October 12, 2011 09:42 AM
To Protect, Serve and Solicit for Local Politicians in Elmwood Park
According to documents obtained by the BGA and FOX Chicago News, 32 of 32 Elmwood Park auxiliary police officers appeared to have done political work for Mayor Peter Silvestri or other politicians.
By Patrick Rehkamp/BGA, with FOX Chicago News
Elmwood Park has an auxiliary police force. They're paid, part-time officers who carry guns and help with traffic duty, crowd control and writing tickets.
But in Elmwood Park, the auxiliary officers appear to have another job: helping politicians get elected.
Six new auxiliary police officers sworn in last week—a shiny new badge in the hands of a local kid made good. But FOX Chicago investigators had a question for him: Did he have to do political work?
Before Kevin Forrest ever carried a badge and gun, he carried political petitions, going door-to-door to get signatures for longtime Elmwood Park mayor Peter Silvestri.
He offered Forrest congratulations after swearing him in.
Forrest denied doing any political work and then refused to comment when asked again.
Apparently a lot of Elmwood Park auxiliary officers enjoy knocking on doors and engaging in politics.
FOX Chicago News and the Better Government Association obtained a list of all 32 auxiliary cops since 2008.
It appears every single one-- all 32 officers-- have either passed political petitions for Silvestri and other Elmwood Park politicians, or contributed cash to Silvestri's political campaign fund.
Silvestri, who also serves as a republican Cook County Commissioner, said that perfect political score among the auxiliary police is entirely voluntary.
He said neither he nor anyone else has ever pressured the officers to do political work - which would be illegal.
"You know what, we don't put a gun to anybody's head and we don't threaten anybody's job," Silvestri said. "We're not that dumb. It just doesn't happen."
Steve Schiro worked as an Elmwood Park auxiliary officer until 2008. Last year he was laid off from his job in the village's public works department.
"The head of the auxiliary police would be blunt. Do it or hand in your badge," Schiro said. "We don't need you."
Schiro said just to get considered for the auxiliary police job he had to do political work.
He also said officers were told by the unit's captain they had to keep doing politics in order to keep their badges and get assignments.
"You have to go to the precinct meetings. You have to get petitions signed. You have to buy cocktail party tickets," Schiro said. "Fundraisers. Those are the things you have to do."
Schiro said they even handed out political assignments and signs during meetings of auxiliary officers in the basement of the Elmwood Park police station.
He also said some of the better door-knockers, like himself, were farmed out to do political work in neighboring suburbs for the mayor's political friends.
"It's Pete's political puppets," Schiro said. "That's what people would call them. Because if he says do this, they would all do it. And if they didn't, they'd be yanked."
In building this database FOX Chicago and the BGA also found a strong correlation between the officers who did the most political work – those who passed the most petitions and gave the most money - and those who got the most hours as auxiliary cops.
"The more you were involved political," Schiro said, "the more they rewarded you."
"The ones who make the most money are the brass, so to speak," SIlvestri said. "The captains, the sergeants, the lieutenants. And obviously they're probably interested in being supportive of the administration. But they're not compelled to do so."
When asked how it was possible that all 32 auxiliary cops did political work without being asked to, Silvestri responded:
"Is it possible they just want to participate?" Silvestri asked. "Is it possible they like being part of Elmwood Park and want to participate in this administration organization? I don't think it's beyond belief."
This story was reported and written by the BGA Senior Investigator Patrick Rehkamp. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (312) 386-9201.
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