Council to Vote on Removing GPD Chief’s Residency Requirement

This Wednesday, City Council will vote on a resolution to remove the residency requirement for Geneva Police Chief Jeff Trickler.

The resolution notes that Trickler will return the $2,500 relocation fee he was paid by the city in 2011. In addition, the City of Geneva will temporarily remove the residency requirement, and after Trickler’s retirement, the requirement will be in place for the next police chief hire.

Amidst growing calls from citizens wanting more police accountability, our elected officials are considering passing a resolution to solve a police accountability issue by removing the rule that is being violated.

Let’s look more closely at this story with the first-ever Geneva Believer Q&A and the debut of A Letter to City Council.

Q. Trickler literally lives a stone’s throw from the city line. What’s the problem?

A. There are residency requirements for many jobs in both the public and private sectors. Trickler lived just a stone’s throw away from the city line when he took this job, and the job description included the explicit condition that he move to the city.

Can someone from Ward 1 run for City Council in Ward 2 if they live close enough to the Ward border?

Can a town of Geneva resident run for Mayor in the city if they live close enough to the city limits?

Can a City of Geneva resident refuse to pay city taxes if their home is 30 feet away from the Town of Geneva line?

Q. What about the good work the chief has done with the Community Compact?

A. If the Community Compact is moving in a positive direction, and Trickler has played a role in this positive change, he deserves recognition.

However, the Community Compact doesn’t depend on the presence of Trickler to create meaningful change. There are too many people who’ve invested their time and their hearts into the efforts of the Compact to suggest that the Compact would if falter Trickler left the committee.

The Community Compact is all about police accountability, and using the Compact as a talking point to justify a resolution that removes police accountability is cynical at best, gravely offensive at worst.

Q. He’s paying the money back, isn’t that great?

A. It’s good, but it should have been done years ago. The citizens of Geneva deserve to know why City Council and the City Manager failed to hold Trickler accountable for the past six-plus years. The city needs to be transparent and provide any documentation of any Council discussions or city employee correspondence related to the residency requirement.

Council and the City Manager can’t expect concerned residents to simply forget that they failed to do their jobs for more than six years just because they got a refund. By failing to hold the chief accountable, they’ve put themselves in a surreal situation where they are seriously considering passing a resolution to remove the chief’s accountability and their own accountability.

I can’t believe I have to write about this.

Q. Aren’t there more important stories to cover?

A. The relationship between the Geneva Police and many people in the community is deeply damaged by mistrust and fear.

The community has been asking for more police accountability for years, and these calls became louder in 2011 after the killing of Corey Jackson.

In recent weeks, demands from the community for police accountability have amplified.

This story is important enough to cover because the community deserves to know. Police accountability starts at the top, and the entire force is a reflection of its leadership. The Chief has failed to follow one of the conditions of his employment with the city, which sets the example for the rest of the department.

And now, City Council wants to intervene and literally remove the rule that the chief is violating so that he is no longer violating that rule.

Q. The chief owns a parcel of land in the city, he’s paying taxes on it, shouldn’t that count for something?

A. It’s a residency requirement, not a land-owning requirement.

Q. The chief is very close to his retirement, should he be forced to move or resign?

A. If there are thoughtful and creative alternatives for holding Trickler accountable other than making him move or resign, then Council should be discussing and considering them, not holding executive sessions and dreaming up resolutions to make the chief exempt from a rule he agreed to follow when he took the job.

A Letter to City Council from the Geneva Believer Editorial Board

Dear Angelina, Gordy, Jason, John, Ken, Mark, Paul, Ron and Steve,

Hey, how’s it going? We hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Ours were very nice.

We don’t believe you’ve thought this whole police chief residency requirement thing through all the way.

Let’s start by admitting that you all haven’t had a particularly good year in the public perception department. The whole Foundry thing was a real thorn in your collective paw early in 2017, but all hell broke loose once people started paying attention. There have been other missteps along the way, some more egregious than others, but hey, we don’t want to rehash everything now (we’ll be doing that with some “2017 Year in Review” stories here on Geneva Believer pretty soon).

In the past couple of months, a lot of the criticism has been leveled at the Geneva Police Department. Michelle Wilcox told her unsettling story at a Council meeting, a Geneva cop was discovered to be sharing racist posts on social media, and pretty soon calls for a citizen review board and police accountability bubbled to the surface again.

(By the way, do you all realize that the new “Complaint Resource Assistants” program by the Geneva Police Department is advertised by the city as an effort to “enhance transparency” by involving citizens in the police complaint process, but all “Complaint Resource Assistants” have to sign a non-disclosure agreement, which means that the program has literally no effect on transparency? Is that nuts, or what?)

Public perception, fair or not, is that City Council routinely engages in nepotism, covers up misdeeds of friends and colleagues and ignores calls for transparency. People think that you’re spending a lot of time doing damage control, while your responses to public crises are consistently and painfully tone-deaf.

We know you don’t want to confirm those perceptions, right?

Oh hey, remember that Foundry resolution that blew up in your faces?

Don’t do that again.

Anyway, back to the Trickler thing.

