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O'Dekirk appoints four new fire/police commissioners

7/21/2015, 3:04 p.m.
His nominees, Herb Lande, Todd Wooten, George Hernandez and the Rev. Craig L. Purchase Sr., received unanimous Joliet City Council ...

Joliet Mayor Robert O’Dekirk has replaced four of the five members of the Joliet Fire and Police Commission in an effort, he said, to provide better diversity to the group and the people they hire.

O’Dekirk's nominees -- Herb Lande, Todd Wooten, George Hernandez and the Rev. Craig L. Purchase Sr. -- were approved unanimously Tuesday by the Joliet City Council without comment.

The only member to be retained is Joseph Strong, who is the commission's chairman. The members who have not been retained are Bill Tatro, R. Dale Evans, Phillip Falbo and Fredrick Moore.

The Joliet Fire and Police Commission is responsible for the evaluation, hiring, training and discipline of Joliet police officers and firefighters.

The city has been criticized for not having enough minority firefighters and police officers. Prior to his election in April, O'Dekirk vowed to try to make the numbers better reflect Joliet's demographics.

“Our public safety officers need to reflect the face of the community," O'Dekirk said in a news release on his nominees issued prior to the council's vote Tuesday.

"One of the goals of the new fire and police commissioners will be to create greater diversity in our public safety officer ranks so that our residents can relate better to our police officers and fire fighters while they are trying to do their jobs. There are more than enough eligible and qualified people in Joliet within every gender, race, orientation and classification to fill every vacancy that exists.”

O'Dekirk's position also reflects the comments made in a transition team report released earlier this month, in which members urged the city to to work harder at diversifying the police and fire department ranks.

The appointments are among the most significant he'll make, he said.

“The most important component of public safety is the hiring and training of qualified and suitable men and women to serve as police officers and firefighters," O'Dekirk said.

"The reason for stringent testing and rigorous training is because we want the right person for the job, and even then we will never know until that person is working on the street. Our fire and police commissioners carry a heavy burden to make sure we have the best and bravest working to protect our families.”

Contact Karen Sorensen at Karen@TheTimesWeekly.com.