Local police chiefs say a manpower experiment being adopted during the pandemic is just temporary, but elected officials may want to keep an eye on just how successful so-called "no-borders" policing is among West Central Consolidated Communications villages over the next several months.
In some way, the policy is a continuation of longstanding agreements among villages to provide mutual aid to one another when it's needed. If there's a bad crash on First Avenue in Riverside, it's not unusual for Riverside to call on Lyons and North Riverside to provide traffic control, for example.
If there's a flash mob at the North Riverside Park Mall, you'll often see Berwyn, Riverside, Brookfield and Forest Park cops show up to help out. If the crowd is a very big one, North Riverside may call the Illinois Law Enforcement Alarm System (ILEAS) seeking police help from towns across northeast Illinois.
Suburban police departments, through task forces like the Major Case Assistance Team (MCAT) and the West Suburban Major Crimes Task Force (WESTAF) also share investigative resources to help solve serious, violent crimes like kidnapping and murder.
To put it more succinctly, law enforcement is already highly coordinated. Even though you might look at a department like Riverside's and conclude it's just a tiny village force focused on village matters, in reality Riverside patrol officers and detectives operate all over the suburbs, just like North Riverside and Brookfield's.
One thing we haven't yet been able to fully calculate is the economic impact the COVID-19 pandemic is going to have on the nation, states, counties and municipalities. And, with the failure of national leadership to provide a unified, coherent strategy for controlling the spread of COVID-19 and meaningfully helping the millions of people thrown out of work as a result, there's no telling how long this is going to last.
Pooling police resources — and for that matter fire and public works resources — may be a model for the reality that awaits us a year from now. Make no mistake, during the next six months to a year, every municipality in the state is going to be looking at ways to economize.
If we as citizens want to keep receiving the level of municipal services we expect, then we may need to begin shifting our thinking about how that's best accomplished.
So, good for Riverside, Brookfield, North Riverside and McCook for thinking out of the box and giving no-borders policing a go as they navigate the pandemic and its potential impact to their officers.
We look forward to the day where we can sit back and assess, under more normal circumstances, what the experiment will have taught us about consolidating government services and how to leverage the combined resources of neighbor communities to greater benefit.