Introduction

Hello Assistant Chief Christensen,

I look forward to meeting you May 21.

A little bit about me:

I am a Fort Collins native, but I’ve spent the past four years as a community newspaper editor and police reporter in suburbs bordering Chicago’s West Side. I came to Chicago to attend University of Chicago.

As a reporter and editor, I’ve covered five different local suburban police departments and the Chicago Police Department.

I’ve observed the digital transition in news and official communication from press releases and phone calls to Hootsuite-managed social-media blasts. I learned about maximizing the effect of all of our platforms.

As a police reporter, I developed a respectful, trust relationship with the commanders, officers and deputy chiefs on my beat. I am the descendent of three generations of Chicago police officers, and my cousin served as Cook County Sheriff for 16 years. I understand and support the men and women on the street.

profile pidIn Fort Collins, support for the police and fire departments is very strong because of the emergency responses to the High Point fires and the floods of 2014. An excellent public relations manager can help maintain and improve that level of community support and loyalty.

My goal as your public relations manager is to give timely and accurate information to the citizens and media in Fort Collins, while maintaining the integrity of investigations and the privacy of victims and persons not charged. I understand what reporters are looking for; I have covered many facets of police work, from criminal investigations to pensions. I can help the department avoid pitfalls I’ve seen in police communication.

This digital portfolio contains some of my best work pertaining to law enforcement with the Wednesday Journal family of newspapers.

You can see my resume HERE.

You can read more than 230 police beat stories I’ve written HERE http://www.oakpark.com/Community/People/Jean-Lotus/Articles/

Below are references from local police departments:

Village of Forest Park Police Chief Tom Aftanas:  708-615-6221  or 708-615-6299 taftanas@forestpark.net

Village of Oak Park Commander LaDon Reynolds: 708 358 5511 reynolds@oakpark.us

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Four errors in police department public relations

profile pid

By JEAN LOTUS

What are the most destructive actions a police spokesperson can take when telling the public about a significant crime or emergency event? As a Chicago-area crime reporter for the past four years, I have observed four significant police communication errors.

I’ve worked with police spokespeople who are great communicators, but some lack an awareness of how to tell a story the public understands.

Here are the most significant errors I’ve seen law enforcement spokespeople make when communicating details about an emergency, crime event or arrest.

  • Not returning phone calls, texts or emails. Being responsive is a spokesperson’s number one priority. A reporter’s deadline pressures mean a spokesperson must be reachable at all times when a crisis is taking place. Otherwise, the police department’s side of the story may never be told, or an investigation may be compromised. When police spokespeople don’t return calls, reporters will look for answers from less-reliable sources, such as listening to recorded dispatch tapes and interviewing neighbors. This can interfere with investigations, and put forward an alternative narrative that may take time to correct.
  • Refusing to answer questions when an investigation is still taking place. The best police communicators know they must respect reporters doing their job. It is possible to explain a situation in a way that can maintain the integrity of an investigation. Minimum information needs to be conveyed for the reporter to get the story filed. Good spokespeople know what a reporter is looking for and provide the answers that help the community understand the events, while preserving necessary confidentiality.
  • Not clarifying the distinction between types of criminal charges. A spokesperson must make sure the reporter is clear about charges, arrests, indictments, sentencing and categorization of crimes and emergencies. Many young reporters are not experts in legal nuances such as the difference between robbery and theft. Understanding these distinctions, and clearly communicating in laymen’s terms helps readers and reporters understand as accurately as possible.
  • Waiting until the phone rings to move on a serious event or arrest. The best spokespeople work ahead of time to make sure Police Department notifies the community in an accurate and appropriate manner, before misinformation and rumors take over.

Communicating effectively with the public is vital for police departments to maintain the trust and good will of their community. A good police communicator must be responsive, accurate, and understand the deadlines and conventions of police journalism.

Jean Lotus is a former police reporter Wednesday Journal Newspapers, which cover the West Side of Chicago and six great communities in suburban Cook County.

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Secretary at joint police dispatch center indicted for alleged paycheck theft

This article was a white-collar crime arrest that affected local police and fire departments in the area. 

