With a fear elsewhere in the nation that political partisans might try to disrupt the election, engage in voter intimidation at polling places or protest the result on election night, local police have been communicating with one another and tweaking their operations for Nov. 3 as a precaution.
Two weeks ago, police command staff from Riverside, Brookfield and North Riverside were among those meeting with other members of the Illinois Law Enforcement Alarm System (ILEAS) – a rapid response agency that serves municipalities across northeastern Illinois – and Illinois State Police to share information on how to respond to complaints involving electioneering at polls and polling place protocols.
For example, you’re not allowed to wear a face covering bearing the name of a candidate but you are allowed to vote inside of a polling place without wearing any face covering.
“Officers will have extra masks they can offer as an alternative [to one with a candidate name],” said Brookfield Police Chief Edward Petrak.
For the first time Brookfield’s chief has also initiated what he called “directed patrols” on Election Day at polling places, which are at village hall, Lincoln School, Congress Park School, S.E. Gross School and Hollywood School.
“They’ll make extra passes,” said Petrak, who added his detectives will also be shifted to patrol on Nov. 3. “That will give us four extra people for the day.
“We’re not expecting anything. It’s just a precaution.”
Brookfield Village Hall has served as an early voting site since Oct. 19 and Petrak said there have been no issues that police have had to respond to outside of some parking issues on the first couple of days and making sure people follow physical distancing guidelines due to the larger-than-normal turnout.
“Now it seems a little more spaced out,” Petrak said.
In addition to the ILEAS meeting and a conference call with state police, local departments have met as members of the West Central Consolidated Communications (WC3) emergency dispatch center.
“We always have a general order on Election Day about electioneering,” said Riverside Police Chief Thomas Weitzel. “People have been relatively well-behaved in Riverside every year.
“Our residents are well-educated, informed and respectful of the process. I would absolutely anticipate that that would continue.”
As far as staffing goes, Riverside intends to operate normal patrols, though Weitzel said he will remain in communication with area agencies.
“If there’s an uptick in information of possible activity [operations might change], but there’s been no factual information passed along to me that leads us to believe we’ll have issues.”
In North Riverside, where civil unrest resulting from national events in late May still has officials on edge, armed police officers will be assigned to each of the village’s two polling places, at the Village Commons and Mater Christi Church.
“We don’t normally do this,” said Mayor Hubert Hermanek Jr., adding that in the past, unarmed community service officers have checked in at polling places on Election Day.
North Riverside Police Chief Carlos Garcia said that while he might assign one or two more officers to shifts on Election Day, he also has heard of nothing that would indicate prospects for unrest on Nov. 3.
“I haven’t heard any chatter out there,” Garcia said. “We do coordinate with surrounding agencies and we always assist each other.”