A Cook County politician’s home got “special attention” from suburban police

GOP leader Sean Morrison questioned Democrats’ security details – even as police checked on his house in Palos Park hundreds of times.

Sean Morrison
Cook County Commissioner Sean M. Morrison in 2018. Morrison has benefited for years from “special attention” given to his home by police in south suburban Palos Park. Rich Hein / Chicago Sun-Times
Sean Morrison
Cook County Commissioner Sean M. Morrison in 2018. Morrison has benefited for years from “special attention” given to his home by police in south suburban Palos Park. Rich Hein / Chicago Sun-Times

A Cook County politician’s home got “special attention” from suburban police

GOP leader Sean Morrison questioned Democrats’ security details – even as police checked on his house in Palos Park hundreds of times.

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As Cook County GOP chairman and one of only two Republicans on the 17-member county board, Sean Morrison is a frequent and vocal critic of the ruling Democrats.

He often points to violent crime in Chicago and has questioned the costs of providing security details to Mayor Lori Lightfoot and county board President Toni Preckwinkle.

But Morrison also has benefited for years -– starting soon after he became a county commissioner — from “special attention” given to his home by police in south suburban Palos Park.

Records obtained by WBEZ show police in Morrison’s hometown have patrolled his house 415 times since he took office less than seven years ago.

And the documents from Palos Park show the tiny suburb’s police department provided additional service at Morrison’s home as a form of “special attention” — precisely because he is a Cook County commissioner.

Only one of those calls to Morrison’s home since he became an elected official was for an emergency. The vast majority of the calls were coded on police records as “extra patrols.”

According to the police reports provided in response to WBEZ’s recent open-records request, none of the visits from Palos Park officers found evidence of any crime at Morrison’s 3,300-square-foot house, which sits on more than an acre.

In one case, the village police were called there by Morrison’s wife and served only to help scrape up a dead skunk on the couple’s property, the documents show.

Morrison said he did not ask for extra patrols — which went by his home more than 100 times in a single year — and was unaware of that special attention from the police until shown the public records by a reporter from WBEZ at his district office in Orland Park on Thursday.

“I can certainly, unequivocally, with 100% confidence be sure that the village board or the village police department will not say that I asked them for any kind of exception,” Morrison said. “I have no knowledge that they have my address listed here in these forms that you’re showing me.”

The police chief in Palos Park, Joe Miller, said his officers routinely monitor homes of “prominent personalities” who live in the town and confirmed that the extra patrols of Morrison’s house were “because of the fact that he’s a county commissioner.

“I do not recall a specific request by him,” Miller said of Morrison. “We are paying [officers] to be out there patrolling.”

Miller said special police attention could be given to homes of people who have received threats as a result of being in the middle of heated issues, but the chief said he did not know of any such threat against Morrison.

Asked if he would tell the police to do anything differently, Morrison initially replied, “My neighbors in my community all have a right to have the police department patrol their roads, of course, right? We’re pragmatic. Just because I am elected doesn’t mean they should avoid driving down my road.”

But when asked later if his neighborhood deserved the extra patrols reflected in the police reports, Morrison said he would tell police, “Personally, I don’t need special attention. Please continue to patrol my community, as you always have, and thank you for notating that you drove past Sean Morrison’s house.

“But if it’s in any way interfering with public safety and law enforcement in Palos Park, you don’t need to do that. Thank you, but respectfully you don’t need to do that. I can protect my family in the immediate term while I’m dialing 911.”

116 service reports for Morrison’s home in 2018

In 2015, Morrison was appointed to replace a county commissioner who stepped down in the middle of her term, and he was elected to his first full term in 2018. He is up for re-election this year, but first faces a Republican primary fight against his predecessor representing the district, Elizabeth “Liz” Doody Gorman, who is attempting a comeback in the June 28 election.

County property records show Morrison bought the home in Palos Park in 2008 for $715,000.

Morrison’s 17th county board district includes the southwest suburbs of Tinley Park and Orland Park and stretches along Interstate 294 as far north as Des Plaines.

But records show police scarcely went there during the first seven years he lived there — until he became a county commissioner.

There were only four reports from Palos Park police involving the house before Morrison became a county board member. Two of the calls were for burglar alarms that went off, but no burglaries appear to have taken place, records show. And in the two other cases, the calls involved medical issues with young children.

The extra patrols began in late August 2015 — a little more than a month after local Republican leaders picked Morrison to complete the last three years of the unexpired term on the county board.

Officers reported checking on the Morrison home 69 times between the first visit on Aug. 27, 2015, and the end of that year.

