President Preckwinkle today met with ministers from across Cook County to address concerns regarding the medical examiner’s office and the proactive steps her office is taking to remediate problems. More than sixteen ministers who are members of Interfaith Illinois and the Leaders Network attended the meeting, held early Wednesday morning.
The president opened the forum by expressing that she has been disturbed and disappointed by recent revelations of storage capacity problems at the ME’s office, and that senior staff sent to oversee daily operations are working diligently to implement personnel, policy and procedural changes.
“The truth is, over the years there wasn’t proper attention to the quality of staff in the medical examiner’s office,” President Preckwinkle said. “We are actively investigating the performance of personnel at all levels; how the office has been operating from intake on; and how we can improve those processes so we don’t find ourselves in the difficulties we found ourselves in recently.”
Some of the topics the president discussed include new technologies that will be deployed, such as more computerization throughout the office; regular staff training; and written policies and protocols. In addition, the president plans to institute an Advisory Committee, which is required under the Cook County Medical Examiner Ordinance, sec. 38-132, but hasn’t existed for twenty years. That statute says the committee should include a cross-section of stakeholders, including funeral directors, the state’s attorney’s office, medical professionals, police officials and public representatives. President Preckwinkle assured ministers at the meeting that clergy will be represented on the new committee.
Those in attendance expressed solidarity with President Preckwinkle, and offered support in furtherance of her goals, applauding an Advisory Committee that will include experts, professionals and clergy.
“The spirit of the overhaul is right, and anything we can do to help going forward, count us as friends and partners,” said Pastor Marshall Hatch, of New Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church and board chair of the Leaders Network.
Interfaith Illinois and the Leaders Network collectively represent more than 330 faith-based organizations across the state. Leadership of the two groups emphasized the problems at the ME’s office “extend past Cook County and need to extend to Springfield as well”, referring to state cuts in funding for public aid burials. Members pledged to advocate on behalf of indigent families in Springfield in the coming weeks.