I attended the press conference held by Rep. La Shawn K. Ford where he strongly pushed back against the decision by the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board to decertify, and thereby end the career of, Zenna Ramos as a police officer. Governor Pritzker echoed this call the day after the press conference.
Rep. Ford joins Rep. Abdelnasser Rashid, Village President Joe Ballerine, the Riverside Village Board, Public Safety Director Matthew Buckley and the Riverside Police Department in asking the ILETSB to reverse their decision.
Fifteen years ago, Ms. Ramos was the victim of domestic abuse. She left to seek safety for herself and her young child, and, because she needed clothing, she shoplifted a T-shirt worth $14.99.
Although arrested, the case was dismissed, and her charge vacated. Nevertheless, the ILETSB has chosen to treat her mistake as if it were grand larceny. In so doing, they are grossly misinterpreting the SAFE-T Act. Rep. Ford, who voted for the act, confirmed that interpreting a dismissed and vacated misdemeanor charge as grand larceny was directly at odds with the honest intent of the legislation.
Ms. Ramos told movingly of her desire to be a police officer in Riverside, where she could approach policing as she has long aspired to do, with compassion. She wants to take time with people to get to know them.
Her story is one of redemption, perseverance, courage, and grace. She is exactly the face for law enforcement that Riverside wants and needs. The ILETSB has made a mistake that will ruin her career not only here but everywhere – if she is decertified, then she cannot be a police officer anywhere.
Who among us could withstand such scrutiny of acts taken so long ago and under such dire circumstances? ILETSB needs to do the right thing for Ms. Ramos and for Riverside and reinstate her now.
Ben Sells, Riverside
Ed. Note: Ben Sells is a former Riverside trustee and president.