LaSalle Co. (ECWd – In coordination with a LaSalle Co. Watchdog) –
As of April 4th, last Tuesday, the City of LaSalle informed members of their police department that their K-9 Division was going to be terminated immediately. In an article posted online by the Newstribune it cites these cuts were made for budgetary reasons and Mayor Jeff Grove is quoted as saying “We’re doing budgets and doing the best we can do as a city and these were decisions that had to be made.” According to the article, the City’s building inspector and a clerical position were eliminated as well.
In a second article located here, Mayor Grove is documented as saying the decriminalization of marijuana and the availability of other drug dogs in the area also factored into their decision. It is worth noting that as of today’s date, marijuana is not entirely decriminalized, only small personal amounts are. Either way, this statement clearly shows their decision was not based entirely on, but tied to, the financial benefit of the City.
If you check the City of LaSalle’s own website, they speak proudly of the K-9 Unit and the officers involved. The importance of this unit to a community is also clearly stated in this section copied directly from their own website and listed below.
“The K-9 Units have proven to be an invaluable tool in the war on drugs in our community. They have assisted in the arrest of countless suspects due to their ability to locate narcotics and have had numerous successful tracks which resulted in the arrest of the suspect and/or locating evidence. In addition to their patrol duties, both K-9 Units participate in numerous public demonstrations and school searches throughout the tri-county area. Due to their experience, unsurpassed level of dedication and extensive training, these teams are the most respected K-9 Units in the Illinois Valley and are routinely requested for assistance by agencies throughout the tri-county area and beyond.”
If this portion taken from their own website is accurate, then these dogs would appear to be extremely valuable to not only the police department but to the community itself. If you pay close attention to the highlighted portion it appears that their K9 Unit was highly respected and was routinely requested for assistance by agencies from all over. If this statement is accurate, then it lends itself to ask the question of why Mayor Jeff Grove and the LaSalle City Council would vote to terminate this highly respected unit that other jurisdictions sought after, to only now put their city in the position to be the agency requesting assistance from others. I don’t think anyone can argue this arrangement would be reducing the quality of service provided to their community.
While examining the City of LaSalle webpage I also observed the following excerpt.
“The LaSalle Police Department is fortunate to have two K-9 units within our patrol division. These teams provide many benefits to the City of LaSalle and the LaSalle Police Department. No tax dollars were used in the creation of these units. Both K-9s, their vehicles and equipment were paid for using donations from private citizens, our business community, and proceeds from drug arrest fines and forfeitures.”
When reading this statement I was left feeling as though the K-9 Program was no financial burden on the City of LaSalle itself. I have been told that the majority of the financial burden of a K-9 Program is the initial purchase of the dogs, vehicles, and equipment. This excerpt clearly shows that the financial burden of the initial start-up cost of this program was not absorbed by the City of LaSalle, but rather the community itself. If appears to me that this program belongs just as much to the citizens of this community as it does the City of LaSalle. I am sure there are financial incentives for the specialized officers involved in this program but they have to be minuscule in the grand scheme of the program.
Mayor Grove reportedly claimed these cuts would save the City of LaSalle approximately $200,000. I would have to venture to say most of those savings are from the elimination of the building inspector and clerical worker, not from cutting the K-9 Program. From what I’m reading I haven’t seen an exact quote of what the city will be saving by eliminating the K-9 Unit, and the fact that he threw out the much larger number seems to be a bit misleading. As said before the amount actually saved by the city probably will not impress the public, which is why the savings are all being lumped into one.
I have heard there are 100’s if not 1000’s of posts/comments on Facebook about this topic circulating around the Illinois Valley Community where this is occurring. I’m also hearing that most of these posts/comments are in favor of preserving the K-9 Program. My sources tell me that there appears to be much confusion as to why the City would so casually throw away, what appears to be such a highly respected and successful unit, for what appears to be trivial reasons while going against the general public who has spoken up in favor of keeping. Last time I checked, Mayor Grove and the City of LaSalle council were voted into their positions to make decisions based upon the good of the community. At this point, I fail to see how this decision is a good thing for the taxpayers. Not only is it a waste of the money that has so generously donated in the past but it also makes their community less safe.
