WBEZ | Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart http://www.wbez.org/tags/cook-county-sheriff-tom-dart Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Views differ on job description in Cook sheriff's race http://www.wbez.org/news/views-differ-job-description-cook-sheriffs-race-109781 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/tom dart_AP.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Incumbent Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart has much more money and name recognition than any of his three challengers for the March 18 Democratic primary. The contest has not been getting much attention.</p><p>But the race is underscoring how much the sheriff&rsquo;s job has changed since Dart took office in 2006.</p><p>On a recent chilly Monday morning, challenger Bill Evans greeted shivering commuters at the 95th Street &amp; Dan Ryan &lsquo;L&rsquo; stop, handing out campaign literature. One of his palm cards features a photo of a younger, shirtless Evans, from his days as a professional boxer.</p><p>Evans is a compact, energetic guy who is now fighting Dart for the sheriff&rsquo;s job in next month&rsquo;s primary. Like the other two challengers, Evans is pitching himself as a lawman -- a 23-year veteran of the Cook County Sheriff&rsquo;s police, who now works the graveyard shift as a lieutenant.</p><p>Evans walked over to some uniformed Chicago cops patrolling the train station. They are members of a group he sees as a key potential support base, especially after nabbing the endorsement of Chicago&rsquo;s police union in January.</p><p>&ldquo;Hopefully you guys consider me,&rdquo; Evans told the officers. &ldquo;Spread it around a little bit. We gotta stick together.&rdquo;</p><p>Evans admits he feels a bit like a duck out of water having to campaign for a job in law enforcement.</p><p>And that is a unique thing about the sheriff&rsquo;s post. It&rsquo;s a law enforcement job that requires a politician&rsquo;s savvy to get. Dart was won his 2006 election comfortably, after serving as a top aide to his predecessor, Democrat Michael Sheahan. Dart was handily re-elected in 2010.</p><p>He now faces his most crowded primary in years. In addition to Evans, Dart is being challenged by longtime Cook County Sheriff&rsquo;s police officer <a href="http://www.bakerforchange.com/Platform.html">Sylvester Baker</a>, the only African-American in the race; and <a href="http://palkaforsheriff2014.com/about-ted-palka/">Tadeusz &ldquo;Ted&rdquo; Palka</a>, a former deputy sheriff.</p><p>(Palka did not respond to an interview request from WBEZ.)</p><p>Dart&rsquo;s office runs a county jail long troubled with overcrowding, provides security for courtrooms, and patrols parts of the county.</p><p>But Dart has expanded the job description during his two terms in office. And candidates such as Evans say that raises questions about what the job should be, and what type of person is most suited to it: a politician or a cop.</p><p>&ldquo;We have a colossal mess in our county jail,&rdquo; Evans said. &ldquo;We have understaffing issues, we have, uh, supervision issues...and yet this sheriff wants to take on even more responsibilities that have nothing to do with his office.&rdquo;</p><p>For example, Evans and other candidates have criticized Dart&rsquo;s latest effort to to act as a corruption watchdog for some of Chicago&rsquo;s south suburbs, on top of his other duties.</p><p>And they suggest his much-publicized re-investigation of the John Wayne Gacy murders should have been a low priority for an office with so many responsibilities, even if it was a high-profile case.</p><p>But Dart defends those moves, saying he is tired of public officials who just do the bare minimum.</p><p>&ldquo;I looked as this as a mandate to get very involved with the criminal justice system, not just to sit here and say, &lsquo;Okay, here&rsquo;s your blanket, here&rsquo;s your bologna sandwich, there&rsquo;s your cell,&rsquo;&rdquo; Dart told WBEZ in a recent interview. &ldquo;Instead to look at it and say, &lsquo;Okay, well why are all these people flooding into the jail?&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>So Dart says he focuses on treatment, not just lockup.</p><p>For example, he has started to connect prostitutes with social services. And after a federal court order, his office has added <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/dart-%E2%80%98we%E2%80%99re-criminalizing-mental-health%E2%80%99-102218">mental health services</a> for the large portion of inmates at the jail who self-identify as mentally ill.</p><p>Dart maintains his different approach to the job has not taken away from his other duties. But since taking office, there has been an uptick in how often sheriff&rsquo;s police lend help to other jurisdictions.</p><p>Between 2007 and 2011, the Cook County Sheriff&rsquo;s Office assisted other agencies an average of 8,477 times a year, according to data provided by the sheriff. Between 2012 and 2013, the average jumped to 10,700.</p><p>His approach highlights what challenger Baker says is a problem with Dart: &ldquo;He&rsquo;s never been a law enforcement professional...I say that because...you have a different philosophy when you have never actually been in law enforcement.&rdquo;</p><p>Baker spent more than two decades as a Cook County Sheriff&rsquo;s officer, and he wants a tighter focus on a county-wide policing strategy aimed at reducing crime.