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Who's Watching the Watchers?

By Sean Stillmaker in News on Dec 19, 2010 4:00PM

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Photo by Kelly Johnson
A government body with little oversight, slim repercussions and an exemption from the Freedom of Information Act is supposed to be protecting and serving the public. Instead, employees of the Cook County Adult Probation Department prefer the bare minimum, which led the sexual assault of a 13-year-old girl.

Probation department supervisors frequently have officers ignore policies, allow equipment for use in non-departmental operations, hand out merit pay to staff favorites and strictly respects the clout system, an Illinois Policy Institute investigation found.

Acurie Collier, 34, is a sex offender who was supposed to be under surveillance by the probation department. The officer lost track of Collier and didn’t do much else, which lead to Collier striking again.

The acting-chief of the probation department, Jesus Reyes (pronounced Jesse), said the case was mishandled. It was noted that Collier missed 17 curfew checks, but the officer, remaining anonymous for the story, told reporter Lee Williams the missed checks was 41 and that senior staff “sanitized” Collier’s file.

Since the investigation broke on Dec. 9 more probation officers are stepping forward to talk about other areas the investigation missed. A retired officer went on the record that supervisors stopped officers from investigating immigration statuses of probationers.

Federal law requires any foreign-born probationer to have their residency status verified, but Cook County is above the law. In March 2006 the City of Chicago adopted its sanctuary law that bars law enforcement from asking about legal status.

Instead of deporting these criminals taxpayers front the bill for the legal costs and housing them in jail. Although Cook County received $3.3 million from the Fed to compensate the cost of jailing illegal aliens. The timeliness of the immigration angle is impeccable since the Senate defeated the Dream Act 55-41 yesterday.

The Cook County Adult Probation Department has a budget of $43 million in taxpayer money. It supervises more than 25,000 convicted criminals with a total of 700 employees. Reyes was appointed in 2005 as an interim. He accepted the position to head the probation department in Bexar County last year in his hometown of San Antonio, but he’s still here.