When one takes into account the City’s reasoning for making this decision I can see why the public and the community would be confused, just as I was at first. As I sat here I began to realize I recognized two of the names, Officer Zebron and Sergeant Manicki, from prior articles that I have written involving an incident involving currently employed Sergeant Strand and his alleged solicitation of a prostitute while working for the City of LaSalle. I have written several articles on the topic but the one that stood out in my mind can be found at this link.
So I went back and reviewed the Illinois State Police Report to refresh my memory and low and behold there they were, both Officer Zebron and Sergeant Manicki front and center in this investigation. It appears that both of these officers attempted to blow the whistle on corruption within this police organization by one of their own officers, Sergeant Strand. Here are a few excerpts from the State Police Report to show this.
–Chief Uranich stated approximately two weeks ago he received a call from LaSalle Sgt. Minicki advising he heard something disturbing. Chief Uranich stated Sgt. Manicki advised Dana Slaughter who had been arrested for causing a disturbance is at Peru Police Department with Detective Jones. Chief Uranich stated Slaughter is a drunk and prostitute. Chief Uranich advised at some point a female-0ffice walked by, Officer Amy Sines and Dana Slaughter said “Hey Amy your husband has been fucking my friend Laura every Friday. Chief Uranich stated Officer Amy Sines is married to LaSalle Officer Pete Sines. Chief Uranich stated Laura Phillips was interviewed by Detective Smudzinski
-The next day Buffo contacted Sgt. Mark Manicki with the LaSalle Police Department and asked him about it. Buffo believes this would have been February 28th. Manicki wanted to meet Buffo for lunch somewhere and said he had more information from Lt. Smudgzinski. Manicki confirmed a departmental investigation on STRAND had begun a month prior to the winetasting event. He went on to tell Buffo that Peru Police Department Detective Dennis Hocking had received a phone call from a female (prostitute) claiming to had met an officer while he was on duty. The number that she was contacted from was traced back to a North Utica Police Department cell phone where STRAND also works part-time. The phone was apparently assigned to.him.
-Chief Uranich stated he saw Utica Police Officer Zebron and asked him regarding pictures of Strand on his (Zebron’s) phone or on a computer at the Utica Police Department. Officer Zebron told Chief Uranich he didn’t have on his phone or seen pictures of Officer Strand on a computer at Utica Police Department.
-The North Utica officer was afraid to come forward but was friends with LaSalle PD K-9 Officer Brian Zebron. Buffo said Officer Zebron told him he would fully cooperate with us if we needed to speak with him regarding what he knows about the situation.
After reviewing these excerpts, or the entire State Police Report for that matter, one has to ask themselves one question.
Instead of being rewarded for standing up to corruption are these two officers now being punished?
I am not saying I can prove this is the reason the K-9 Program is being terminated but based on the pushback during our investigation, the paper trail leads towards this being a possibility. The city has provided trivial reasons as to exactly why a program that is so greatly appreciated by the community is being cut. This is especially troubling in a time where relations between the community and police are strained the way it is around the nation. This K9 program appears to be the cornerstone of the bridge between the police department and the community in LaSalle which will only hurt police-community relations in the area. In my experience usually, the simplest explanation is the correct one and there are no such things as coincidences. I’ll leave it up to you, the reader, to decide one way or another what’s really going on here.
On Monday, April 10th at 7:00 PM the City of LaSalle Board Meeting will occur and the LaSalle Fraternal Order of Police Labor Council #964 have issued a press release inviting supporters to attend the meeting to voice their support and ask the Mayor/Council to reconsider the elimination of the K-9 Unit. I have attached the FOP Press release below. From one Watchdog to another, good luck on Monday dogs!