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South Suburban Cops Unhappy With Courthouse Closures

Cook County Criminal Courts

Cook County Criminal Courthouse at 26th and California in Chicago (Credit: CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – Cook County’s plan to shut down suburban courthouses on weekends went into effect last week with the closure of the Bridgeview courthouse. But police who now must transport arrestees to the Criminal Courts Building in Chicago for bond hearings reported that longer round trips were the only problem.

In a matter of months, all five suburban courthouses will be closed on the weekends, leaving the Criminal Courts Building at 26th Street and California Avenue as the only venue for bond hearings for those accused of serious crimes.

The Bridgeview courthouse was first up in a move that county officials say will save as much as $1.9 million in 2012.

Local police chiefs have criticized the plan, saying it will strain their undermanned departments and dramatically increase overtime pay.

Oak Lawn Police Division Chief Mike Kaufmann said police had to take two prisoners to the Criminal Courts Building on the first weekend, and while he reported no processing problems, the round-trip drive time increased by 20 minutes.

He expects the processing times to lengthen as the other courthouses close and all of the suburban Cook County police officers are bringing prisoners there.

“Any way you cut it, it’s going to be more difficult,” he said.

Oak Forest police Chief Greg Anderson said one prisoner had to be taken to bond court, and the round trip was 20 or 30 minutes longer.

“I understand why the county is doing it, but they’ve passed the cost on to the towns,” Anderson said. “Taxpayers are still paying for it one way or another.”

Orland Park Police Cmdr. John Keating said police transported three prisoners and the drive took about 40 minutes longer round trip. He said his department sent a patrol sergeant along for the ride to monitor the transition.

While he expects the additional transportation time to eventually strain his department’s midnight shift, there were no problems the first time out.

“It was a smooth process and everything went fine,” he said.

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2012. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)