Elgin Police Drone Grounded During Search By Local News Chopper

Chopper grounds Police Drone

FOX32/CBS2 News-Chopper grounded Police Drone during search.

August 29, 2017 – Elgin Police and Kane County Forest Preserve Police conducted a search of the hiking trails in Fitchie Forest Preserve on Elgin’s far-west side for what a caller believed may had been a disorientated elderly woman.  The perfect tool for this job was our police department’s new $12K DJI drone. EPD posted at about 10am on their Facebook page about the search and it apparently drew attention from one of the local news stations who then sent their helicopter over the area.

Once the chopper was heard, the drone-pilot for the police department had to ground the drone. I was perched at the entrance to the forest preserve hoping to catch a glimpse at our police department’s new toy but instead saw a squad pull up with the drone in the back.  It was then unloaded and put back in it’s case until the next time it may be called out. Did it crash too?

EPD Searching for possible disorientated woman

Just FYI for those of you with drones who live in the Elgin, Illinois  area, we have 2 hospitals in town and both of them have helipads.  Legally, you are required to notify airport management (or in this case, Hospital within 2nm)  before you fly your drone (FAA Reg107.43).  Even though hospital helipads are considered “private” heliports by the FAA, you are still required to make notification…….Even police & fire Departments.  (A call to both hospitals yesterday after this incident discovered that no such calls were received by anyone.).  I sought further clarification from the FAA directly today and all they would do is cite 107.43 but did confirm that in the case of “hospital” helipads especially, contact needs to be made.  It’s not hard, it only takes 2 minutes.  It needs to be done.
My friend Tammy Chapman at Flight For Life, an EMS Helicopter provider, has made this cause for informing drone-pilots of this information paramount.  It’s something I feel though, that needs to be handled more at the local-level as it varies greatly with the area you live.  It may cause a few more phone-calls to the hospital’s security office (as it should) but it’s better to be safe, than sorry.  Not doing so could cause a delay in response time in a life or death transport of a patient and I think it’s safe to say that if they’re being transported by air, it’s an urgent transport.  
Listed below are the phone numbers for Sherman Hospital and St. Joseph’s (respectively).  Ask the operator for the “Security office”.  (You might want to ask who you speak with and note the time of your call as well.)  I will compile a list of all hospital heliports in Illinois and Wisconsin later in the week.  Hospital heliports are NOT listed on an aviation sectional chart. To find them, you can look at SkyVector.com.  For our area you would enter ORD and then at the top-right corner of the screen choose “Chicago Heli”.  This is what you will find for our area.  

Helicopter Aviation Chart w/Legend

Sherman Hospital: 847-742-9800
St. Joes: 847-695-3200

This incident yesterday with Elgin Police Department having to ground their drone emphasizes the issue of “communications”.  News-Media helicopter pilots in the Chicago area have a specific VHF frequency (123.025mhz AM) they communicate with each other on when over a scene.  When you see 3 or 4 news choppers over something, know that they are talking to each other.  That communications network needs to be expanded to include FAA Part 107 licensed UAV operations for media and public safety as well.  The 2 can coexist in the same airspace safely, as long as they’re communicating with each other.

Icom IC-A24 Aviation Hand-Held

Icom IC-A24 Aviation Hand-Held

Communicating would require a special portable (aviation) radio like the one in the photo to the left as well as the procedure in how to use it.  While not cheap, it truly is a necessity if you are flying for a news-organization, Police or Fire department and I can see there being some resistance by the Helicopter pilots.  Let’s face it, they hate drones.  While most will cite safety concerns, there needs to be just one fact brought into the conversation. There have been zero (0) deaths caused by sUAVs.  You cannot say the same for EMS or News-choppers.  That said, I feel there needs to be more emphasis on “Communcations” in the FAA’s 107 requirements.  Also since the FAA has waived their magic-wand and made sUAVs “Aircraft” by definition so they can regulate them, there needs to be registration of aircraft and a “D-Number” issued to those aircraft if for no other reason, communications-identification.

 

 

 

Don’t get burned by the still-smoldering embers.

June 1, 2017 – By Bill O’Neill

For the last year now, the City of Elgin has been failing to produce documents specifically asked for via FOIA.  The Freedom of Information Act is not only state law, but Federal as well.  It’s intent is to assure to us (anyone tax-paying citizen), transparency in government.  The City of Elgin has been using FOIA’s for the opposite.  It shields the elitists most of the time, by burning others as a diversion.

Specifics you ask?  Well….a year ago I was informed by someone of an officer’s bad temper and said that if I didn’t believe it, to look at the officer’s history of domestic violence.  The officer in question was Sgt. Eric Echevarria.  So I did that.  I FOIA’d the department for complaints or internal reports concerning him.  Their reply?  “none exist”.  I knew at least one report in 2015 did in fact, “exist” so now I had to get creative.  I knew everything about this case down to the report number.  After another 6 months of beating around the bush only to get stonewalled, I finally got that report which  proved what I’m typing tonight is in fact, fact.  I received not only that, but more. One incident even occurring at a city-owned Rope house!  The only way they released that report was when I had to ask for it by address.  It clearly had Eric Echevarria’s name in it.  That one should have been returned when I asked for reports involving him in June of last year.  Instead, they juke and run at every opportunity.

