DuPage sheriff’s teenage son allowed to play cop
Updated: May 28, 2012 8:58AM
To become a DuPage County sheriff’s deputy, applicants must be at least 21 and have two or more years of college credit.
Unless you’re a son of the western suburbs’ top law enforcement official, apparently.
A Better Government Association/CBS2 investigation found that Patrick Zaruba, the teenage son of DuPage County Sheriff John Zaruba, was allowed to go on numerous patrols with on-duty sheriff’s officers in recent years, dress like a cop and participate in car and foot chases.
Not only was the sheriff aware of his son’s activities, the sheriff was present on occasion, including an instance where the Zarubas stood side by side as the sheriff tried to enter a home to look for a suspect, a source told the BGA. Patrick Zaruba was 18 at the time, and a senior at Wheaton Warrenville South High School.
Many police agencies have “ride-along” programs — in which members of the media, aspiring cops and other interested parties can tag along with on-duty officers to get a feel for real-life law enforcement.
But experts consulted by the BGA were stunned that the sheriff allowed a youthful observer to have a hand in actual police work. Not only does that create huge insurance and departmental liability concern, it has the potential to put officers in jeopardy and ultimately poison a prosecution, they said.
“There’s a role for citizens to play in law enforcement,” said Dave Bradford, executive director of Northwestern University’s Center for Public Safety, a national traffic safety and police-training institute. “But that role doesn’t extend to taking part in routine enforcement action.”
John Zaruba wouldn’t talk to the BGA but, in a statement relayed by an assistant, the sheriff confirmed that his son — now 19 and a freshman at Illinois State University — indeed went on ride-alongs, including one on April 23, 2011, that culminated with Patrick Zaruba darting from a squad car and chasing a fleeing suspect on foot.