Dear Winnetka Community,
I appreciate that residents want to know more about how we approach policing here in Winnetka, as police practices are now a very important topic of national conversation. Having served our community for almost 27 years, I am deeply invested and committed to ensuring we provide professional policing and the highest level of service to the community. This service includes a dialogue with our community members: making sure that your concerns about our policies and procedures are heard and addressed.
Police officers can be placed in very challenging situations where they have to make split-second decisions with minimal information and the knowledge they will be judged by their peers, superiors and the public. We do our very best to assemble a diverse, well-trained group of men and women who exercise good judgement. We are not perfect, and when mistakes occur, they are investigated and addressed. We are proud of the work we do, but we also strive for continual improvement.
We accomplish our commitment to service and professionalism with a three-pronged approach. First, we recruit and hire only the most qualified candidates that align with the values of the department. Our hiring practice has many components, including an in-depth character and background investigation, and psychological assessment along with other testing tools. A final offer of employment is ultimately made by the Board of Police and Fire Commissioners, which is comprised of Winnetka residents.
The first day of work for a new officer requires them to take an oath of office in support of the US and Illinois Constitutions, and to faithfully discharge their duties. However, in Winnetka, we have a second oath that is recited and called “The Law Enforcement Oath of Honor.” It states: “On my honor: I will never betray my badge, my integrity, my character, or the public trust. I will always have the courage to hold myself and others accountable for our actions. I will always uphold the constitution, my community and the agency I serve.”
A new officer will go through extensive training at a state-certified police academy, along with months of closely-monitored field training when they return to Winnetka. They receive close to seven months of training before they are ever allowed to work as an independent patrol officer, and they are subject to a two-year probationary period. All of our officers receive the following training, at minimum:
- Proper use of force
- Procedural justice
- Civil rights
- Human rights
- Cultural competency
- Mental health awareness
Proper training and supervision are critical to professional policing. While de-escalation training is being mentioned as a common theme in recent years, our officers have been exposed to this training for decades. It’s important to note that if force is ever used, the incident is reported, documented, and reviewed at every level of the organization. Our policy bans the use of chokeholds and states that officers “use only the force that he or she reasonably believes is necessary to effect lawful objectives, and deadly force be used only when the officer reasonably believes its use is in defense of life or in defense of any person in imminent danger of great bodily harm.” Inside our department, we prominently display “The 5 Universal Truths of Human Interaction,” which are:
- People want to be treated with respect.
- People prefer to be asked rather than told.
- People want to know why.
- People desire options rather than threats.
- People want a second chance.
In December of 2015, President Obama created the Task Force on 21st Century Policing. The task force offered dozens of recommendations to improve the quality of modern policing. One key recommendation was that police departments improve community relations by taking a guardian as opposed to warrior approach when engaging with the community. I am proud to say our department has continually embraced this guardian approach, and this is reflected in our daily interactions with our community.
Please know that I recognize how important it is to have the support of our residents. We strive to be an organization that makes our community proud of our good work, and we remain attentive to the national conversation on policing best practices and standards. I will continue to listen and thoughtfully incorporate your feedback, as well as that of our Village leadership.
Chief of Police