</p><p>But Dart&rsquo;s background might be good for Cook County, said John Maki, who heads a non-partisan prison watchdog group called The John Howard Association.</p><p>Even though Dart is not a cop, Maki says the sheriff has used his politicians&rsquo; instinct to bring media attention to some of the big problems facing the criminal justice system.</p><p>&ldquo;The thing that I&rsquo;ve been impressed with is how he&rsquo;s used his office to kinda shine light on problems that the jail are simply not equipped to deal with -- poverty, mental illness,&rdquo; Maki said.</p><p>But Maki pointed out that &nbsp;the Cook County Jail is still being watched by a federal monitor,in large part because of longstanding overcrowding. The jail for decades has been under the eyes of the feds, on grounds of violating inmates&rsquo; constitutional rights with unsanitary conditions and overcrowding.</p><p>The monitors say conditions have improved a lot under Dart.</p><p>But they say overcrowding is still a problem because public officials are not working together to solve it.</p><p>&ldquo;In the absence of a collaborative effort, and goodwill among stakeholders to address crowding, and related dysfunction in the courts, probation, and pretrial services, more time has passed, crowding has increased, and there is no solution in sight,&rdquo; wrote federal monitor Susan W. McCampbell in December.</p><p>Experts say this is emblematic of a larger challenge facing the Cook County sheriff. While he may control the workings of the jail, he has little control over how many people are arrested and detained, how much money goes into his budget, or how court records are kept.</p><p>Those fall under the purview of other elected officials, such as County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown, with whom Dart has had public clashes.</p><p>He acknowledges he is sometimes impatient with the way his fellow public officers handle their jobs.</p><p>&ldquo;Do I not play well with others at times? That is correct,&rdquo; Dart said. &ldquo;But I usually feel pretty confident that&rsquo;s after I&rsquo;ve exhausted reasonable discussions with people and, when it&rsquo;s become clear to me that [they think] the issue is just &lsquo;too difficult to address, so it&rsquo;s just better if we just forget about it&rsquo; -- and I&rsquo;m not into forgetting about it.&rdquo;</p><p>Dart has not been campaigning much before the March 18 primary.</p><p>He has got way more money than his opponents -- and right now, he has no Republican challenger in the general election, though the GOP has the option to fill that vacant ballot slot after the primary.</p><p>Besides, Dart says, he just has too much stuff to do at the Sheriff&rsquo;s Office.</p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/akeefe">Alex Keefe</a> is a political reporter at WBEZ. You can follow him on <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZpolitics">Twitter</a> and <a href="https://plus.google.com/102759794640397640028">Google+</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 26 Feb 2014 18:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/views-differ-job-description-cook-sheriffs-race-109781 Illinois' 'outrageously insane' gun license loophole http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-outrageously-insane-gun-license-loophole-107437 <p><p>State lawmakers now have less than two weeks to <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-senate-panel-advances-stricter-gun-carry-bill-107400" target="_blank">pass a law</a> allowing Illinoisans to carry concealed guns.</p><p>But some say Illinois&rsquo; existing system of licensing gun owners is badly broken.</p><p>The state is supposed to take away Firearm Owners Identification Cards, or FOIDs,&nbsp; from felons, the mentally ill and people who have restraining orders against them, like those who have been charged with domestic violence.</p><p>But of the more than 11,200 cards that were revoked as of mid-May, more than 6,700 of those cards are still unaccounted for, according to Illinois State Police <a href="http://www.scribd.com/doc/144728510/Revoked-Illinois-FOID-cards-by-city" target="_blank">data</a> obtained by WBEZ through the Freedom of Information Act.</p><p>Spotty enforcement of Illinois gun laws mean those revoked cardholders could be hanging onto their guns. And legal loopholes mean they could still buy ammunition, and possibly more firearms through private sales.</p><p>But there are some law enforcement groups in Illinois that are trying to stop that.</p><p>On a hot, sunny afternoon last week, Sgt. Chris Imhof started up his unmarked SUV in the parking lot of the Cook County Sheriff&rsquo;s department in Maywood.</p><p>He and two other officers were going hunting for revoked FOID cards.</p><p>&ldquo;The first guy is, uh - was revoked for some sort of possession of a controlled substance,&rdquo; Imhof said as he drove to the first location.</p><p>He wore jeans and a ballcap with a green shamrock on it, and if it weren&rsquo;t for his gun and bullet-proof vest, you might not even know he was a cop. But he&rsquo;s heading up a special team of Cook County Sheriff&rsquo;s officers whose job it is to go out a couple of times a week just to seize FOID cards from people who have had them revoked.</p><p>If this seems like overkill - three guys with guns and Kevlar going to get a plastic identification card - Imhof says there&rsquo;s a reason for the precautions.