Blue Island, IL-(ENEWSPF)- In a move that State Rep. Bob Rita calls “rash,” Blue Island Mayor Domingo Vargas decided Sunday effectively shut down the police department after one officer tested positive for COVID-19.
The mayor made the decision at 1 a.m. Sunday, according to a statement from Rep. Rita.
“Early this morning, I was contacted by the Governor’s office regarding policing and public safety in Blue Island,” State Rep. Bob Rita, D-Blue Island, said in the statement. “I have since learned that Mayor Domingo Vargas made a unilateral decision at 1 a.m. Sunday (today) to suspend all police department activities. At no point did the Mayor’s office contact my office, any member of the City Council or any other local leaders in making this rash decision,” the statement said.
Rep. Rita said his office has contacted and made arrangements with both the Cook County Sheriff and Illinois State Police to ensure that Blue Island residents have police patrolling our community.
“While this is not a long- term solution, please be assured that there are County and State police available should residents need their help,” Rep. Rita said. “Residents should still call 911 if an emergency. I am also in frequent communication with the City Council and am calling on our alderman to convene an emergency meeting to address community policing during this crisis.”
“Our first responders are heroes because they remain on the frontlines during this crisis,” the statement said. “In the event that a first responder falls ill with COVID-19 or any other illness, there are state-mandated protocols in place to protect both the employee and any others coming in contact with that person. These protocols are in place to ensure that we can protect both individual officers while not threatening the safety of the general public. Based on current information, these vital protocols were not followed by Mayor Vargas when making his decision.
“I am in frequent communication with both local leaders and the Governor’s office and will be providing daily updates as we work through this difficult time. We are also asking that anyone who is in possession of safety masks, gloves or other equipment consider donating those items to the Blue Island police and fire departments as we are facing a national shortage on protective items for first responders.
“Residents are invited to call my office at 708-396-2822 or email [email protected] with questions or concerns.
“Together, as a community, we will get through this.”
eNews Park Forest has calls into the offices of the mayor and police department.