THE LANDMARK VIEW
One of the more positive things to come out of the April 2005 election actually happened in Berwyn. A reform regime took office and almost immediately hired William Kushner as its chief of police.
Kushner not only tried to transform the department from one embroiled in the city’s political landscape to one that operated independently from politics, he was the driving force behind a multi-jurisdictional entity called the West Suburban Directed Gang Enforcement (WEDGE) task force.
In Riverside and in North Riverside — both are charter members of the task force — WEDGE’s impact can’t be overstated. In Riverside, in particular, the unit has been instrumental in investigating and breaking up gang and drug operations that the local police department just didn’t have the manpower or man hours to handle.
Joining WEDGE was a proactive move by Riverside, North Riverside and, last year, Brookfield. It gives the departments more information, more know-how and more resources to fight crimes that our suburbs cannot avoid.
Earlier this year, Kushner was asked to resign as police chief in Berwyn, the long-expected result of an election in 2009 that reinstalled Berwyn’s old guard to a position of power. One of the first things Berwyn did, along with Cicero, was to form its own in-house gang/drug task force.
Cicero dropped out of WEDGE last year and there’s concern that Berwyn will, too, now that’s its founder is no longer part of the scene. That would be a shame, since a multi-jurisdictional approach to policing seems, to us, the wave of the future.
If Berwyn does choose to drop out, we hope that the remaining member communities, including the sole remaining large municipality, Oak Park, remain committed to the WEGDE cause.
While it may seem to the larger communities that the smaller ones, like Riverside, benefit more than larger ones like Berwyn, Cicero and Oak Park, gang members and drug dealers don’t recognize boundaries. Berwyn’s problem is Riverside’s problem and vice-versa.
When it comes to policing, political territorial battles can’t trump the safety of citizens. The west suburbs need WEDGE and the valuable work its officers do to combat a growing and complex problem in our towns.
A dream world
With construction starting to heat up in downtown Riverside, it’s clear that the water main project on East Burlington Street is going to be somewhat disruptive to businesses.
Parking along one entire side of the central business district will be off limits and so far there hasn’t been any public announcement about a temporary or shared parking solution to help affected businesses until the project is over, weather-permitting, in late May.
If only there were some place in or near downtown Riverside or on Burlington Street where the village could provide parking.