Speaking of that (city-owned) ROPE house, These photos (click here for the full album!) are also from that same ROPE house.  Big deal you say….some under-age teen scantily dressed, took a photo by a squad-car.  Look closer at the photo.  Aside from this being a party AT the ROPE house, this (then only 19 years old) underage teen is holding a beer, she’s posing her crotch-shot on the top of an Elgin Squad with (then Lt.) Deputy Chief Bill Wolf clearly in the background watching.

I’ve said this at least 100 times over the last year.  When you’re in the clique, you’re golden.  God help you though if you’re not in their clique.  They’ll shove you out, light you on fire and watch you burn while they’re enjoying a cool beer and an underage chick posing for photos.  These photos were from 10/27/2007.  Yeah, they’re 10 years old but the only thing that fact holds relevant, is again, what I’ve said 101 times now….When you’re in the clique, you’re golden.  

A short time after these photos were taken for the pleasure of Lt. Bill Wolf, they threw one of their own into the pit and lit em on fire to protect another clique-member, officer Phil Brown.  The officer then sacrificed was Lt. Sean Rafferty.  Probably the best, most decorated & honest police officer on the department but now being accused of racism because he was chosen as the officer to conduct the internal investigation into Phil Brown’s clusterf*ck.  This was their only way out, their smoke-screen so they executed their plan and the Daily Herald and Courier Newspapers of course did all they could to see he burned to a crisp, even if it was for no other reason than to protect the clique.  Once the smoke and mirrors were pulled out, Rafferty’s flawless career was tarnished and Brown…..he went back to being a school liaison officer at Elgin High School where he is now.

What no one ever reported about that photograph of Rafferty and Wolek is that there was third person in that picture originally.  Officer Al Young. A young-black officer who was cut out of the picture because…. how could they use that for calling him a racist, if he’s with a black officer? Since then, the newspapers have done all they could to enforce the falsehoods these people are handing down as facts, and our City Council just sits on their hands.

Fast-Forward to 2014.  Jason Lentz bucked the system when reporting his Lt. Matt Udelhoven for taking inappropriate photos of a 12 year old female suicide victim.  Udelhoven received no disciplinary actions for his tasteless act according to the City.  He simply and quietly requested to be self-demoted back to Sgt.  This alone has to tell you how absolutely vile this was, that they were forced to deal with it concerning one of their own now…..but without shame and certainly not the fan-fair of Rafferty, Lentz or Sharp.  Unlike Lentz who’s name on the internet yeilds 100’s maybe 1000’s of returns linking him to a supposedly questionable post on Facebook but good luck finding the articles that reported that the City cleared him of any wrong-doing.  Jason Lentz got his job back, with back-pay.

Next on their hit-list was officer Paul Sharp.  Right up there with Rafferty and Lentz as being one of the best, he made someones’s sh*t-list and the next thing you know, he’s also being threatened with termination.  Unfortunately, they couldn’t get the Kane County State’s Attorney to see it their way so they had to keep him on the payroll.  Yeah, they stuck him behind a desk but I’m sure  it kills them every day to still see him there! 😉

In January of this year, my first FOIA to the City was for emails to and from Jeff Swoboda for 2015 & 2016.  (It was apparent over the year that they were not forthcoming with some documents I’d asked foor. Side-note: Previously in 2014 and 2015 I had FOIA’d the department for emails to and from Sean Stegall (then City Manager) and emails regarding Jason Lentz and Paul Sharp.  The City had no problem returning these to me and in one case, because the number of emails, provided them on a disc.

Elgin Police Department is riddled with great cops who live under the thumb of 2 people and they can’t complain about anything because, who would they complain to? Most of their supervisors are so far up the Chief’s butt he no longer requires an endoscopy every year.  At the stroke of a carefully worded “Press Release”, they’ll trash whoever tries to oppose them BS story and the papers will print it because after all,  it’s an “official press release” from the Chief!  Make no mistake, one hand washes the other when it comes to the 2 local papers.

It’s June 1st, 6 months after my first request and I still have not received what I asked for on January 1st of this year.  In March, I even lessened my request to only be for emails for 1 year.  As of today, I haven’t received those either.  Complaints have been filed with the Illinois Attorney General’s office.

The Police Chief, and Deputy Chief apparently believe they’re above the law.  Is it any wonder that former Elgin Police Department Commander Glenn Theriault UN-ARRESTED EPD Sgt. Mark Whaley?  This is just a continuation of the standing “system” and the only people who have the ability to change it, are our Mayor, Dave Kaptain and our City Council.  I’ve created an email address on Elginet that if you send one-email to, to are sending it to all of them, including the new City Manager Rick Kozal.  That email address is ElginCityCouncil@elginet.com

PLEASE feel free to send them a message asking them for once and for all, to provide the open/transparent government, our State has guaranteed us BY LAW.

What the City of Elgin needs, is a Citizen Police oversight committee that looks into these questionable cases and calls out the falsehoods contained in them.  Maybe call it the Elgin Crime Commission.  Because they’re things this Administration is not telling you regarding crimes but….there’s no checks and balance system so they can get away with it forever if we let them.  People on this committee must be something other than the bobbing heads that have been on other committees.