Look, we get that you just want it resolved. We get that you think Trickler’s a good guy who is doing a good job as chief. So, when this resolution was suggested, you trusted that it would solve the problem and allow you to focus on other issues from the never-ending City Council to-do list.

But here’s what you need to remember:

  • The chief of police was found to be violating the residency requirement of his job because he wasn’t held accountable by City Council.
  • The chief of police was given taxpayer money to move but never moved and never paid it back because he wasn’t held accountable by City Council.
  • City Council wants to pass a resolution to remove the job requirement so that the Chief is no longer breaking the rule, which holds no one accountable and reeks of nepotism.
  • You hope to justify the resolution by saying that Trickler’s job performance and pending retirement are more important that his failure to follow the residency requirement. In other words, he’s so good at his job that the rule shouldn’t apply to him.

You already know which way we’re leaning on this.

He’s not your average public employee. He’s the chief of the police department. People already suspect that the rules don’t apply to him because he’s the top cop. You’re going to make this whole thing so much worse if you do what people think you’re going to do.

City Council should be exploring ways to hold the chief and themselves accountable, while using the experience to engage the community and improve policing in the city.

Enjoy your holidays!

Sincerely,

Geneva Believer

PS

Believe!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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3 comments

  1. While I agree with your general point that the city council and the police chief have egg on their face for neither enforcing nor following the rule and the misallocation of the “moving expense”; I disagree that this is indicative of a problem beyond carelessness. Presumably Trickler did plan on moving and was excited about the promotion; there is no reason to assume that he planned on “cheating” from the start. I could be one of those questioners you imagined. There are many significant problems in the city. I am sure the mayor, the entire council, the city manager and the police chief would agree. I do not think that the location of the residence of one city employee is as important as many other issues we could be spending time on. We can all disagree while showing respect for differing viewpoints.
    A prime example of an item that could be improved easily if there were cooperation is the confidentiality agreement required for the Complaint Resource Assistants. We have already agreed that the confidentiality of the complainant is vital. Therefore I cannot understand how you still insist that the city not require their volunteers to hold that information confidential. If there is some wording in the agreement that you object to, or that you think should be added, please be specific and explain why you believe your wording is better than the wording that currently exists. I know you agree with me in theory, since in a previous post when you complained about the confidentiality agreement you said…
    “We need to stop asking the city and the GPD to do the right thing and start telling them what we want and need. They work for us.”
    Stating that you do not like the confidentiality agreement as currently drafted is not functionally different then asking them “to do the right thing”. If there were specific wording changes on the table we could have an intelligent discussion. Hopefully that discussion would enhance the transparency that you are rightfully seeking.

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    • I don’t recall implying that Trickler intended on ignoring the residency requirement from the start, so I don’t know why you’re making that a part of the conversation.

      I agree that, taken as an isolated occurrence, the residency issue is not overly important. However, considering the damaged relationship between the police department and the community, the residency issue reflects the broader issue of accountability. If we can’t trust Council to hold the Chief of Police accountable on this relatively minor issue, how can we expect them to hold the Police Department accountable on bigger issues?

      In 2011, the community responded to the shooting of Corey Jackson by asking for a citizen review board to investigate police complaints. At that time, Chief Trickler refused the suggestion. Over the next five years, literally nothing changed in relation to reforming the citizen complaint process.

      In 2016, when the US Department of Justice sent a representative to Geneva to help reinvigorate and re-assess the Community Compact, a citizen review board was again requested by community representatives. Again, Trickler refused.

      Instead, the “Complaint Resource Assistants” program was put in place. There are many types of citizen review boards. Some have the authority to hand down discipline to officers who are found to engage in misconduct, some can give recommendations on their findings.

      However, the “Complaint Resource Assistants” program does not address the community’s desire for accountability. The role of these assistants is to simply take the complaint from the complainant, bring it to the PD, and then keep the complainant updated on the process.

      Citizens have said for years that when they want to file a complaint against an officer, they are faced with difficulties throughout the process. They have reported being intimidated or ignored when filing a complaint, they have reported a lack of updates from the GPD, and they have reported that their concerns aren’t being taken seriously. This new program does nothing to address those concerns, other than to bring in volunteers to essentially explain the complaint process to the complainant.

      The complaint process is likely the biggest issue on the table related to police reform. In response, the GPD has shown that they will do nothing differently, will not budget any dollars toward fixing the complaint process, and will instead ask residents to volunteer their time to participate in a fraudulent effort to ease resident concerns.

      You seem to be sort of ‘stuck’ on the confidentiality issue that I brought up. My issue is that the city is promoting the program as something to ‘enhance transparency,’ but it doesn’t appear to do that. But that is far from the only issue with the Complaint Resource Assistants program that has been discussed on this blog.

      Like

  2. I am ‘stuck’ on the confidentiality issue because you keep bringing it up. I agree with you entirely that a citizen review board is the way to go; not complaint assistants. The police chief should not have a say in the establishment of such a board. Why not keep demanding that the city council establish one?
    Other communities have legislation establishing these kinds of boards; pick one you like and present that to council. Then demand action on what would now be proposed legislation. If action is not forthcoming run candidates who put that in their platform.

    Like

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