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Flossmoor trustees create new police leadership position

Flossmoor trustees approved the creation of a new position, director of police services, at the board meeting Monday, July 1. The move is designed to enable Carl Estelle to take the helm of the police department.

The vote was 4 to 2, with Trustees Joni Bradley-Scott and Rosalind Mustafa voting against the creation of the new position.

Carle Estelle

Estelle, a Flossmoor resident, has a wealth of law enforcement experience, including 30 years in California, but is not currently certified in Illinois. The new civilian position allows him to become the department administrator while awaiting the recognition by Illinois of his California credentials. 

The credential reciprocity process can only begin after he has been hired by the village, according to Village Manager Bridget Wachtel.

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Mayor Michelle Nelson said as soon as Estelle’s law enforcement credentials are recognized by Illinois, she will appoint him to the position of police chief. The reciprocity process can take about six months, she said.

“The creation of this process, the selection of the individual to fill it and my intent to appoint him eventually as police chief has been vetted with our board and with legal counsel and we want to be clear on our intentions here with the public,” Nelson said.

During the interim, Acting Police Chief Keith Taylor will remain in that position, serving in the law enforcement capacities Estelle is not yet authorized to fulfill. 

Taylor has served as acting chief since former chief Jerel Jones was dismissed in March. Taylor also served as acting chief between former chief Tod Kamleiter’s retirement in December 2022 and Jones’s hiring at the end of March 2023. 

Wachtel said Estelle applied for the position of police chief when the village conducted a nationwide search following Kamleiter’s retirement. He was not chosen at the time because the village had hoped to find a candidate who could serve for a longer term.

Nelson said the village did not conduct another broad search because the candidate pool from the 2022-2023 search was recent enough to start with those applicants.

“With the current vacancy in the police chief position, we took another look at Carl and found that his experience, leadership, management skills and community building qualities all demonstrated that he is the right person to lead the Flossmoor Police Department,” Wachtel said. 

Estelle’s law enforcement experience began with a decade as an officer in Oakland, California. He served six years as a captain in East Palo Alto, California. He also served more than a decade as an investigator with the California Department of Justice.

More recently, Estelle served as assistant director of security for Kennedy-King College in Chicago and as director of security for the City Colleges of Chicago. In 2020, he became city administrator for Country Club Hills.

In a memo to the board, Wachtel said Estelle also would serve as the emergency management coordinator of the village’s Emergency Management Agency working with the Flossmoor Fire Department “in the training and deployment of the village’s Emergency Operations Plan and Incident Action Plans.” 

Trustees were unanimous in expressing their high regard for Estelle and his qualifications for the job. Bradley-Scott and Mustafa noted their objections were with the process, not Estelle. At one point, Bradley-Scott asked Estelle, who was in the audience, to shake her hand as a gesture of her regard. She came down from the dais to meet him half way.

Mustafa said she would have preferred to have the board deal with the creation of the director of police services position separately from Estelle’s appointment to that position. Nelson clarified that the police chief position is a mayoral appointment with the advice and consent of the board and that the hiring of the director of police services comes under the village manager’s authority. 

Mustafa said the board was given the specifics of the new position on Friday, June 28, and she would have liked more time to consider the proposal. She asked questions about the budget implications of the new position. Finance Director Ann Novoa said because the salary budgeted for the police chief position was not being spent currently, the addition of a director of police services would not have a negative impact on the budget.

Mustafa noted that the director of police services as a civilian position will not legally be able to exercise police powers for about six months.

“Are we creating a potential safety concern because residents, officers and command staff may not immediately be certain about where Acting Chief Taylor’s responsibilities begin and Mr. Estelle’s end?” she said. “I’m concerned that we’re creating confusion for (the) Flossmoor Police Department as well as the community.”

Wachtel noted that while serving as director of police services, Estelle would not be authorized to make arrests, carry a firearm or conduct traffic stops. She said the chief’s position has been primarily an administrative post and chiefs typically are not called on to perform those duties. 

She added that chiefs do need to be able to perform those functions and that Estelle will be authorized to do so once the credentialing issue is resolved.

Tensions among trustees that first emerged publicly during meetings dealing with Jones’ termination were evident again and focused on disagreements over individual understandings about how the process would unfold. 

Mustafa said the village put forward the director position and hiring of Estelle without adequate board consideration of the proposal’s details.

“I’m concerned that the village has already announced that Mr. Carl Estelle will be offered employment because the board is expected to approve his position this evening,” she said. “Why are we presenting to residents that the decision has already been made? Were at least three trustees already contacted about their votes? I wasn’t.”

Nelson said in response that the board had given Wachtel “unanimous consent to create this position and move forward with this hire back in April.”

Bradley-Scott expressed concerns similar to Mustafa’s, adding that she feels the village has not demonstrated the kind of transparency in the process that residents expect.

“It was my understanding that when we voted to proceed with the development of this position that we were in discovery to understand what the job description would look like and we would come back together and talk about that so we would all be on the same page,” she said. 

Nelson and Village Attorney Kathleen Orr explained that the board’s appropriate role is to establish the position, leaving the details of the job and its performance criteria to village staff.

Trustee Gary Daggett pushed back against Mustafa’s question about whether some trustees were polled in advance about their votes for the position.

“I was not asked. It’s insulting,” he said. “In this current situation, be clear that however my vote goes on this or anything else, it’s my vote. I’m not someone’s puppet. I am doing what I believe is best for the village, and that’s it. I don’t do shenanigans.” 

Trustee Jim Mitros also countered comments by Mustafa and Bradley-Scott. 

“I heard us being accused of being dishonest … and someone suspects there is collusion in the vote. I’m flabbergasted by that. I’ve never heard such a thing and quite frankly I’m insulted,” he said. 

Trustee George Lofton gave Estelle an enthusiastic endorsement and offered support for the current police leadership.

“He’s a good leader. He knows people. I think he can serve us well in whatever capacity,” he said. “Until such time as the mayor appoints a police chief, we are in good hands with Keith Taylor and (commander) Tim Filkins.”

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