Brian Benton has ditched the title of “interim” police chief in Mokena, with the Village Board approving his permanent appointment to the job Monday.
“He wanted a little bit of stability, and I didn’t want to lose him to another town,” Mayor Frank Fleischer said.
The mayor said a “couple of towns were nosing around” as far as wooing away Benton.
Formerly police chief in Joliet, Benton was hired nearly a year ago as interim chief in Mokena, becoming the fourth person to lead the department in less than a year.
Benton had a 28-year career with Joliet’s department, starting as a patrol officer and serving as chief the last five years before leaving in August 2018.
Fleischer said Tuesday having Benton as interim chief gave him, and the village, an opportunity to settle into the job.
“It worked out well for both of us,” Fleischer said.
He said Benton had asked about whether the job would be made permanent, and Fleischer said he discussed the matter with village trustees.
For a time, the chief’s position had been a revolving door, starting in October 2020 when Steve Vaccaro, who had been Mokena’s chief since March 2014, was placed on administrative leave.
That came after the village’s police officers and sergeants sent a letter to village officials stating they had no confidence in the chief, and Vaccaro retired in December 2020.
After Vaccaro was placed on leave, Mokena officials in November 2020 brought on Tim McCarthy, who had recently retired as police chief in neighboring Orland Park.
John Keating, formerly a police commander in Orland Park who worked under McCarthy, was tabbed as interim chief at Mokena, coming on the job in May 2021 but leaving at the end of August of that year, citing personal reasons.
That is when Benton was recruited as interim chief.
Benton has a bachelor’s degree in criminal/social justice and a master’s degree in public safety administration, all from Lewis University, and he is a graduate of Northwestern University’s school of police staff and command, according to Mokena.
The Mokena Village Board also voted Monday to do away with a requirement that the police chief and police commanders live in Mokena, according to Fleischer.
News updates from the south suburbs delivered every Monday and Wednesday
“I always wanted the best person possible” regardless of where they lived, the mayor said.
Benton lives in Joliet, and one of two of Mokena’s police commanders lives in the village, Fleischer said.
The residency question for police commanders resulted in the firing of one commander, Christopher Carlson, who lives in New Lenox.
Carlson had been promoted to commander in July 2018 and, as a requirement of the promotion, had been required to move to Mokena. Carlson was fired at the end of June 2020 for failing to abide by the residency requirement, but reinstated later that year following an appeal to Mokena’s Fire and Police Commission.
Fleischer said relaxing the residency rule for the chief and commander positions gives the village more options in looking for candidates for job openings.
“We opened up the door a little bit,” he said.