</p><p>In Illinois, somebody trying to buy a gun with a revoked card at a local gun shop - where a background check is required - would likely get caught. But Imhof says there&rsquo;s still a lot you can get away with in Illinois without somebody checking whether a FOID is actually valid.</p><p>&ldquo;They can get ammunition and they can also get the weapons on a private deal if somebody doesn&rsquo;t check to see if, uh, he&rsquo;s revoked. So, I mean it&rsquo;s important to grab &lsquo;em,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>So Imhof and his team are going door to door in the suburbs, trying to track down the nearly 3,000 revoked FOID cards that are still floating around Cook County - and, more importantly &ndash;&nbsp;to ask people to hand over their guns.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/car_al.jpg" style="float: right; height: 197px; width: 350px;" title="The gun team, headed by Sgt. Chris Imhof, has collected more than 100 guns from revoked FOID card holders since February. (WBEZ/Alex Keefe)" /></p><p>One of Imhof&rsquo;s partners squawks him over the radio to say that the man at the first stop is recorded as having bought a shotgun within the state of Illinois.</p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s still a potential that he has a gun, he has his card,&rdquo; Imhof said. &ldquo;We won&rsquo;t really know until we actually have contact with him.&rdquo;</p><p>We roll down a tree-lined street in suburban Melrose Park, and pull up to a white house with a chainlink fence. I stay in the car while the three officers walk past a row of bushy green hostas and knock on the front door.</p><p>After a few minutes of knocking, there&rsquo;s still no answer. So they leave a note telling the person with the revoked card to give them a call.</p><p>If this all seems a little polite for police work, it&rsquo;s because local law enforcement in Illinois don&rsquo;t actually have the legal authority to seize this person&rsquo;s gun - even if they had their FOID revoked for beating their spouse or being mentally ill.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re asking them to voluntarily hand their weapons over to us,&rdquo; Imhof said. &ldquo;They - they really don&rsquo;t have to.&rdquo;</p><h2><strong>&lsquo;Outrageously insane&rsquo;</strong></h2><p>Experts and advocates say this is a problem that pervades Illinois&rsquo; gun licensing system.</p><p>Yet it concerns one of the few things people on both sides of the polarized gun debate seem to agree on, at least in principle: that certain groups of people shouldn&rsquo;t have access to guns.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/foid_walkie.jpg" style="float: left; height: 197px; width: 350px;" title="Sergeant Imhof walks away from the home empty handed. (WBEZ/Alex Keefe)" />But in Illinois, there&rsquo;s no uniform mechanism for anyone to go and get them. And while efforts in Cook County, Chicago and by the Illinois State Police and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives bring in a few hundred guns each year, there are still thousands of revoked cards floating around the state, with no way of knowing how many guns are in the hands of people who aren&rsquo;t supposed to have them.</p><p>&ldquo;Honestly, I would challenge you to find an issue that is more outrageously insane than this one,&rdquo; said Cook County&rsquo;s Democratic Sheriff, Tom Dart, who launched his gun team back in February when he first learned about the holes in the FOID revocation process.</p><p>&ldquo;If the system were to work completely the way it&rsquo;s set up to work, all we&rsquo;ve got is your card,&rdquo; Dart said. &ldquo;We could care less about the fact you&rsquo;re sitting on an arsenal of guns, and you clearly shouldn&rsquo;t be within a million yards of a gun.&rdquo;</p><p>Dart and other critics say the whole process is set up to fail.</p><p>When the State Police initially revoke somebody&rsquo;s FOID card, they simply send a letter in the mail, requesting that it be returned, according to spokeswoman Monique Bond.</p><p>And that&rsquo;s usually it, says Mark Walsh, with the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence.</p><p>&ldquo;You&rsquo;re supposed to voluntarily surrender your FOID card,&rdquo; Walsh said. &ldquo;And that&rsquo;s one of the problems that we have.&rdquo;</p><p>But if you read Illinois&rsquo; current laws, Walsh says everything looks fine on paper.</p><p>People who are judged to be mentally ill, who are convicted of a felony or have a restraining order against them are supposed to have their FOID cards revoked by the State Police.</p><p>But in practice, more than 60 percent of the revoked cards are still out there.</p><p>And it&rsquo;s impossible to know how many of those people still have their guns, because the state does not track individual firearms, Walsh said.</p><p>&ldquo;To say that it&rsquo;s keeping people safe - I would have to say no. I mean I&nbsp; think we really need to put the time and money into fixing the system,&rdquo; Walsh said.</p><h2><strong>A lack of money - and communication</strong></h2><p>Both the Cook County Sheriff and the Chicago Police Department now have special teams that hunt down revoked FOID cards as part of larger efforts to stop the flow of illegal guns.</p><p>Both agencies say they have unwritten agreements with the State Police that allows them to get notifications whenever a FOID is revoked.