BROOKLYN, IL. (KTVI) – Brooklyn, Illinois has a new police chief, and Tony Tomlinson will be the first to tell you he has an uphill battle to fight. He replaces a police chief who, along with the mayor and other city officials, quite while under the microscope of the IRS. Now Tomlinson says he intends to turn up the heat on criminals who many believe have been allowed to run wild in the village of about 700.
“The citizens of Brooklyn can expect to be able to walk around Brooklyn like any other neighborhood in the country.”
That’s what Tomlinson told reporters just after being sworn in Thursday night. Then, still standing outside the police station with friends and family, radios began buzzing and officers began running. There was a report of an attempted robbery just a couple of blocks away.
It happened outside Smitty’s convenience story, the only store left in Brooklyn according to owner Tim Smith. Smith’s business, in place since the 1960’s, has been fighting a constant battle with young men in the parking lot. He says it’s been like a free for all in Brooklyn for some time.
“No protection. No protection. No police protection. That’s what we needed all the time,” he said. But asked if new leadership could change that, he responded, “ Sure. Yeah. Yeah.”
As we spoke, an eighteen year old suspect, one of six involved in the incident, was being handcuffed and taken away. Chief Tomlinson, still in his dress blues bearing chief’s insignia barely fifteen minutes old, scolded the teen before he was taken away.
“I’m telling you right now,” he said, “Regardless of how this night goes for you, this s%!# is over. You hear me?”
It’s a message he hopes to deliver repeatedly, even if the first chance comes with his Chief’s uniform still new.
“Fifteen minutes and we’re already out running, but that’s what we want. That’s exactly what we want. The presence they see tonight is what they’re gonna see every night.”
He also plans to use county, state, and even federal officers on the streets here. It’s a move that has been employed in East St. Louis. He wants to combine that strategy with a new effort to work together with other small, struggling communities in the area.
“If we assist them, they’re gonna assist us,” he says.
The city is in turmoil. In fact, a Belleville News Democrat editorial from last month is calling for Brooklyn to disband, and either merge with a nearby city or become part of unincorporated St. Clair County.
None of that is on Tomlinson’s radar right now. He’s focused on that message to criminals.
“We’re comin’ for you. We’re definitely coming for the bad guys. You can’t come over here and carry a gun and think you’re going back home. You can’t come over here and fire your gun in the streets in the air and think that it’s okay. We are going to come. We’re gonna light it up and prosecute the cases.”
One possible sign of early success Thursday came from that suspect, as he was being handcuffed.
“While I’m talking to him, his phone goes off and it’s a text message telling him not to be on the streets tonight because the police are out heavy,” he said with a chuckle. “That’s exactly what I want them to know.”