Tragedy tests hospital cops, results aren’t great

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Roughing up an elderly visitor, slamming a county employee against a wall while asking to see her visitor’s pass and arresting a reporter who was covering a protest by homeless advocates.

Now there are questions about whether officers responded properly during a tragic event last week in which Stroger Hospital employee Ramon Washington took a hammer to another hospital worker he reportedly used to date. Washington savagely beat the woman at the West Side hospital before heading to an isolated area of the complex and killing himself.

The BGA learned it took roughly an hour for hospital cops – there are 30-plus on the force – to put the facility on lockdown after discovering that Washington was the likely assailant.

To be fair, officers were searching for Washington even before the lockdown, but geez. What would have happened if he had a gun (rather than a box cutter) or fled onto the streets?

We’re not the only ones wondering about this.

Hospital system administrators are said to be taking a hard look at security improvements in the wake of this incident.

“The Cook County Health and Hospitals System takes incidents like this very seriously,” a spokeswoman said. “On the heels of this tragic situation, the hospital administration is looking at security measures and protocols to ensure that the safety of every single patient and employee is a top priority.”

Pension Gain, Pension Pain

We learned this week that ex-Mayor Daley finagled juicy pension sweeteners for himself and Chicago aldermen in the early ’90s, which ensured their slavish loyalty and stuck taxpayers with a multimillion-dollar bill. And that Daley added insult to injury by asking a state senator from a mob family to guide the bill through the General Assembly in the dark of night.

But the latest revelations of pension abuse by the power elite to enrich themselves at our expense overshadowed a very important development in the campaign for pension reform: House Speaker Michael Madigan, who can will or kill a bill with a nod of his head, told a suburban newspaper the Legislature should pass a pension reform bill before adjourning this spring, and that he’s at the negotiating table with the other stakeholders.

Pension reform is a must to ensure the retirement security of the next generation of public employees. And it’ll require a lot of painful sacrifices. But it’s nice that Madigan’s on board, and it would also be nice if Daley and the other finaglers gave back some of their undeserved sweeteners to share in the sacrifice.

Note: The BGA is hosting a free “Idea Forum” on pension reform in Chicago and Cook County at 7 p.m. Monday in the Congress Lounge of Roosevelt University, 430 S. Michigan. Please join us.

Easy go as money flows

DuPage County Sheriff John Zaruba had a pretty laissez-faire attitude when it came to light this past week that he was letting his teen son play cop – riding along with on-duty personnel, dressing like an officer, even chasing a suspect.

The son acted “in an appropriate way,” the sheriff said, via a statement relayed by an aide. But DuPage County Board members disapproved and are calling for a review of the ride-along program.

Turns out the sheriff also maintains a pretty laid-back attitude about campaign fundraising.

Over the past five years, Zaruba’s campaign fund has accepted more than $40,000 from contractors doing business with his office, the BGA found.

The donations from tow truck operators, food sellers and other companies hired by DuPage County government have helped Zaruba amass a sizable war chest by suburban standards: roughly $273,000 at the end of 2011, according to the Illinois State Board of Elections.

There’s nothing necessarily illegal about this practice, which is common in Illinois. But it’s frowned upon by reformers and good-government groups who believe it constitutes a conflict of interest, and creates the opportunity for quid pro quos, which is toxic for a law enforcement agency.

Zaruba, who has held the top law-enforcement job in the western suburbs since 1997, did not respond to repeated inquiries from the BGA about this subject. A Republican, he’s up for re-election in 2014.

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