</p><p>But several other big law enforcement agencies in Illinois say they&rsquo;ve never even asked for information about revoked FOIDs, and the Illinois State Police don&rsquo;t offer it up.</p><p>&ldquo;Everybody, including the chief, was kinda shocked that we have 187 outstanding,&rdquo; said Lt. Pat Hoey, with the Rockford Police Department, referring to the number of revoked FOID cards from his town that are still unaccounted for.</p><p>Hoey says that&rsquo;s the kind of data local law enforcement should know about.</p><p>&ldquo;If Alex Keefe&rsquo;s a badass, and now we realize, &lsquo;Oh my God, he&rsquo;s got a revoked FOID,&rsquo; which means he probably has guns, and if we suspect he&rsquo;s doing narcotics or gang crimes, well - that would be good intelligence information to know,&rdquo; Hoey said.</p><p>Law enforcement officials in Lake and McHenry Counties, as well as the cities of Rockford, Springfield and Aurora - where a total of 804 unaccounted FOIDs were last registered - say they do not get revocation lists from the state police.</p><p><em>(Other jurisdictions with the highest number of revocations, including Will and DuPage Counties, and the cities of Joliet, Peoria and Decatur, did not respond to calls for this story.)</em></p><p>But no law enforcement agency contacted by WBEZ blamed the Illinois State Police for failing to retrieve revoked FOID cards, even though the law says it&rsquo;s their responsibility.</p><p>There are just about 25 people working in the FOID office, which has an annual budget of just $1.5 million, according to Bond, the State Police spokeswoman. And they&rsquo;re dealing with a record number of applications in addition to the thousands of revoked cards.</p><p>WBEZ repeatedly requested interviews with the person in charge of FOID, and with Illinois State Police Director Hiram Grau. The agency refused those requests.</p><p>But Grau spoke briefly about the problems with FOID during a press conference with Illinois U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin in January.</p><p>&ldquo;Our issue with the FOID unit is, quite frankly, funding,&rdquo; Grau said. &ldquo;We continue to experience retirements. We&rsquo;re, we&rsquo;re - manpower-wise, in our FOID unit, it&rsquo;s very, very low.&rdquo;</p><p>Bond later added that State Police sometimes notify local law enforcement of especially urgent FOID revocations - but not all of them.</p><p>And state troopers also work with federal agents to retrieve guns and revoked cards as part of their larger mission to collect illegal firearms, Bond said.</p><p>Together with the ATF, troopers seize an average of 200 guns a year, according to an ATF spokesman.</p><p>Still, advocates point to the danger posed by thousands of missing revoked cards to argue the FOID system needs an overhaul, especially as the state stares down an early June deadline to <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-senate-panel-advances-stricter-gun-carry-bill-107400" target="_blank">legalize the carrying of concealed weapons</a>.</p><h2><strong>With concealed carry, potential &lsquo;chaos&rsquo;</strong></h2><p>Dart is pushing bills in Springfield to give local law enforcement the power to seize guns from people who&rsquo;ve been revoked, instead of relying on the State Police.</p><p>The provision, which is currently folded into proposed concealed carry legislation, would also require that people turn in revoked FOID cards within 48 hours.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/al2.jpg" style="float: right; height: 197px; width: 350px;" title="The Cook County Sheriff's gun team spends a few days each week knocking on doors, looking for revoked FOIDs. Nearly 3,000 revoked FOID cards registered in Cook County haven't been returned. (WBEZ/Alex Keefe)" />&ldquo;Otherwise what you&rsquo;re gonna have, is you&rsquo;re gonna have individuals who have a concealed carry permit, in addition to their FOID card, that&rsquo;s been revoked, and no one&rsquo;s gettin&rsquo; those guns, either,&rdquo; Dart said. &ldquo;And they&rsquo;re carrying them all around the streets, as well. So I mean this will be complete and total chaos.&rdquo;</p><p>Dart also wants people with revoked FOID cards to make a list of all guns they own - an idea that has concerned the National Rifle Association and other gun rights advocates.</p><p>A spokesman for the NRA in Illinois did not respond to interview requests.</p><p>Back in the suburbs last week, Dart&rsquo;s gun team has visited a handful of homes in a couple of hours. But they&rsquo;ve still had no luck getting any revoked FOID cards - or any guns.</p><p>Not from the guy who was revoked for child pornography. Or from another guy whose card was revoked for unlawful use of a weapon.</p><p>But then Sergeant Chris Imhof&rsquo;s radio starts to crackle.</p><p>&ldquo;You guys win! Number 100!&rdquo; said a voice on the other end of his walkie talkie.</p><p>It&rsquo;s from two other officers who are a few suburbs away, where they&rsquo;ve just retrieved their 100th gun from someone with a revoked FOID.</p><p>Imhof congratulates them over the radio, but he doesn&rsquo;t get too excited. There are still thousands of revoked FOID cards in Cook County, he explains, and who knows how many guns.</p><p><em>Alex Keefe is a political reporter at WBEZ. Follow him <a href="http://twitter.com/akeefe" target="_blank">@akeefe</a>.</em></p><h2><strong><a name="map"></a>Map: Where are the revoked FOID cards?