, Gilmore wrote that a investigation into the matter "revealed negligent behavior on the part of Officer Maltese."
"Before the department was able to address these issues with officer Maltese, he resigned from the Darien Police Department," Gilmore wrote.
The resignation left the department short an officer. The board agreed to use some of the unreserved fund balance to hire a new officer.
Maltese went to work for town of Milton police but is no longer employed there.