Dispatchers, citizen recognized with Chief’s Commendation

Police Chief Eric Van Hook

O’Fallon Police Chief Eric Van Hook presents the Chief’s Commendation to (from left) Ebony Clemons, Michelle Foster, Melanie Kenyon, and Jennifer Wolf for their work in handling aspects of the car theft and chase that took place in O’Fallon in late January. (O’Fallon Weekly Photo by Nick Miller)

O’FALLON – Police Chief Eric Van Hook presented three dispatchers and a citizen with Chief’s Commendations during Monday evening’s City Council meeting.

Ebony Clemons, Michelle Foster, and Melanie Kenyon were all on duty on January 28, 2016, when the car theft and subsequent car chases took place in and around O’Fallon. They received commendations for their efforts coordinating police response during a high stress situation, while also dealing with a high volume of calls from parents wanting to know why schools were placed on soft lock down.

Van Hook said their work only emphasized why O’Fallon needs to have a localized dispatch center. The state of Illinois has been working to consolidate dispatch centers, an idea which Van Hook opposes.

Also honored was citizen Jennifer Wolf. Wolf called 911 and reported seeing the car theft. She then followed the suspects as they drove around town, while staying on the phone and giving information to dispatchers about their whereabouts.

“We could not have broken this case without her. She followed them and provided turn by turn information to the dispatchers so they could relay it to the police,” Van Hook said.

Van Hook did say that while he appreciates Wolf’s actions, the police do not encourage citizens to do anything dangerous.

All of the suspects involved in the car theft and chases were eventually arrested.

In other business…

• The council approved a resolution transferring property at 502 West State Street from the city to Gilbert and Patricia Harter. The Harters contend that the parking lot at the West State Street location is their property, however the city’s title search indicates the lot is part of an old railroad right-of-way that reverted to the city. The Harters wanted this property deeded cleanly to them as they are preparing to sell the building to photographer Sal Cincotta, who is looking to expand his photography business. The city determined it had no need for the right-of-way and wished to avoid litigation with the Harters.

• During the clerk’s report a variety of raffle requests were approved unanimously. The two roadblock requests were also approved, but with Alderman Ned Drolet voting nay.

• Mayor Gary Graham and Alderman Mike Bennett were both excused from the meeting Monday night. Alderman Jerry Mouser filled in as Mayor Pro Tem.