Secretary at joint police dispatch center indicted for alleged paycheck theft

Grand jury charges against woman who allegedly stole $53K over three years

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015 1:38 PM

By Jean Lotus

Editor

On Jan. 8, a Cook County grand jury indicted Samantha Bardgett, executive secretary at the West Suburban Consolidated Dispatch Center, on two counts of Class 1 felony theft. The veteran employee allegedly stole $53,606.05 by altering her paychecks over the past four years. She was also charged with two counts of official misconduct.The dispatch center is a multi-government collaboration that provides police, fire and EMS dispatch services for Oak Park, River Forest, Elmwood Park and most recently Park Ridge. Housed within the River Forest municipal complex on Park Avenue, the dispatch center was founded in 2002.

River Forest police arrested Bardgett, 38, of Schaumburg on Nov. 20, 2014. According to a police report, she was accused of paying herself un-earned overtime and vacation pay on multiple pay periods from February, 2011 until her arrest.

Bardgett had worked at the dispatch center since 2002, said Executive Director John Ferraro. Her salary was $49,827 per year.

READ MORE: http://www.oakpark.com/News/Articles/1-20-2015/Secretary-at-joint-police-dispatch-center-indicted-for-alleged-paycheck-theft/

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Oak Park, River Forest crime rates lowest in decades

This article was a yearly compilation of UCR statistics.

Oak Park, River Forest crime rates lowest in decades

Villages release 2014 UCR crime statistics

Tuesday, January 13th, 2015 4:13 PM

By Jean Lotus

Editor

Oak Park and River Forest police reported a drop in serious crimes in 2014, part of a crime-falling trend over the past two decades, said Village Communications Director David Powers. The two villages released statistics reported to the Illinois State Police under the state’s Uniform Crime Reporting Index (UCR).

Oak Park police reported 1,665 serious crimes or “Part I Offenses,” down seven percent from the 1,798 crimes reported in 2013. River Forest police reported 263 serious crimes to the state police, down by 14 percent from 305 in 2013.

Of Oak Park’s serious crimes, the majority, 1,493, were thefts and burglaries, as has remained constant in Oak Park for decades.

“Our 2014 statistics illustrate just how safe it is to live in our community,” Police Chief Rick C. Tanksley said in a statement. He added that many burglaries were to garages, with two-thirds of garage burglaries through an unlocked door or window.

Village Manager Cara Pavlicek credited “the collaboration of dedicated police officers and an active, engaged citizenry,” with the drop in crime.

A summary of other crimes:

Robberies and crimes to persons:  Oak Park reported 83 robberies, 15 aggravated assault/batteries and five criminal sexual assaults in 2014. Robberies were about the same from 2013, which had 85 robberies. Oak Park police made 19 robbery arrests in 2014.  River Forest reported seven robberies, up from five in 2013. River Forest arrested three for robbery, down from four in 2013.

The number of aggravated assaults in Oak Park was down 58 percent from 36 in 2013. Police said that in the majority of these cases, offenders knew their victims and were reluctant to prosecute. River Forest police reported 10 cases of aggravated battery and assault, up from nine in 2013.

In all five cases of criminal sexual assault in Oak Park, the offenders and victims knew each other, police said. Two cases of criminal sexual assault were reported in River Forest.

Infographic: Oak Park Crime Rates | Infogram

READ MORE: http://www.oakpark.com/News/Articles/1-13-2015/Oak-Park,-River-Forest-crime-rates-lowest-in-decades/ 

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Firefighters race not just for fleet of foot

Local firefighters held a charity 5k race in Forest Park. This was a story I assigned as an editor.

Firefighters race not just for fleet of foot

Family run is meant to raise donations, have a party

Thursday, September 25th, 2014 2:55 PM

Tom Holmes

Contributing reporter

You might say that the Forest Park Firefighter’s Local 2753 have created a grave situation in planning their inaugural 5K run on Friday, Oct. 3. That’s because the race will be held at Concordia Cemetery.

