Riverside will be down one police officer for more than a year after one of its patrolmen was recalled to active military duty earlier this month.
Officer Michael Panek, a chief petty officer in the U.S. Navy, is being deployed to the Horn of Africa beginning June 30, said Police Chief Thomas Weitzel.
Weitzel said he was not at liberty to describe Panek’s assignment there, but the officer will be in Africa for 12 months and won’t be back in uniform in Riverside until August of 2018.
Last week, members of the department held a going-away party for Panek in the department’s roll call room.
Panek’s absence comes at a tough time for Riverside, which has three other police officers presently out of the mix. One is out on maternity leave, another on paternity leave and a third sidelined by an injury.
Shifts will be filled out by officers working overtime, said Weitzel, but it’s also likely that “we’re going to have to short a shift.”
Panek was hired as a police officer in 2011 and has served in the U.S. Navy since 2001.
From 2001 to 2007, Panek served on active duty as a member of Naval Special Clearance Team One, which, among other things, employs dolphins to detect sea mines. Since 2008, he’s served in the U.S. Navy Reserve and is a member of the Navy Experimental Diving Unit.
Panek also serves as an evidence technician for the WESTAF suburban police task force that investigates homicide and kidnapping cases. He is also on the Mobile Field Force for the Northern Illinois Police Alarm System (NIPAS), a task force that responds to emergency situations in the greater Chicago area.
Those positions will go unfilled during Panek’s absence, Weitzel said.