</strong></h2><p>Illinois takes away gun rights from criminals, the mentally ill and people who have restraining orders against them. But more than 6,700 revoked Firearm Owners Identification cards across the state are unaccounted for, potentially allowing their owners to still buy guns and ammunition. Here&rsquo;s a map of where the revoked FOIDs were last registered. <em>(<a href="http://www.scribd.com/doc/144728510/Revoked-Illinois-FOID-cards-by-city" target="_blank">Data from the Illinois State Police</a>)&nbsp;</em></p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="800" scrolling="no" src="https://www.google.com/fusiontables/embedviz?q=select+col18+from+1kQNYd_P9dsbuagj34ugxRhyfRLiKjM0Fao40gVs&amp;viz=MAP&amp;h=false&amp;lat=39.60682880124687&amp;lng=-89.38320786329103&amp;t=1&amp;z=7&amp;l=col18&amp;y=2&amp;tmplt=2" width="620"></iframe></p><p><strong><a name="photos"></a>Photos:</strong></p><p><object height="465" width="620"><param name="flashvars" value="offsite=true&amp;lang=en-us&amp;page_show_url=%2Fphotos%2Fchicagopublicradio%2Fsets%2F72157633816263418%2Fshow%2Fwith%2F8893866492%2F&amp;page_show_back_url=%2Fphotos%2Fchicagopublicradio%2Fsets%2F72157633816263418%2Fwith%2F8893866492%2F&amp;set_id=72157633816263418&amp;jump_to=8893866492" /><param name="movie" value="http://www.flickr.com/apps/slideshow/show.swf?v=124984" /><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true" /><embed allowfullscreen="true" flashvars="offsite=true&amp;lang=en-us&amp;page_show_url=%2Fphotos%2Fchicagopublicradio%2Fsets%2F72157633816263418%2Fshow%2Fwith%2F8893866492%2F&amp;page_show_back_url=%2Fphotos%2Fchicagopublicradio%2Fsets%2F72157633816263418%2Fwith%2F8893866492%2F&amp;set_id=72157633816263418&amp;jump_to=8893866492" height="465" src="http://www.flickr.com/apps/slideshow/show.swf?v=124984" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="620"></embed></object></p></p> Thu, 30 May 2013 13:28:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-outrageously-insane-gun-license-loophole-107437 Unknown Gacy victim identified http://www.wbez.org/story/unknown-gacy-victim-identified-94420 <p><p>New DNA evidence has helped Cook County investigators identify another victim of serial killer John Wayne Gacy.</p><p>Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart announced Tuesday that William George Bundy has been positively identified as one of Gacy's victims. Bundy was reported missing in 1976, and was possibly lured to Gacy with the promise of construction work.&nbsp; He was 19 at the time of his murder.</p><p>Bundy had previously been identified as Victim #19 - the nineteenth body to be removed from the crawlspace beneath Gacy's Northwest Side home, three days after Christmas in 1978.</p><p>Two of Bundy's surving siblings submitted to DNA tests after Dart's office launched a national campaign in October to put names to eight of Gacy's unidentified victims. Investigators had exhumed remains from each of the victims, and were looking for family members who could help make a DNA match. DNA from the cheek of Bundy's siblings helped positively identify him as a victim, Dart said.</p><p>"I know that the sorrow will eventually go away, and I'll have a place to visit him," said Laura O'Leary, Bundy's sister.</p><p>Bundy was a talented gymnast with lots of friends and female admirers, O'Leary said. She last saw him in 1976, when he left home to go to a party but never returned.</p><p>Twenty-six of Gacy's 33 victims have now been identified.</p><p>In October investigators discovered that 53-year-old Harold Wayne Lovell, thought to have been a Gacy victim, is alive and has been living in Florida.</p><p>Gacy was executed in 1994 for the murders.</p></p> Tue, 29 Nov 2011 16:38:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/unknown-gacy-victim-identified-94420 Preckwinkle and Dart hoping to cut costs, not safety services http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-11-08/preckwinkle-and-dart-hoping-cut-costs-not-safety-services-93845 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-November/2011-11-08/Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart speaks during a press conference in Chicago, Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2011 AP Paul Beaty.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The proposed <a href="http://blog.cookcountyil.gov/budget/" target="_blank">2012 Cook County budget</a> would help plug a projected $315 million dollar deficit but it also reflected lots of tough decisions by <a href="http://www.cookcountygov.com/portal/server.pt/gateway/PTARGS_0_0_336_226_0_43/http%3B/www.cookcountygov.com/ccWeb.Leadership/LeadershipProfile.aspx?commiss_id=406" target="_blank">Board President Toni Preckwinkle</a>. The budget involved layoffs, new taxes and new fees; and there were quite a few proposals that could affect public safety. A task force will take a deeper look at a measure to share costs for Cook County’s policing services with unincorporated areas. Also, prison populations would go down – as many as 1,000 inmates would get out of jail over the next year. <em>Eight Forty-Eight</em> asked two people intimately involved in the plans, President Preckwinkle and Cook County <a href="http://cookcountysheriff.org/" target="_blank">Sheriff Tom Dart</a>, to explain what the budgetary moves would mean for public safety.