Photo by Carla Waters

Officer Mark Harris is dressed in the new riot gear recently issued to all officers on the department. Harris was dressed in the gear Tuesday night to show the Watseka aldermen what was issued.

The Watseka fire department and police departments were busy in the month of January.

At Tuesday’s public safety committee meeting, Watseka aldermen heard from Assistant Fire Chief Nick Peters and Police Chief Jeremy Douglas.

Peters told the committee that the department had two line/odor investigation calls in January, and were called to one traffic accident. There were also three fire alarm calls and one EMS assist. There were two mutual aid calls, one to Beaverville and one to Crescent.

The department also participated in two birthday driveways.

Training in January included station duty, equipment checks, hazardous materials awareness, ERG, incident command, mass casualty incidents and blood borne pathogens.

Peters said the department had to repair one of the vehicles for an air leak and this week another vehicle is in for air break system repairs.

Douglas told the committee there were 297 calls for the month.

There are three people who are going to be testing to be placed on the police list in case the department needs to replace any officers.

“We got to the point for oral interviews,” he said. “One of those candidates just got deployed to Iraq.” The commission is going to see about doing a virtual oral interview with that candidate as soon as possible.

Dawn Turcany was introduced as the new member of the police commission. She said she has lived in Watseka her whole life and received her bachelors and masters degrees from Eastern Illinois University. She works at The Arc of Iroquois County and is a case manager to 16 people.

Douglas said at the last meeting he was asked if Turcany could come to a city meeting and introduce herself to aldermen.

In another matter, Douglas said the department had one officer test positive for COVID-19 and another officer who was on quarantine because of being a close contact to someone else who was positive. The department worked through the short-handed time period, Douglas said, without much overtime being reflected.

The department is also upgrading computers, which will be paid for from the police budget. However, the software program that is used for reports will also need to be upgraded in the future, he said.

Several officers have completed training, including Sgt. Bill Stanley and Officer Scott Muench going to a leadership course in Urbana. Curt Marcott, John Lee Hall and Muench will be taking part in another leadership course, this time virtually, in the coming weeks.

Douglas also distributed information about new police laws that could soon become official. A legislative police reform bill has moved through the legislature. The governor could sign the bill into law soon.

“They are going to require all police departments in the State of Illinois by 2025 to have body cams,” he said, noting that is going to be a big expense for most departments. “That 216,000 from COVID that we put in that pooled cash fund we may want to use.”

“I’m sure you’ve heard, too, that another part of this is a cashless bond,” he said. “So right now the way it is a lot of times we bring people who are detained or arrested into the jail and they are not given an I-bond as it is now. When this cashless bond happens, unless you are certain of very few crimes, no-one is going to be held in jail. Everyone is going to be given a court date and kicked back to the street. I don’t know what the solution is.”

Douglas said that the department has also received its riot gear. The department had ordered it several months ago and because so many departments were ordering at the same time it took longer than normal.

Douglas said while they hope that they never need to use it, all officers have been issued the gear.

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