Local News

New Lenox police to use new hiring policy to fill vacancies quickly

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Lathan Goumas - lgoumas@shawmedia.com New Lenox[]

A lateral hiring policy approved by the village board will allow the New Lenox Police Department to cut down on training time, save some money, and get officers on the streets more quickly.

Village Trustees Monday night approved an ordinance that will allow the police department to create a list of qualified candidates who would be eligible to be transferred from other police departments to fill vacancies in its own police force.

This list would be separate from the Police and Fire Commission list of eligible new candidates who have not had police experience and must go to the police academy for training once hired.

To be eligible for lateral transfer, candidates would have to be certified police officers with at least two years of full-time experience as a police officer, and be in good standing with their current department, according to the ordinance.

Police Chief Bob Sterba would be able to recommend any eligible candidate from the list to the Fire and Police Commission to fill vacancies.

“[T]he nice thing about hiring laterally is that you’ve got somebody who already comes with certifications, they’ve already seen if they like the job, they’ve had the opportunity to be out there and see if they are good at the job ... and public safety is too critical to not have this option,” said Mayor Tim Baldermann.

According to Sterba, due to some police officers retiring and others leaving to pursue careers elsewhere, his force is down six officers.

With the new policy in hand and advertising starting immediately, as well as its ongoing process of hiring and training new recruits, Sterba said he hopes to have those vacancies filled by the end of the year.

Lateral hires, like new recruits, will be subject to extensive background checks, an oral exam, and medical and psychological evaluations.

However, new recruits must also take a written exam and are sent to the police academy for 14 weeks of training, and then partnered with a field training officer for another 12 weeks, according to Deputy Chief Louis Alessandrini.

The village could save about $20,000 with each lateral hire, including the $6,500 cost of academy training and the salary paid to the recruit during that time, Alessandrini said.

The field training period for lateral transfers would be about eight weeks, he said.

Fate of the old Metra Station?

Baldermann Monday night wanted to set the record straight about the fate of the current Metra station once a new one is built next year in a new location slightly east of its present location on Route 30.

Recent activity on social media has indicated that some residents want to see the more-than-century-old station left in its current spot as a historical site, according to Baldermann.

However, the Metra Station does not have historical landmark status and it is the property of Metra, not the village, he said.

Metra will consider allowing the New Lenox Area Historical Society to acquire and relocate it, if it chooses to do so, as it did with Schmuhl School, he said.

Furthermore, the station is in a state of disrepair, which is why the village is paying to have a new, larger one built.

“[We] as elected officials and some who are riders over the many years have heard that we have the train station in the worst repair along the entire line ... [Riders] are embarrassed by it,” Baldermann said.

The village approved engineering contracts for the proposed $4 million train station last May. Construction is expected to start next year with the station expected to be open for use by next winter, Baldermann said.