</p><p><em>Music Button: Justice, "Brainvision", from the album Audio Video Disco, (Elektra)</em></p><p><br> &nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 08 Nov 2011 14:36:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-11-08/preckwinkle-and-dart-hoping-cut-costs-not-safety-services-93845 Cook County cracks down on cigarette-tax dodgers http://www.wbez.org/story/cook-county-cracks-down-cigarette-tax-dodgers-92691 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-September/2011-09-30/cigarette.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Cook County has found a new way to make money: by cracking down on stores that aren't paying cigarette taxes. At the urging of Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle's office, the sheriff's office has fined retailers almost $400,000 in the first three weeks of the project. In 2010, the county collected $1.6 million for the entire year.</p><p>Sheriff Tom Dart said Friday that in 2006, the county made $200 million from cigarette taxes. But in 2010, that number was down to $126 million. That $74 million decrease can't just be attributed to factors like the struggling economy and tighter regulations on smoking, reasoned Preckwinkle.</p><p>"This is not insignificant money," said Dart. "So for those who might think, oh we've grabbed a couple of cigarettes here, not a big deal. The numbers are somewhat staggering."</p><p>Though the Department of Revenue upped their investigations into those avoiding the Tobacco Ordinance by starting the Tobacco Investigation Unit in 2009. But it was the addition of five officers from the Sheriff's office that has led Preckwinkle to express confidence that fines could bring in money for the cash-strapped county. They plan to up that number to 10 officers by 2012.</p><p>"Two-thirds of our budget is healthcare and criminal justice, public safety," said Preckwinkle. "So, to the extent that we're able to increase, and hopefully increase dramatically, compliance in this area, it'll have an impact on our ability to deliver services in those two critical areas that are our responsibility."</p><p>The Sheriff's office has also received a grant of $25,000 in "seed money" from various cigarette companies to help them pinpoint those illegally counterfeiting cigarettes.</p><p>Dart said smaller, less established convenience stores are typically the retailers that charge the full price for cigarettes, including taxes, and pocket the difference.&nbsp;Tax on a pack of cigarettes in Cook County in $2.</p><p>Because the county hasn't collected the money yet, Preckwinkle said it's too early to consider it viable for her new budget plan, due in October.</p><p>Offenders have the choice of attending an administrative hearing, or simply paying the fine upfront. The county has also started a Cigarette Tax Reward Program, which asks Chicagoans to report retailers they believe aren't paying their taxes, denotable by the abscence of a Cigarette Tax Stamp on the bottom of packs. Successful tips can yield up to $1,000.</p></p> Fri, 30 Sep 2011 18:05:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/cook-county-cracks-down-cigarette-tax-dodgers-92691 Suburban mayor criticizes Cook County immigration policy http://www.wbez.org/story/suburban-mayor-criticizes-cook-county-immigration-policy-92476 <p><p>A Northwest suburban mayor is criticizing a new Cook County policy for being weak on illegal immigration.</p><p>On September 7, the Cook County Board of Commissioners approved a measure that allows the sheriff to release undocumented immigrants on bond from jail. The federal government asks local jails to hold undocumented immigrants that are accused of a crime, until immigration agents can detain them, and possibly deport them.</p><p>Hanover Park mayor Rod Craig argues that policy puts criminals back on the street.</p><p>"Some are born in this county, some aspire to become citizens, and some just want to come here and create mayhem, and I'm not going to stand for that," said Craig. "And we need the support of our county government to come to some clarity on what it is they really want."</p><p>Sheriff Tom Dart has said he doesn't like detaining undocumented immigrants in jail until the federal government can pick them up, because it makes it harder for local police to fight crime. Craig has written letters to both Dart and the Cook County board asking them to reform these immigration policies. He's worried about a repeat of an incident that occurred a few months back, when a group of suspected illegal immigrants accused of assaulting police officers were released from jail without being detained because an immigration agent couldn't come in time.</p><p>But Steve Patterson, a spokesman for the sheriff's office, sees the situation differently.</p><p>"I just think it's a case where the mayor doesn't understand what happened, that's all," he said.</p><p>According to Patterson, the sheriff's office released 1,665 detainees into the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) last year.</p><p>Craig said he's spoken to his Hanover Park's local Cook County commissioner Tim Schneider about a potential resolution to amend the ordinance. According to Craig, Schneider was optimistic about working out a new solution.</p></p> Mon, 26 Sep 2011 18:29:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/suburban-mayor-criticizes-cook-county-immigration-policy-92476 Local law enforcement struggles with unclear reach of federal immigration policies http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-07-28/local-law-enforcement-struggles-unclear-reach-federal-immigration-polici <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-July/2011-07-28/AP100928168671.