KANKAKEE — In what might have been a first in Kankakee’s long history, the Kankakee Fraternal Order of Police asked the administration at a city council meeting to remove nearly all of its command staff.
Speaking during the public comment section of Monday’s Kankakee City Council meeting, Kris Lombardi, F.O.P Lodge 102 president, told Mayor Chasity Wells-Armstrong the vast majority of the 67-member department believes the leadership of Chief Frank Kosman, Deputy Chief Willie Hunt and Patrol Commander Donnell Austin has caused poor morale throughout the department.
“Those employees who supported the no confidence vote cited lack of leadership, favoritism, lack of trust, unfair promotional decisions, poor follow through on verbal commitments, integrity concerns, poor decision-making qualities, poor communication, disregard for policy” and other actions, said Lombardi, a 17-year member of the force.
Because this issue was being discussed in public comment portion of the meeting, Lombardi had only five minutes to state the F.O.P. concerns. About a dozen officers stood with Lombardi as he spoke.
All three men have been appointed to their positions by Wells-Armstrong. The only other member of the command staff is Investigations Commander Jay Etzel. Etzel was only recently appointed to the position after the retirement of Lt. Dave Skelly.
The federation vote, taken in late August, found 71 percent of the force had no confidence in Chief Kosman, 74 percent no confidence in Hunt and 71 percent no confidence in Austin. In all, 58 members of the force voted.
Wells-Armstrong responded to the F.O.P. statement by saying the administration did what the council wanted in terms of bringing a new chief to the city. She said a national search was conducted, and the choice of Kosman was widely supported.
She said Kosman has been a member of the department only since mid May. She added she has no plans of removing Kosman or any other member of the department’s administration.
Kosman declined comment after Monday’s meeting.
The mayor said she wants to sit down with F.O.P. leadership and discuss their issues. The two sides have a meeting set for today.
“We have to figure out what these issues are. We need to work together,” she said.
The F.O.P. vote has no legal standing. However, the fact a vote was taken might be unprecedented in Kankakee.
Lombardi said the reason for the vote was simple. He said police wanted a way to publicly indicate relations between the police department leaders and the employees had reached a breaking point.
Before Lombardi’s statement to the mayor, some members of the public — including Theodis Pace, president of the Kankakee County Branch of the NAACP — spoke in favor of the department’s leadership.
Pace said the department is headed in the right direction. Similar to others, he said the two sides need to sit and discuss the issues.
The harshest criticism was directed at Hunt, a 23-year member of the force.
Lombardi said Hunt has been a negative force and undermines morale, ignores common sense and impedes daily operations while increasing department division. He also labeled Austin as indecisive and the cause of a hostile work environment.