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Rep. Bob Rita slams Blue Island mayor for suspending police activity

Sunday, Mar 22, 2020

* Press release from Rep. Bob Rita (D-Blue Island)…

URGENT PUBLIC NOTICE: Early this morning, I was contacted by the Governor’s office regarding policing and public safety in Blue Island. I have since learned that Mayor Domingo Vargas made a unilateral decision at 1 a.m. Sunday (today) to suspend all police department activities. At no point did the Mayor’s office contact my office, any member of the City Council or any other local leaders in making this rash decision.

In response to this action by the Mayor, my office has made contact and arrangements with both the Cook County Sheriff and Illinois State Police to ensure that Blue Island residents have police patrolling our community. While this is not a long- term solution, please be assured that there are County and State police available should residents need their help. Residents should still call 911 if an emergency. I am also in frequent communication with the City Council and am calling on our alderman to convene an emergency meeting to address community policing during this crisis.

Our first responders are heroes because they remain on the frontlines during this crisis. In the event that a first responder falls ill with COVID-19 or any other illness, there are state-mandated protocols in place to protect both the employee and any others coming in contact with that person. These protocols are in place to ensure that we can protect both individual officers while not threatening the safety of the general public. Based on current information, these vital protocols were not followed by Mayor Vargas when making his decision.

I am in frequent communication with both local leaders and the Governor’s office and will be providing daily updates as we work through this difficult time. We are also asking that anyone who is in possession of safety masks, gloves or other equipment consider donating those items to the Blue Island police and fire departments as we are facing a national shortage on protective items for first responders. Residents are invited to call my office at 708-396-2822 or email with questions or concerns.

Together, as a community, we will get through this.

* I asked the governor’s office for a response. From Jordan Abudayyeh…

The Governor’s Office urges local governments to act responsibly as we overcome the challenges COVID-19 brings us. Police officers are essential employees who do valuable work to protect and serve. The health and safety of all Illinoisans are the Governor’s top priority and the administration is working with ISP to inform local governments on proper protocols. The Governor would urge leaders in Blue Island to follow guidance from the CDC and IDPH.

* Sen. Michael Hastings…

“Our first responders are doing a phenomenal job in the south suburbs responding to COVID-19 calls. I’ve been on daily calls with them regarding planning and potential issues moving forward. Unfortunately, we are already seeing the effect when our law enforcement officials are exposed to this virus. We’ve had exposure at four of our local police and fire departments already.

On a positive note, whether it’s getting PPE or prioritizing testing for first responders, Governor Pritzker has been overwhelmingly understanding and helpful to our requests.

Similar to my experience in Iraq, bad things will occur in this battle. We’re going to have to be one team, one fight regardless of who you are or where you live.

…Adding… One person who’d been home a week and the entire department is shut down?

Blue Island Mayor Domingo Vargas made the decision Sunday. Vargas told NBC 5 a police department employee tested positive for COVID-19 last week, and although the person hadn’t been at work for at least a week prior to the positive test, officials are looking into whether the individual was in contact with other city or department employees.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

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