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Cook County moved to center stage in the fight over national immigration policy. <a href="http://cookcountysheriff.org/sheriffs_bio/sheriff_bio.html" target="_blank">Sheriff Tom Dart</a> recently suggested that he may no longer comply with federal requests to detain inmates wanted for immigration violations. Then, earlier this week, County Commissioner Jesus Garcia proposed an ordinance that would write noncompliance into an actual ordinance. At a meeting Wednesday, Garcia withdrew his proposal. The moves came as many states and local governments took stands on immigration policy.</p><p>So are there some jurisdictional loopholes? And how much room do Chicago and Illinois have to define immigration policy?</p><p>For answers, <em>Eight Forty-Eight</em> turned to <a href="http://las.depaul.edu/psc/People/Full-time%20Faculty/Law/index.asp" target="_blank">Anna Law</a>, an associate professor of political science at DePaul University who writes on immigration law.</p></p> Thu, 28 Jul 2011 13:15:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-07-28/local-law-enforcement-struggles-unclear-reach-federal-immigration-polici Illinois Senate votes to undo cemetery regulations http://www.wbez.org/story/burr-oak-cemetery/illinois-senate-votes-undo-cemetery-regulations-85255 <p><p>Legislators in Springfield are considering a measure that would undo some cemetery regulations in the state.</p><p>The Illinois Senate approved legislation that would cut back on a statewide task force designated to oversee cemeteries. The bill would also draw back a new requirement that cemeteries must submit burial records into a state database.</p><p>Those procedures were enacted after an investigation into Burr Oak Cemetery in 2009, where Cook County Sheriff's police uncovered an alleged scheme to re-sell burial plots.</p><p>State Sen. Emil Jones III, D-Chicago, said Burr Oak was one bad apple out of a state of compliant cemeteries.</p><p>"Nothing could've prevented any wrongdoing from what happened at Burr Oak Cemetery," Jones said.</p><p>Meanwhile, Steve Patterson, spokesman for the Cook County Sheriff, said his office is still receiving new complaints about conditions at other cemeteries around Chicago.</p><p>"(The legislation) sort of goes back to a Wild West days where anything goes, including double burials and dumping bodies in the back of a cemetery and we just don't want to see it go back to that," Patterson said.</p><p>The bill still needs approval in the Illinois House.</p></p> Fri, 15 Apr 2011 18:01:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/burr-oak-cemetery/illinois-senate-votes-undo-cemetery-regulations-85255 Proposed state law: three caskets to one grave http://www.wbez.org/story/cemetery/proposed-state-law-three-caskets-one-grave <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/AP11021718140.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>An Illinois lawmaker is pushing a bill that would allow cemeteries to bury some people three to a grave. State Rep. Bill Cunningham, D-Chicago, is proposing a bill that would limit cemeteries to burying indigent or unidentified bodies to three caskets in one grave.<br /><br />&quot;We just thought that three was sort of reasonable,&quot;&nbsp;Cunningham said. &quot;That was probably expecting too much financially and space-wise to say just one.&quot;</p><p>Cunningham said burying one casket in one grave would be ideal, but it's expensive. The measure is currently in the Rules Committee of the Illinois House of Representatives.</p><p>Cunningham is the former chief of staff for Cook&nbsp;County Sheriff Tom Dart. Dart said he's disturbed by the conditions at Homewood Memorial Gardens, a cemetery in Chicago's south suburbs.</p><p>But Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin says he thinks Dart may have exaggerated about the conditions at Homewood Memorial Gardens to drum up support for legislation in Springfield.</p><p>&quot;The sheriff was maybe a little more dramatic than maybe he needed to be to gain support for this bill. We're all in favor of the bill,&quot;&nbsp;Suffredin said.</p><p>Dart said Thursday the workers the cemetery have buried bodies as much as eight caskets high, one on top of another. He also said that up to 26 babies were buried together in the same box earlier this month and there are some instances in which babies were buried in the same box as animal parts or with arms and legs of other humans.</p> <p>&quot;Money is not the issue here,&quot;&nbsp;Dart told reporters. &quot;What it is, is that we collectively treat these people as if they are refuse, and we can't do that.&quot;</p> <p>Dart said there are virtually no records of where specific bodies are buried at the cemetery.</p><p>&quot;It is not anything that our county or society should ever sit there and say is acceptable,&quot; Dart said.</p><p>He said Homewood Memorial Gardens is the only cemetery to have a contract with Cook County to bury indigent people.</p> <p>Dart said he doesn't think he can bring criminal charges against anyone with the cemetery, but the county board should re-examine its contract with the cemetery. His office estimates 8,000 bodies have been buried at the cemetery.