Robbins police officers say enough is enough, call off this weekend (Robbins, IL) – Earlier today, The Southland Journal reported that the police for the Village of Robbins have walked off the job. Documents sent to The Southland Journal by individuals within the Robbins Police Department, coupled with their accounts of the situation, detail years-long issues with staffing, contract negotiations, pay, and safety that have been inherited by the current administration.
Long Hours, Low Pay
The Southland Journal spoke with multiple members of the police department, and each expressed similar circumstances and issues with the Village of Robbins. A part-time police detective, who wished to remain anonymous, stated that he averages a 91-hour work week under dangerous conditions. He said that under their most recent contract, which is now expired, each officer is to work a 24-hour week. He also made a point to clarify that the police department is not striking, but that most of the remaining 14 officers on staff have elected to call out of work due to the ongoing issues.
Robbins Police Commander Hurman Mathus stated in an interview that the department is in the midst of a hiring freeze, and has, as of late, been losing an average of two police officers per month. He stated that the department is now down to 14 part time officers. This leaves the remaining officers regularly working 10 – 12 hour shifts.
This mass exodus of police personnel appears to largely stem from issues with pay. Both Mathus and police union representative Jason Starosta stated that the Village of Robbins pays patrolmen a starting salary of $11.50 per hour, with raises coming after three years on duty to $12.25 per hour. “You make $12.50 an hour at McDonald’s tossing fries,” said Mathus. “My guys are out here every single day, putting their lives on the line, for less than that.”
According to Mathus and Starosta, there are usually just two officers on duty at night. “If there is a call for shots fired or a burglary, and the officers are already responding to a call, they can’t get to the scene in a timely manner,” said Mathus. “It is unsafe for my officers and for the community.”
Furthermore, Mathus stated that paychecks are regularly incorrect. Starosta concurred, saying that their most recent paychecks that were paid out this past Friday had a number of issues as follows:
- One patrolman has not been paid at all;
- One patrolman was missing an agreed-upon uniform allowance;
- One patrolman was short 8 hours on his check;
- One patrolman received his uniform allowance, but not his regular check;
- One patrolman has not received their rate increase, this has been an ongoing issue for more than one pay period;
- One patrolman did not receive their overtime rate of pay of 1.5x the usual rate of pay;
- Patrolmen are still awaiting correct payments from a special event they worked in early September.
Concerns Over Officer Safety
Additionally, both Mathus and the anonymous detective say that the village was supposed to provide new bulletproof vests to their officers over one year ago. Mathus said they were fitted for the vests and the allocation of funds was approved under the previous administration led by then-mayor Tyrone Ward. According to Mathus, the current vests are expired and are ill-fitting.
Current mayor, Darren E. Bryant, said that he has not found any documentation or funds related to the issuance of new bulletproof vests.
Moreover, it is claimed that the village’s police vehicles are in dire need of maintenance. “They have check-engine lights on,” said Mathus. “Some of my guys could probably run faster than the police cars,” he continued. The detective we spoke with also said that the village’s police vehicles are in need of oil changes, new engines, new transmissions, tune-ups, and more.
Legal Troubles for the Village
Mathus said that the police department has been patient, and had even avoided filing the Unfair Labor Practices with the Illinois Labor Relations Board because they wanted to give the new administration a chance to clean up the mess that Ward left in his wake. “We said we would stand down until the new administration got acclimated.” But, according to Mathus, their time is up. “We are now going into arbitration. We’ve had enough. This is more than a wage dispute. We are concerned for our safety.”
According to Starosta, the village has been unresponsive to requests to enter negotiations since January of 2019. According to him, the village has not responded to three separate requests. On August 27 of this year, a 4th letter was sent and a complaint was filed with the State of Illinois Labor Relations Board citing unfair labor practices. The complaint can be viewed here: Robbins ULP Document
After those attempts to enter negotiations, Mathus said that he spoke with a trustee following a village meeting on Thursday evening. According to Mathus, the trustee was dismissive of his concerns and asked him to go up his chain of command for answers. The exchange was reportedly tense with voices being raised. Today, Mathus was informed that he is being placed on unpaid administrative leave for “conduct unbecoming of an officer.” Both Starosta and Mathus claim that the leave is illegal, saying that the village did not have just cause. According to Mathus, the leave will continue until the village’s investigation into what transpired is complete.
New vs. Old: The Administration Speaks
Mayor Bryant emphasized in an interview that the Village of Robbins is safe. “The Cook County Sheriff will be out here. So will the police officers of the surrounding community,” he said. Bryant also stated that these issues are not new. The Cook County Sheriff’s office released a brief statement saying that the “Cook County Sheriff’s Police are currently handling all calls at the request of the Robbins Police Department due to an extreme shortage of officers within the south suburban department. The Sheriff’s Office will continue to work with Robbins officials to provide public safety for the village’s residents. For more information, please contact the Robbins Police Department.”
Mayor Bryant stressed that the police contract expired under the watch of former mayor Ward, and that his administration has been working diligently to resolve these issues, along with a host of other obstacles that the administration has been faced with, since taking over in May. He says that he has responded to the police department’s requests and hopes to be able to work out a new contract with the police department very soon. “It starts with leadership,” said Bryant. “My administration has only been here for 5 months.” He has a new Chief of Police slated to start on Tuesday.
Robbins police officers say enough is enough, call off this weekend