South Suburban Police Chiefs Want Guns in the Courtroom

Chief Greg Baker

Riverdale Police Chief Greg Baker addresses the South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association. (Photo: ENEWSPF)

Tinley Park, IL—(ENEWSPF)— Should police officers be permitted to carry weapons in Cook County courthouses? Members of the South Suburban Police Chiefs Association (SSPCA) think so. They formally asked their mayors and village managers to help convince Cook County Presiding Judge Timothy Evans that guns in the courtroom are a necessity.

Chief Greg Baker of the Village of Riverdale Police Department spoke on behalf of the SSPCA at the monthly meeting of the South Suburban Mayors & Managers Association (SSMMA) last Wednesday in Tinley Park. He was joined by and Tinley Park Police Chief Mike O’Connell. Baker, formerly a Deputy Chief in Park Forest, explained to elected officials from the 42 participating municipalities of the SSMMA the rationale for the request.

“I’m sure that everyone is aware, in the Markham Court system and a lot of suburban court systems, police officers are not allowed to wear their weapons in the court building,” Baker said. “In this day and age, it’s ludicrous.”

“We know that today, for a fact, in Atlanta, there’s a court case going on now where a defendant shot a judge and several people, including police officers, in a court building.”

Baker said police have the support of Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart on this matter, however, Judge Evans feels it’s a safety issue. Baker said elected officials need to “make a statement” to Judge Evans.

ADVERTISEMENT

“We are looking for your support to help put pressure on the judges to turn this ruling around. If there’s an emergency circumstance that happens, if someone were to enter the courtroom with some kind of weapon, police officers are defenseless,” Baker said.

“We had an incident last week that we resolved where two court deputies told a police officer that you could not even wear a Taser into the court building.”

Baker related that in response, the police chief from the jurisdiction these officers came from was going to tell the presiding judge that if there were incidences of violence at the courthouse, he would order his officers to not get involved.

“It’s a shame that we would even have to think of something like that,” Baker said.

Police officers in the City of Chicago are permitted to carry firearms into city courts, according to Baker, “There’s three times as many people in that court building than there is in any suburban court district.”

After the meeting, Baker reflected on the vast differences between Riverdale and Park Forest with respect to crime given Riverdale’s proximity to the City of Chicago. Reflecting that he was fortunate to work in Park Forest and Riverdale, he said, “The closer you are to the city, the more of the city-type of violent crime that you have. We might have complained about some things when I was in Park Forest, but it is nowhere near the level and amount of serious crime that they have in Park Forest as compared to the areas that are closest to the city of Chicago.”

According to Baker, the reasons are many, “The city closed a lot of housing projects. When they close those projects, they gave the people vouchers. If you live in the City of Chicago, and you had a voucher to stay in the city, your voucher was [a low] amount of money. If you relocated to the suburbs, your voucher was [a higher] amount. It was almost like an incentive for people to get the higher dollar amount and go live in the suburbs. It’s much cheaper, it’s more economical, to live in the south suburbs, than it is to live in the north suburbs.”

In other business, SSMMA President Al McCowan read a resolution honoring and remembering Mayor Mark Stricker of the Village of Matteson.