Phil Chiappetta said his colleague, Lindsey Hankus, came up with the idea of holding the run in cemetery. The two are organizing the event. Chiapetta said having the run at Concordia is a great idea because it’s a safe place to run, easy to monitor and right next door to the after-race party to be held at Altenheim Grove, so people won’t have to cross a main street to get there.

Hankus added that when she looked online, she found a few other races that were held in cemeteries, but this one was especially appropriate because “I just felt it fit with the history of Forest Park.”

READ MORE: http://www.forestparkreview.com/News/Articles/9-25-2014/Firefighters-race-not-just-for-fleet-of-foot/

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Police and fire pension funds report $200,000 shortfall

Police and fire pensions in Illinois are big news because they have been underfunded for decades. A local actuary, who worked for over 100 municipalities, used calculations that underestimated the municipal contributions of many local Chicago suburbs.

Police and fire pension funds report $200,000 shortfall

Actuarial change leads to property tax boost to cover pensions 

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014 12:30 PM

By Jean Lotus

Editor

Forest Park’s police and fire pension systems took a hit this year because a simple actuarial change recalculated how long safety personnel can be expected to live. Actuary Timothy W. Sharpe, of west suburban Geneva, changed one element of his calculations last year, revealing a $104,000 shortfall in the police pension fund and a $94,000 shortfall in the fire pension fund.

That money was added to the village’s tax appropriation levy in July, boosting property taxes in town by about $200,000.

The change came when Sharpe switched last year from a 1971 mortality table to a new table that more accurately reflected the lifespans of police officers and firefighters living in 2000.

For more than a decade, Sharpe had been using a group annuity mortality table called the GAM-1971. As its name implies the table was created in 1971 using mortality data from police officers and firefighters collected between 1964 and 1968. Life expectancies on the tables tracked public safety workers who, at age 50, would have been born between 1914 and 1918.

READ MORE: http://www.forestparkreview.com/News/Articles/9-9-2014/Police-and-fire-pension-funds-report-$200,000-shortfall-/

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Victim in Oak Park shooting was federal informant

This story involved inter-departmental coordination between the Oak Park police, Chicago Police Dept., the US Department of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the FBI.

Victim in Oak Park shooting was federal informant

Federal complaint describes shooters, victims all living within blocks of each other on Austin Blvd.

Thursday, May 15th, 2014 9:52 AM

Updated: Tuesday, May 20th, 2014 5:59 PM

By Jean Lotus

The 36-year-old man who survived after receiving a shot to the shoulder at point blank range in the parking lot behind 464 N. Austin Blvd. on April 2 was a federal informant who had been warned by agents not to return to his Oak Park apartment.  A criminal complaint against the gunman was filed April 4 by the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms. The incident was the second shooting in two weeks at the 22-unit apartment building.

The alleged shooter, Kelsey Jones, 35, also known as “Little Mo” was arrested April 5. His home was only two blocks away from the victim’s at 653 N. Austin Blvd. in Chicago, according to the complaint. Jones was charged with attempting to kill the victim with intent to retaliate for providing information about the commission of a Federal offense.

The complaint describes a botched months-long ATF cocaine and weapons sting taking place just outside the eastern border of Oak Park in the Austin neighborhood.

The goal of the sting was to apprehend Toby Jones, a bald, bearded member of the Vice Lords street gang in his 30s also known as “Big Red.” The informant told the feds Jones employed a group of underlings to sell crack cocaine and illegally possessed firearms on the West Side of Chicago. Toby Jones was convicted of conspiracy to distribute narcotics in 2002 and served several years in prison. He was on supervised federal release until March 2014.

The informant also identified one of Toby Jones’s employees, Lesley Fields, known as “Little Red.”

According to the complaint the victim — identified as “CI” for confidential informant — accompanied an undercover agent from the ATF over several months, gaining Big Red’s trust making crack cocaine purchases. The informant/victim also helped broker the swap of eight firearms in exchange for crack cocaine.

READ MORE: http://www.oakpark.com/News/Articles/5-15-2014/Victim-in-Oak-Park-shooting-was-federal-informant/

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