Riverside’s Zenna Ramos can now become a police officer.
She will return to her field police officer training program, said Riverside Public Safety Director Matthew Buckley, and will be sworn in at the next Riverside village board meeting on Sept. 21.
The Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board reversed its decision five months after it recommended to decertify her over a 2008 vacated misdemeanor arrest for theft.
However, at an Aug. 31 hearing, a subcommittee of the state board recommended Ramos’ certification be reinstated in Illinois, which would allow her to return to the Riverside police force. On Sept. 7, the state board committee concurred with the recommendation to recertify Ramos.
Once Ramos completes the program, she will be ready to join Riverside’s police force. Ramos had completed eight weeks of the program when she learned she had been decertified. She has continued to work for the village in an administrative capacity ever since.
The decision is an important victory for Riverside, which has stood by Ramos. The village government and police force supported Ramos to get a “second chance” by taking action to have her case reexamined by the state board.
“We firmly believe that everyone is entitled to [a] due process and it actually worked out this time,” Buckley said.
The 37-year-old woman, who worked as a patrol officer in Cicero, has publicly taken accountability for the theft of three T-shirts valued at $14.99 when she was younger. She has said she learned from her mistakes and worked to change her life and to “do better” for herself and her family.
“We took a stance because we felt what was being done was improper for this officer who came here to Riverside with very high regards,” Buckley said.
Last month Gov. J.B. Pritzker voiced his support for Ramos, calling on the state board to reverse its decision. State Rep. Abdelnasser Rashid, whose 21st District includes Riverside, also threw his support behind Ramos earlier this summer.
State Rep. La Shawn K. Ford (D-8th) has said the decision countered the SAFE-T Act’s intent. The state board used the act as justification to decertify Ramos.
“We have a precedent now with Ramos that says people in her same position should be recertified,” Ford told the Landmark, adding that her case is one of many similar decertifications in process.
Ramos’ case could prompt a revision of the SAFE-T Act to ensure “the law is clear in statute,” Ford said.
“I expect us to review this concern or any issues that might lead this or a future board to believe they have to decertify someone,” he said.
The state representative said he plans to work with the Fraternal Order of Police, the ILETSB and other law enforcement officials to review the SAFE-T Act language and cases similar to Ramos. This step could help Chicagoland communities improve their hiring of police officers at a time when law enforcement agencies are finding challenges in hiring.
“Our goal is to make sure that everybody who transfers from one police department to another is able to work if they’re in good standing,” Ford added.
The ILETSB did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In the meantime, Ramos said she is grateful for the support she received.
“We’re moving forward and getting her back on the street where she wants to be, helping people,” Buckley said.