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Waukegan mayor: Police chief has his ‘unwavering support’

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Updated: March 15, 2013 1:38PM

WAUKEGAN — Mayor Robert Sabonjian expressed his “unwavering support” for Police Chief Daniel Greathouse on Wednesday, two days after Democratic mayoral candidates Terry Link and Wayne Motley announced at a public forum they would dismiss the chief if elected due to comments Greathouse made in the aftermath of three suicides among the ranks of his department.

Greathouse also issued a statement Wednesday apologizing for the comments, which were featured in a published report after being drawn from an e-mail to employees. In the e-mail, Greathouse reportedly said that the suicides “were about personal choices, selfishness and weakness.”

“I am truly sorry for my statements about this issue and I apologize to the friends and family members that I may have hurt because of them,” Greathouse said. “Furthermore, I regret that I let my emotions get the better of me and I allowed them to be infused into this internal communication with our staff.”

Motley and Link were asked about the comments Monday night at a candidates’ forum sponsored by River Road homeowners, with both saying Greathouse would not be their choice for police chief. The third candidate in the Democratic field, 1st Ward Ald. Sam Cunningham, said he had not read about the situation and did not say what he would do regarding Greathouse if elected.

Sabonjian, who is running as an independent candidate and will face the winner of the Feb. 26 Democratic primary in April, said in a written statement that Greathouse will remain on the job.

“Everyone has said things that they regret saying at one time or another. In Dan’s case, his statements were made when he was still grieving from the loss of one of our own,” Sabonjian said. “Chief Greathouse has my unwavering support, and he will continue to be the person that I trust to lead the men and women of the Waukegan Police Department.”

Sabonjian also offered his first public comments on the passing of the three officers, the most recent of which, the Jan. 10 death of Sgt. Peter Michaels, initiated the e-mail exchange. The department has also endured the suicides of officers Mark Jacobs in May 2011 and Mark Sturtevant in April 2012.

“We are obviously concerned by the number of our police officers that have made this tragic decision,” Sabonjian wrote. “We are in no way diminishing the significance of this issue, and we are all still healing while searching for answers as to why this has again happened to one of the members of our Waukegan family.

“Over the past few weeks, one of our priorities at every level of our operation has been to figure out how to identify the early indicators and the warning signs that individuals may display when having these thoughts. We have always been responsive and sympathetic to the emotional needs of our co-workers, colleagues and friends, and we have had in place professional counseling available to each one of our employees through our employee assistance program and have also brought in on-site counselors to help console those facing the sense of loss that this situation brings.”

Sabonjian added that over the course of the next few weeks, “we will continue to work with our partners in the mental health field in preparing a more robust solution to help us prevent this from happening again to any member of our staff, no matter the department that they call home.”

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