Police went to the Morrisons’ residence 87 times in 2016, 88 times in 2017, 116 times in 2018 and on 40 more occasions in 2019, according to WBEZ’s analysis of dispatch records and officers’ reports from the village of Palos Park.

Sometimes, police checked on the house twice in the same day.

On most of the reports generated after those visits to Morrison’s house, the police chief, Miller, was listed as the “reporting officer.”

And on the logs for those visits from dispatchers, in many of the incidents, the “telecommunicator comments” make clear reference to Morrison’s status as an elected official.

Police report “SKUNK DOA” at Morrison home

In some cases, those notations explained that the visits were to provide “EXTRA PATROL - RES CC COMM” or “COOK COUNTY COMM RES CHECK.”

And other times, the dispatchers explained that the visits to Morrison’s address were conducted to provide “SPECL ATTN” for a “CC COMM.”

The Palos Park officers rarely added their own comments to the reports on many of their hundreds of visits to Morrison’s house. But in some of the reports, they merely commented that “ALL APPEARS OK,” “ALL SEEMS QUIET,” or that the property was “SECURE.”

The number of visits to the house from police declined sharply in the past couple years, with only two reports from 2020, seven last year and three in the first three months of this year.

Only one of the more than 400 service reports since he took office appears to have involved an emergency: a call for an ambulance to take an 80-year-old relative with serious health problems to the hospital in June 2021, because he was having “difficulty breathing,” according to the police report.

“That’s the only time we ever called the police,” Morrison said. “We called 911 when my uncle died. He passed away at the house. He had a heart attack and fell over.”

The only other time when documents suggest officers were called into any sort of action at Morrison’s house was the call about the dead skunk “next to house,” records show.

In that case, on Christmas Eve of 2018, Morrison’s wife reported the dead animal, records show. The officer commented, “SKUNK DOA [dead on arrival]. ASSISTED HOMEOWNER IN BAGGING. AND ADVISED ON DISPOSAL.”

“My wife did call a couple years ago for a dead skunk,” Morrison said. “I’m like, ‘Why did you call the police for a dead skunk?’ But, you know, oh well.”

The village of Palos Park has less than 4,800 residents and its police force has 30 sworn personnel, including 25 patrol officers, according to the suburb’s website. Spending on police represents nearly $2.4 million in the village government’s annual budget of less than $4.7 million.

The crime rate in the community, which is about 25 miles from downtown Chicago, is far lower than the statewide average.

“I don’t know where you live but people here expect to see squad cars on their street,” said Miller, the Palos Park police chief. “We have high visibility.”

Morrison questioned security costs for Lightfoot, Preckwinkle

In addition to being a county commissioner, Morrison is CEO and founder of Morrison Security Corp., Morrison Security Group and Morrison Investigations Inc., with offices in Alsip, Las Vegas and Orlando, Florida, according to his online biography.

On his LinkedIn resume, Morrison’s clients have included Motorola, Coca-Cola, the Art Institute of Chicago, Northwestern University, the Field Museum and Staples, among other major corporations and prominent institutions.

In his time on the county board, Morrison has been a strong advocate for cutting government spending and taxes. In 2017, he joined many in the county board’s Democratic majority to win repeal of Preckwinkle’s “egregious and intolerable” tax on soda and other sweetened beverages. And last month he cast one of four “no” votes when a majority of the county board approved pay increases for commissioners.

Morrison also has focused some of his criticism on the use of bodyguard details by top Democrats. In March, after the Chicago Sun-Times reported on the growth of Lightfoot’s detail, Morrison took to Twitter, urging journalists to look into “the costs of the security details, drivers, assistants, to many elected officials.”

“Seems many more have them these days,” Morrison wrote in the tweet. “Seems like a fair question to ask?”

In another tweet, Morrison told a reporter it was a “great opportunity for the press” to document the amount of taxpayer dollars spent for every elected official who has security.

The month before that, prosecutors said a man was stalking Lightfoot and shot a gun in an alley near her home because he was allegedly mad about parking citations.

And last October, Morrison criticized the amount of resources spent on Preckwinkle’s security detail, after one of her bodyguards shot at an alleged carjacker outside the Democratic county board president’s home in the Hyde Park neighborhood.

“Although she wants to defund the police, the president’s protective detail has only grown in size,” Morrison said on Fox News Channel at the time.

Dan Mihalopoulos is an investigative reporter on WBEZ’s Government & Politics Team. Follow him on Twitter @dmihalopoulos.