Sunday, September 19, 2021 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews
The village of Maywood is planning to create its own Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.
The plans have been in the works since at least June, when Kendall Silas, a Maywood native who works as a captain/training officer with the Bellwood Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, presented the proposal to the board.
During a Committee of the Whole meeting on Sept. 7, Silas said that the creation of an equivalent department in Maywood would provide reinforcements to the Maywood Police Department during emergencies and special events, such as the annual Maywood Fest.
Silas said the department also creates programs for senior citizens, adding that the department’s “ultimate goal is to make sure the village is prepared for any man-made or natural disaster.”
At that Sept. 7 meeting, the village board unanimously agreed to send the proposal to the next regular meeting for final approval.
The matter will also likely be discussed at the next Public Safety and Police Accountability Committee meeting on Sept. 22, 7 p.m., at Council Chambers, 125 S. 5th Ave. in Maywood.
The proposal has the backing of former Maywood Police chief Valdimir Talley, current Acting Police Chief Elijah Willis, Maywood Fire Chief Craig Bronaugh and sitting Maywood Mayor Nathaniel George Booker.
“We’re looking forward to working with him,” Acting Chief Willis said of Silas.
Maywood Village Manager Chasity Wells-Armstrong also expressed her support for the proposal, explaining that a homeland security department would free up Maywood police officers to do more critical functions during emergencies and special events.
“If there’s a violent issue, instead of someone patrolling Maywood Fest, we can have Homeland Security do that,” Wells-Armstrong said, adding that the new department would free police personnel “to handle more complex and serious issues.”
The manager said the addition of the new department, however, should not be considered a cure-all.
Silas requested that the board authorize an initial $25,000 in expenses for department personnel, tools and gear, and training, Chasity-Wells said.
Mayor Booker said the new department would be on the hook to retrieve funding from various grants and get to the point where it is self-sustaining.
Wells-Armstrong said the village has identified $25,000 in its budget due to the fact that several administrative positions that it had been hoping to fill are still open. She said the unspent money, which would have gone to salaries and benefits, can go to standing up the new homeland security department.
In a statement he authored before resigning earlier this year, Talley said that a Maywood homeland security division would “not only help enhance the well-being of our residents in times of emergency by promoting broader community engagement in preparedness.”
Acting Maywood Police Chief Elijah Willis, shown at Maywood Fest in September, expressed support for the idea of creating a Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management for Maywood. | File
Talley explained that both Bellwood and Melrose Park have homeland security departments that help during emergencies, disasters and special events.
Maywood’s ordinances already establish an Emergency Services and Disaster Agency (ESDA) “‘to prevent, minimize, repair, and alleviate injury or damage’ due to an emergency or hazard or actions against the country or state.”
Talley, however, said there is no ESDA coordinator to manage village interests and the position has been vacant since 2013. The village’s last emergency plan was approved in 2014 and needs to be updated, he added.
Currently, if there’s an emergency, Maywood police and firefighters would have to manage it, Talley said. The addition of a homeland security division would enhance the village’s emergency disaster preparedness, the former chief said.
At the time, Talley recommended that the village board authorize $25,000, $15,000 of which would go toward compensating the head of the proposed homeland security department and another $10,000 toward other startup expenses that were outlined by Wells-Armstrong.
The personnel in the homeland security department would serve voluntarily, with the assistance of auxiliary police officers. The latter aren’t sworn police officers, but they are authorized to do things like direct traffic and assist first responders in emergency situations.
Although the proposal had the backing of village administrators and department heads, there was some opposition to the proposal on the board from Trustee Isiah Brandon.
““I don’t think that this is … the solution for the violence that’s happening in Maywood,” said Brandon on Sept. 7. “I just don’t believe this is a solution.”
“The village of Maywood just last month had three homicides,” said Mayor Booker. “When you think of how many things homeland security can help relieve — identifying $25,000 to have representatives who currently serve on homeland security in Bellwood and Melrose Park is a way we can bring our people home to service the village of Maywood.”