Law enforcement agencies form task force for major investigations

Lisa Depies
Henry County Courthouse, east side

Law enforcement agencies in Henry County have created a special task force to respond to specific incidents.

The Henry?County Sheriff’s Department, Illinois State Police and Geneseo, Colona and Kewanee police departments have signed an inter-governmental agreement to conduct comprehensive, independent criminal investigations in response to officer involved shootings, in-custody deaths and major felony crimes in the county.

“I think this is something the police chiefs and sheriff have been talking about for a few years,” said Illinois State Police Master Sgt. Chris Endress, who serves as task force commander.

“It’s a good thing for involved agencies to be able to have the ability to detach themselves from an incident and have a stand-alone, well-trained team deal with the matter. It helps protect the agency involved,” said Endress.

When an incident occurs that falls under the investigative scope of the task force, members of the task force will collect all evidence, process all investigative leads and submit the completed case summary to the Henry County State’s Attorney for review.

“This has been in the works for awhile,” said Henry County?Sheriff Jim Padilla. “We’ve been saying we really need to get this going, but some of the recent incidents we’ve had at the jail has spurred this on.”

The Henry County Task Force is modeled after a similar group in Rock Island County, also led by Master Sgt. Endress.

“I think being the commander of both teams will do nothing but help us all to share with each other,” said Endress. “At the conclusion of a case, I like to always sit down as a group and do a really detailed debriefing where we pick apart what we did well and what needs improvement.”

At a recent joint training session between the Rock Island and Henry?County tasks force groups, participants reviewed recent officer involved-shooting cases in Rock Island County.

“What’s nice about these tasks forces is they build a working relationship with detectives and investigators in other departments,” said Endress.

Because he leads both tasks, Endress said he envisions future joint training sessions.

“I think having the groups work together will do nothing but help us,” he said.

Padilla agrees. “We’re fortunate in Henry County because all of the law enforcement agencies know each other and are always helping each other out. I see this as a continuation of that. I?think it’s going to be a big advantage to everyone involved. It’s a good thing for the departments involved and it’s a good thing for Henry County,” he said.

The 13-member Henry?County Investigative Task Force team features a five-person executive board.

Executive board members include Padilla, Geneseo police chief Tom?Piotrowski, Colona police chief Suzanne Bogart, Kewanee police chief James Dison, and State Police Zone 2 Capt. Jim Winters.

“I think it’s really good that the sheriff and police chiefs in Henry?County have taken the steps to get a team in place now, just to prepare for ‘what ifs’ in the future,” said Endress.

The new Henry?County Task Force will only conduct criminal investigations. It will not conduct administrative investigations or investigations into matters of internal policy.