Monee Adds a New Police Officer

New police officer, Ustad Jaco, was sworn in at the March 8th village board meeting. Photo courtesy Village of Monee.

New police officer, Ustad Jaco, was sworn in at the March 8th village board meeting. Photo courtesy Village of Monee.

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By Karen Haave
The Village of Monee has another new police officer and, yes, he comes from a neighboring community. University Park Officer Ustad Jaco was sworn in to the MPD during last week’s meeting of the village board.
Monee Police Chief Scott Koerner said Jaco is a veteran cop of “18 or 19 years. We stole him from our neighbors in UP. We are glad to have him. He had a stellar reputation over there (and) many of our people have worked with him on a lot of different scenes. He always has been a professional in every category when they have dealt with him, and we are glad to have him. This guy will hit the ground running, and he’s going to be a benefit to the Monee Police Department.”
Referencing the new MPD officers hired away from other communities, Koerner said, “I would like to mention here, now that I’ve got the public forum, that makes Steger, Matteson, University Park…have we hit anybody else? Oh, yeah, Beecher. 
“So I’m not invited to the chief’s meetings anymore,” he quipped, “but we’re getting a lot of good lateral transfers.”
Chief Koerner first noted in December, tongue-in-cheek, that Monee might be wearing out its welcome with other villages over hiring practices. When Officer Kevin Avers was sworn into MPD at that meeting, Koerner said his skills and knowledge of Will County are invaluable.
“We feel like we may have gotten a little gem here, who we stole from Steger,” he said, adding that Steger Police Chief Greg Smith wanted to hire Avers full-time, but it was not in his budget to do that this year.
“The Steger Police Chief is a pretty good friend of mine, and I had a phone call from him…and he said, ‘Are you really going to do this to me?’ And I said, ‘Probably’ and he goes, ‘We are no longer friends.’”
Koerner said he promised to buy lunch, so apparently he and Smith are buddies again.
During his report at that meeting, Monee Village Administrator Ruben Bautista joined the fun, with a “Steger story” of his own.
“I met with some engineers and a trustee from Steger…and he brought this (Avers) up, Bautista grinned. “And (the trustee) said, ‘You guys better stay out of our town. You’re poaching. Not only did you get a building services manager from our town, now you have a police officer.’”
In social media terms, Peotone and Crete seem to be marked safe from being hired away by Monee. 
Koerner emphasized after last week’s board meeting that his comments were all in fun, “My comments about luring officers from other departments are in jest. While true, we have gotten a few, I don’t want to sound like we are diligently working to recruit good officers away from our neighbors. We aren’t. I would prefer that none of our officers be taken away from our neighbors. But the reality is recruiting has become a full-time effort, and we are inadvertently cutting each other’s throats for the best candidates.  
“We also have lost a few officers who have lateraled elsewhere. No hard feelings, it’s just an unfortunate consequence of the current hiring environment. We want quality officers, and our pool has shrunk considerably over the last few years. It is a nationwide phenomenon. It means we sometimes run a little shorthanded for a longer period than we want, but we won’t lower our standards.  
“I think we have made this an attractive place to be a police officer by making salaries and benefits competitive, by promoting a professional environment, by touting our growth potential and, most importantly, by preservation of the support of our community and the village leadership.”  
MPD currently has 19 full-time patrol officers, excluding Chief Koerner and Deputy Chief Anthony Lazzaroni.
“We have two more openings and look to have them filled in the next couple of months. It will be the first time we are fully staffed in the past three years.”
Koerner added the MPD has two active hiring lists and won’t be testing again until they expire.
“That occurs when we have either vetted everyone on the list or after two years,” he said. 

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