Washburn holding off action on police department

Nick Vlahos
Washburn Mayor David Humphrey, left, explains to residents crowded into Washburn Village Hall on Monday night that they have asked three part-time police officers to turn in their equipment. The mayor said that because of investigations by the Woodford County State's Attorney and Illinois State Police into an altercations Aug. 20 and 21 with Metamora resident Kenny Meinders and Washburn resident Lorin Warnkes they could not comment further on the case. Washburn police Chief Craig Rutledge continues in his duties.

If the Village Board decides to disband the Washburn Police Department, the Woodford County sheriff has a response: Don't look to him for much help.

The Sheriff's Department doesn't have the manpower or money to provide Washburn with regular patrols, members of the village police committee said Monday night during the board's regular meeting. It was the first such meeting since allegations last month of police brutality against Metamora resident Kenny Meinders and Washburn resident Lorin Warnkes.

Until investigations are completed, Washburn Mayor Dave Humphrey said, the board will take no action regarding the department or the officers involved in those incidents. The village's insurance provider has joined the Illinois State Police and the Woodford County State's Attorney's Office in investigating, police committee chairman Larry Roop said.

A special town meeting was held Aug. 30 to provide Washburn residents a chance to speak about the allegations. The police committee's usual monthly meeting was last week. Woodford County Sheriff Jim Pierceall attended that meeting, committee member Rob Stanfield said.

Pierceall's main message was even a pared Washburn force would be more effective than whatever protection the county could provide.

"He was concerned about response time," Stanfield said. "We couldn't go and ask him to have the cops patrol Washburn at night. It's just not going to work that way."

Woodford County deputies are able to respond to calls from Washburn, but that could take as many as 90 minutes, depending on the time of day, Humphrey said.

"The sheriff wants us not to make snap decisions and count on the county bailing us out," he said. "They do not want Washburn in any way, shape or form to get rid of its police department."

Some other villages in the county, including Germantown Hills and Roanoke, contract with the Sheriff's Department for regular patrols. Stanfield indicated it's too late in the year for Washburn to make a similar deal.

The three part-time officers on the Washburn force have turned in their badges and village keys and are not getting paid, Humphrey said. The only Washburn officer available for duty is Chief Craig Rutledge, the department's only full-timer.

During the committee meeting, one resident spoke in support of the police, Roop said. He also said he received a letter, signed by eight people, that favored retaining the department. Also apparently supportive is Village Trustee Randy Ragains.

"We shouldn't stand here to vilify the chief and our officers again. That's what Aug. 30 was for," Ragains said Monday as the meeting began in front of a standing-room-only crowd of about 30.

"I'm waiting until (the state police) and the state's attorney and any other entity that's investigating finishes what they're doing and files a report, and we'll see where the chips fall," Ragains said afterward.

Stanfield is hoping for a resolution at the October board meeting but said the status quo could extend into November.

Meanwhile, the health and hospitalization status of Meinders is uncertain.

Meinders had been hospitalized at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria but was discharged Thursday, St. Francis spokeswoman Shelli Dankoff said Monday. Meinders had been reported in fair condition Sept. 7.

Later Monday, however, one of Meinders' brothers said the 36-year-old is hospitalized currently. Wayne Meinders would not confirm his brother had been released last week and would not disclose his condition or where he was hospitalized.

Meinders was hospitalized after a confrontation Aug. 21 in Lowpoint with officers from Washburn and other jurisdictions. Police said Meinders fought with officers and attempted to disarm them. Witnesses said officers beat Meinders and Tazered him repeatedly.