Police K-9 Jullo retired in 2020. He will live out his retirement with his handler, former K-9 officer and Forest Preserve police Sgt. Dean Klier, who took a new position with Plainfield police. (Photo courtesy of Chris Cheng)
In addition to these examples of Forest Preserve police in action, the officers also: Assisted on bank robbery and drug search cases with Forest Preserve K-9s Rosie and Jullo; searched for missing persons including Stacy Peterson and Lisa Stebic; and sent a skull to the Smithsonian to help ID an unsolved suicide from 2008 in Thorn Creek Woods Nature Preserve.
“It’s definitely worthwhile being involved in specialized units,” explained Forest Preserve Police Sgt. Matt Yates. “I’m part of ILEAS (Illinois Law Enforcement Alarm System) region 3C, which is a mutual aid team comprised of officers from all over the state of Illinois. Not every officer is on a specialized unit, so I’m honored to have the opportunity to be a part of something where I can make a difference outside of my normal work routine. The connections I have made with other officers on my unit have helped the Forest Preserve District on multiple occasions when we call for assistance. And the experience I have gained from being on a specialized unit has not only made me a better officer, but a leader when an incident occurs related to my specialty.”
Police have mounted undercover details to catch criminals and deter crime; apprehended trail attackers; removed an illegal marijuana field; reunited lost children with parents and lost parents with children; conducted trail safety days; caught poachers; helped motorists with flat tires, dead batteries and lock-outs; rescued dogs that could not walk back their owner’s vehicle on a hot day; helped get horses into trailers; and pulled apart two deer stuck by their antlers.
“These accomplishments are all the result of our officers conducting proactive patrols and showing an omnipresence in the preserves,” said Forest Preserve Police Lt. Dave Barrios. “We have a great team of men and women who come to work to help make the forest preserves a safe place to visit.” Forest Preserve police use boats, ATVs, gators, snowmobiles and bicycles to patrol the preserves.
The department also launched the “Eyes, Ears and Cellphone” program, an initiative that encourages preserve users to stay aware of their surroundings, to call 9-1-1 in an emergency and to save the non-emergency phone number – 815.727.6191 – in their cell phone contacts for quick access.
“When you read about all the ways Forest Police officers protect the preserves and their visitors, it’s clear that the Board made the right decision 40 years ago to create this specialized law enforcement unit,” said Cindy Cain, the District’s public information officer.
“The Forest Preserve’s police department is an integral part of the District’s mission to protect preserve visitors and Will County’s natural resources,” Cain added. “And whether it’s a wandering tortoise, a dog fighting for its life in icy waters, a preserve visitor with a flat tire or a serious threat to human life, the police department’s officers respond with a base of knowledge that has been honed for four decades."
(Lead image by Chad Merda)