- Associated Press - Sunday, January 31, 2016

FOX LAKE, Ill. (AP) - An official in Fox Lake says a police-sponsored youth program that an officer is accused of stealing from before killing himself will return without the military style of its past.

The Explorer program was disbanded following the September death of Lt. Charles Joseph Gliniewicz, with officials noting its military tone and his alleged mismanagement. Authorities say he staged his suicide to look like a homicide because he feared discovery of the embezzlement from the program. On Wednesday, Gliniewicz’s widow, Melanie Gliniewicz, was indicted on charges she helped divert money from the program.

Teenagers in the program led by Gliniewicz went through sniper drills and staged SWAT raids, sometimes wearing camouflage fatigues, the Chicago Tribune (http://trib.in/1nwHDmJ) reported. Other Chicago-area groups also teach similar skills, though the Fox Lake group struck a particularly aggressive tone, the newspaper said.

Village Administrator Anne Marrin said Fox Lake officials plan to bring back the program once the police department is “back on track.” She said that she would rather teens in the Explorer program not wear fatigues, and acknowledged the incongruity of having them do tactical drills in a community with little violent crime.

“We certainly don’t have shootings or anything like that,” she said.

Tactical courses hosted by the Fox Lake chapter were open to other groups, and the Fox Lake group routinely competed in an annual tactical competition for Explorers in Arizona. Several Fox Lake group members joined the neighboring Antioch group after Gliniewicz’s death, and that group sent Explorers to Arizona in January to participate alongside ones from Joliet.

Antioch Chief Steve Huffman said the use of force in policing is a “necessary evil” and that it’s important to teach kids aspiring to become officers all the elements of the job.

Peter Kraska, a professor at Eastern Kentucky University’s School of Justice Studies, said the Fox Lake chapter’s conduct mirrors a broader trend for police.

“I think even though (Fox Lake) might be an extreme example, it’s only an extreme manifestation of the normalization of militarization in policing today,” Kraska said.

Mundelein Police Chief Eric Guenther said Explorers there spend little time training with guns and instead focus on more routine police work such as traffic stops. Guenther sees the program as a recruiting tool, and wants participants to get accurate ideas about policing.

“People who are entering this thinking that it’s kicking down doors and jumping over fences all the time … that isn’t what we do 99 percent of the time,” he said.

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Information from: Chicago Tribune, http://www.chicagotribune.com

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