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?
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!