</p><p>Meanwhile, Homewood Memorial Gardens President Tom Flynn said the cemetery has a system for tracking bodies. He said he favors the state legislation that would limit the number of indigent bodies buried in one grave space to three caskets. Flynn said the cemetery does stack caskets, sometimes six at a time, but that's what the county pays for.</p><p>&quot;We think that we're doing the best we can under the restrictions that we have,&quot;&nbsp;Flynn said.</p><p>Flynn said Homewood Memorial Gardens has been the only cemetery to bid for a contract with Cook County to bury indigent residents for the past several years. He said the cemetery has had the contract for 26 of the past 30 years.</p><p>Flynn said he has seen instances of multiple infants being buried in the same casket, but that was done before the caskets arrive at the cemetery. He said it would have to happen at the Cook County Medical Examiner's office.</p><p>In a written statement, Cook County's Medical Examiner Dr. Nancy Jones said the cemetery is in violation of its contract. She said her office treats fetuses and stillborns with respect and does not put multiple bodies in the same coffin.</p><p>&quot;<!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:PunctuationKerning /> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas /> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:Compatibility> <w:BreakWrappedTables /> <w:SnapToGridInCell /> <w:WrapTextWithPunct /> <w:UseAsianBreakRules /> <w:DontGrowAutofit /> </w:Compatibility> <w:BrowserLevel>MicrosoftInternetExplorer4</w:BrowserLevel> </w:WordDocument> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:LatentStyles DefLockedState="false" LatentStyleCount="156"> </w:LatentStyles> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 10]> <style> /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} </style> <![endif]-->It is our responsibility to make sure that these remains are interned,&quot;&nbsp;the statement said. &quot;They are handled respectfully and placed in an adult-sized burial shell, which is sealed and placed in the grounds of the cemetery. There are no other types of remains present in the burial shell. In every other situation, remains are interned in individual burial shells.&rdquo;</p><p>Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said Friday the sheriff's office and the medical examiner's office will be holding a meeting soon.<!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:PunctuationKerning /> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas /> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:Compatibility> <w:BreakWrappedTables /> <w:SnapToGridInCell /> <w:WrapTextWithPunct /> <w:UseAsianBreakRules /> <w:DontGrowAutofit /> </w:Compatibility> <w:BrowserLevel>MicrosoftInternetExplorer4</w:BrowserLevel> </w:WordDocument> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:LatentStyles DefLockedState="false" LatentStyleCount="156"> </w:LatentStyles> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 10]> <style> /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} </style> <![endif]--></p><p>&quot;I think that remains to be determined whether there are errors on the part of the medical examiner or whether this is something that is simply under the purview of the cemetery itself,&quot;&nbsp;Preckwinkle said.</p> <p>Preckwinkle said she has been more focused on finalizing the county's budget more than the conditions at the cemetery. She said she found the accounts at the cemetery disturbing.</p><p><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:PunctuationKerning /> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas /> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:Compatibility> <w:BreakWrappedTables /> <w:SnapToGridInCell /> <w:WrapTextWithPunct /> <w:UseAsianBreakRules /> <w:DontGrowAutofit /> </w:Compatibility> <w:BrowserLevel>MicrosoftInternetExplorer4</w:BrowserLevel> </w:WordDocument> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:LatentStyles DefLockedState="false" LatentStyleCount="156"> </w:LatentStyles> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if !mso]><object classid="clsid:38481807-CA0E-42D2-BF39-B33AF135CC4D" id=ieooui></object> <style> st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) } </style> <![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 10]> <style> /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} </style> <![endif]--></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="">Dart&rsquo;s investigation of Homewood Memorial Gardens comes less than two years after his office uncovered alleged mismanagement at Burr Oak Cemetery in south suburban Alsip. In 2009, Dart said his investigators found some corpses thrown in a pile at the back of the cemetery, while others were stacked into existing graves. He also said Burr Oak Cemetery employees were allegedly reselling grave sites to bury new caskets.</p><p class="MsoNormal" style="">Dart also said one worker embezzled money intended for a museum in honor of civil rights-era lynching victim Emmet Till.</p><p class="MsoNormal" style="">Four employees of Burr Oak Cemetery were charged with desecrating human bodies at the graveyard. They pleaded not guilty.</p><p class="MsoNormal" style="">The company that manages Burr Oak Cemetery has been trying to sell the facility, but it&rsquo;s going through bankruptcy court proceedings.</p><p class="MsoNormal" style=""><em>Alex Keefe contributed to this report.</em></p></p> Thu, 17 Feb 2011 18:52:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/cemetery/proposed-state-law-three-caskets-one-grave