An Illinois Police Department in the Glare of the Public Spotlight

In the spring of 2013, two events thrust the Village of Schaumburg’s Police Department into the public spotlight.  One involved the January 2013 arrest of three officers in the department’s Special Investigations Bureau for narcotics trafficking. The second was an internal investigation.  These matters raised questions among village leaders and the general public about the department. “Come in and do a careful independent administrative and operational assessment of the department,” the leaders said. “Look at the policies and practices that may have failed to alert us to these illicit activities. And help us understand how to deliver the highest quality police services to our community.”

A Comprehensive and Independent Assessment

Over the next several months, the Hillard Heintze team reviewed every facet of the department’s operations. We examined supervision, administration and operations, current resources, organizational culture and officer morale, and internal investigations and oversight.  We analyzed discipline and enforcement, crime-fighting strategies and tactics, and evidence handling and storage.  We pored over information and interview findings related to policy, practice, culture, training, use of technology and communications with internal and external constituencies. And most importantly, we evaluated the agency’s approach to ethics, integrity and public trust.

Key Findings and a Roadmap Forward

Our comprehensive review resulted in ten key findings that identified the department’s areas of strength, as well as the most urgent and attractive opportunities to correct its deficiencies, reestablish leadership, improve its performance, rebuild officers’ morale and regain the community’s trust. The team also laid the foundation for an actionable roadmap to achieving these goals by outlining more than 50 recommendations across the departments’ strategic, operational and baseline competencies.

Back on Track: How is the Department Doing Today?

Hillard Heintze continues to interact with the Department’s leaders.  We see a constant stream of improvements.  Provided with the opportunity to reform, this Department not only addressed its deficits but also regained its original path – and is driving itself to resume its leadership in identifying and implementing best practices in policing.

This is due to excellent leadership from the Village Board and Manager as well as the new Chief of Police.  It is also due to a strong and reliable core of highly professional officers, a genuine commitment to the community, a solid platform of training and equipment that it had sustained even under challenging fiscal conditions and a clear track record of balancing resources to deliver both traditional policing services as well as other community-enhancing initiatives.

Two Key Take-Aways

1.  As a city leader or police chief, don’t wait for a crisis.  Engage an independent overview of your department’s operations every several years.

2.  When evidence of a gap in capabilities emerges, take action immediately.  Follow the evidence back to its root causes, and intervene, whenever possible, from a strategic and holistic perspective.