KANKAKEE — The police union told the Kankakee City Council about its objections to two of the three police officials the members do not like. They largely were silent about the third.
In late August, Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 102 held an anonymous ballot on whether members had confidence in Police Chief Frank Kosman, Deputy Chief Willie Hunt and Patrol Commander Donnell Austin.
According to the results, 71 percent expressed no confidence in Kosman and Austin and 74 percent in Hunt.
Union officials told the council Monday the current leadership is causing poor morale in the department.
“Since his appointment to deputy chief, Hunt has been a negative force within the police department and continues to undermine morale, ignore common sense and impede day-to-day operations while increasing department division,” Lodge President Kris Lombardi said in a news release. “Commander Austin has not been any better. He is indecisive and has threatened officers with retaliation, causing a hostile work environment for employees.”
The union, however, did not mention its specific objections to Kosman.
In an interview a day later, Lombardi and Vice President Tim Klopp were asked about their objections to Kosman. They said they opposed Kosman’s decision to keep Hunt and Austin in their positions. They recommended the chief remove both men.
“There are plenty of people who like Chief Kosman. He is a likable guy,” said Klopp, a sergeant. “Our no-confidence vote is really about the decisions or lack of decisions he is making. We believe he is not allowed to run the department. That’s where the no confidence is coming in. We cannot agree with how this department is being run.”
In a news release, the union said while the vote has no legal standing, it publicly indicates relations between police department leaders and employees have reached the “breaking point.” The release said the command staff was appointed by Kankakee Mayor Chasity Wells-Armstrong.
Klopp noted the chief met individually with each officer shortly after taking the reins. He heard their concerns, and many of them expressed their dissatisfaction with Hunt and Austin, Klopp said. They compared notes and discovered many officers told the chief about the same issues they had with Hunt and Austin, Klopp said.
‘A SMALL SLIVER’
One of the union’s concerns was Kosman’s promotion of Sgt. Mike Sneed to lieutenant. He was promoted instead of two candidates who received better scores on a mandated test.
The chief is allowed to pick from among the three highest-rated candidates. Previous chiefs have bypassed the top choice before.
In the past, Lombardi said, chiefs would inform the candidates who were passed over beforehand and have clear reasoning for their decisions. He said a system of favoritism benefits those under the umbrella of Austin and Hunt.
Lombardi, a patrolman, said the Sneed promotion is just “a small sliver” of the overall problem. It was the one, though, that pushed the everyone “over the edge,” he said.
“The last three promotions, they haven’t given any reasons to skip the other candidates,” Lombardi said. “It’s not moral.”
NOT ‘TAKEN LIGHTLY’
In January, the Daily Journal obtained a state police report indicating the state was looking into a report Hunt sought to install trackers and keystroke loggers on officers’ electronic devices. Hunt apparently believed confidential information was leaking from the department.
In Tuesday’s interview, Lombardi said this apparent spying led union members to be concerned about Hunt’s integrity. He said the no-confidence vote was not a spur-of-the-moment decision.
“This wasn’t taken lightly,” he said. “It wasn’t like we woke up one day and decided to vote no confidence. We spoke to our state lodge representatives and our FOP attorneys.”
Lombardi said the union first considered holding a no confidence vote in 2018 for then-acting Chief Price Dumas. But Dumas, who was in that role for a year, resigned before the union got a chance, Lombardi said. Dumas abruptly left in August 2018, three weeks after the Daily Journal reported on his use of a state criminal database to investigate two mayoral critics.
Kosman and Hunt did not return messages for comment. Austin said he could not comment without permission from the police chief.
Kosman was the police chief in suburban Bensenville for 16 years before retiring in 2018.