Marion police force working overtime to cover absences

A local city is working to protect the 17,000 people who live there, despite missing nearly a quarter of its police force.

Marion, Illinois, is down to 20 sworn patrol officers, with six officers on paid administrative leave. Marion Police Chief Dawn Tondini says good police work may have saved a woman’s life Tuesday. However, it also cost the department five officers to paid administrative leave.

“We have a lot of overtime posted,” Tondini said. “We run four-man-minimum shifts, and we think that’s best to protect the citizens of Marion.”

In the past the department could bring on auxiliary officers to help out, but state law no longer allows that.

“Auxiliary officers to work the road have to be with another full-time officer,” Tondini said.

“I think we may be calling on the sheriff to help provide coverage for the city,” Marion Mayor Bob Butler said.

Butler says the police department staffing issues go deeper than the five officers on leave.

Marion City Councilman Angelo Hightower, a road sergeant with the police department, is on administrative leave until the courts can work out a resolution regarding his legal status to work as an officer and serve as a councilman.

“That is something that will have to be addressed by the city council at its next meeting,” Butler said. “We’re hopeful that Hightower will do the right thing and step down as an officer. I think the court is going to rule that is the way it has to be, legally.”

If a judge rules in favor of the city, Hightower has indicated he will resign from the force to be a council member.

The five officers involved in Tuesday’s standoff shooting that claimed the life of gunman Joshua Green will remain on paid administrative leave until the Illinois State Police investigation is complete, and they are legally cleared.

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