Tonight, Zenna Ramos stood proud outside the Riverside Town Hall as she was sworn in as a police officer for Riverside’s law enforcement agency. This emotive moment “means everything” for Ramos and her family.
“I’m so happy. I’m just so grateful to be here,” Ramos told the Landmark after being sworn in by Village President Joseph Ballerine. In April, she saw her desire to join the police force halted by a state board’s decision over a 2008 vacated misdemeanor.
Ramos’ family celebrated the moment in the crowd, joined by Village Board Trustees and Public Safety Director Matthew Buckley.
“My kids are so supportive, they are so happy,” Ramos said with teary eyes. “They saw me when I was down, struggling.”
About three dozen residents and law enforcement officers also joined the village in celebrating Ramos’ second chance.
“The strength this young woman has shown for the last too many months – five months- has been amazing,” Ballerine said.
The ceremony culminates the village’s lengthy appeal process on behalf of Ramos. Last month, the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board reversed its decision to decertify Ramos. On Sept. 18, the village received a letter confirming Ramos received her waiver of basic training. With this waiver, Ramos was recertified, allowing her to join the Riverside police force. Ramos is set to start her training as police officer on Sept. 23. Upon completion she will start her patrolling duties, Buckley said.
Ballerine thanked State Rep. La Shawn K. Ford (8th) for pushing for Ramos’ recertification. He credited him for helping raise the issue to Governor J.B. Pritzker, who publicly called on her reinstatement last month.
“The village of Riverside has judged you by the content of your character and today, you are sworn in as Officer Ramos,” Ford stated. “I’m here to congratulate you and your family. Riverside is better because you will be patrolling the streets.”
The state board’s decision sets a precedent over the interpretation of the SAFE-T Act when it comes to police certification decisions. It is also a victory for the village of Riverside who supported Ramos in appealing the state board’s decision to decertify her. The work to ensure an accurate interpretation of the SAFE-T ACT will continue, Buckley and Ford said.
“There’s gonna be a Ramos law and you’re going to help a lot of officers,” Ford said, adding he is working on required legislative updates. Buckley will continue to support these efforts and work with the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, he told this publication.
“We have good people out there that want to be working as police officers,” he said.
Over the past few months, state representatives Abdelnasser Rashid and Elizabeth Hernandez also advocated for a second chance for the 37-year-old former police officer. State Senator Mike Porfirio also supported the village’s efforts to appeal the state board’s decision.
On April 19, the ILETSB decertified Ramos over a 2008 vacated misdemeanor arrest for theft of three shirts valued at $14.99. The state board later explained its decision was based on its interpretation of the SAFE-T Act.
Ramos, who was formerly a Cicero police officer, is ready to serve Riverside residents.
“I love Riverside. I can’t wait to get on the streets and serve the community,” she said.