When Sheriff Tom Dart’s office announced last month that the Cook County Jail population had dropped below 6,000 inmates for the first time in a decade, the media was all over it.
|Riverside Police Chief Thomas Weitzel | Riverside Police Dept|
NBC even said there was “uniform support for bond reform by the head of the county’s court system, the sheriff and prosecutor, as well as County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.”
Oddly, not a single outlet seemed able to locate anyone with reservations about the jail story. Like the police chief in west suburban Riverside. He’s more than happy to offer his thoughts.
“I have been telling our state and county elected officials that criminal justice reform, including bond reform, is not protecting our citizens,” Riverside Chief Tom Weitzel told us today. “My concerns fall on deaf ears.”
Weitzel issued his own press release about the jail population. We could not find any media outlets that have reported on it.
“Our elected officials in Cook County and the state keep calling me an ‘alarmist,’” Weitzel said today. “After 33 years in law enforcement I know I am telling the truth!”
Weitzel contacted us after we ran a report Saturday about ten people featured on CWBChicago who’ve taken advantage of the county’s “affordable bail” program—and then gone AWOL.
For starters, he takes great exception to a statement from Dart’s office that said: “the jail is being used more appropriately now and not being used to criminalize those who are poor.”
“This statement paints police as having a stormtrooper mentality and is just not true,” Weitzel said. “It’s outrageous and not factual in any manner.”
“Over 90 percent of the time, my officers in Riverside and those throughout Cook County are responding to calls for service from residents or victims of a crime,” he said. “Officers are dispatched to calls, investigate those calls and make arrests where appropriate. We do not ask individuals their economic status…They are arrested because they have broken the law and police have enough probable cause to make the arrest.”
Weitzel questioned whether the county is even keeping track of the number of affordably-bonded individuals who wind up back in jail while awaiting trial.
“There is no independent long-term tracking being done to see if this new bond order from the chief judge is making the streets of Cook County safer,” Weitzel claimed.
“To simply put people on recognizance bonds or electronic monitoring to empty the jails is strictly a financial decision,” Weitzel said. “Cook County is creating its own rules, regulations and laws that are contrary to Illinois State Statute.”
Weitzel worries that the jailhouse’s revolving door will have a negative effect on cops. “Once police officers feel that there is no method for offenders being held responsible for their actions, and that includes setting proper bonds, police officers’ self-initiated activity will plummet, and crime will rise exponentially,” he predicted.