DOLTON - The former police chief of south suburban Dolton is speaking out for the first time about Mayor Tiffany Henyard’s controversial police security detail, and how it affected his ability to fight crime.
In 2023, a FOX 32 investigation showed how that security detail is taking officers off the street and costing taxpayers thousands of dollars in overtime.
"The manpower was just very stressed and critical. To the point of almost breaking," said former Dolton Police Chief Robert Collins. "Having officers on the detail, rather than having officers out patrolling the streets."
Collins spoke to us from Florida, where he’s taken a new job after being fired by Henyard late last year.
Collins says he remains frustrated by what he experienced leading an undermanned, overworked police department, while Henyard demanded a large personal security detail.
"We needed those officers to be on the street fighting crime. Instead, we have several officers that are riding around protecting the mayor," Collins said. "Wrong is wrong, and there’s a time to hold people responsible and accountable for their actions."
Last year, a FOX 32 investigation followed Henyard’s detail as Dolton police officers drove her from morning until night, often to her second taxpayer-funded job as Thornton Township Supervisor in South Holland.
Through an open records request, we found the officers assigned to Henyard racking up hundreds of hours of overtime, costing taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars.
"At some point, there would be two officers or three officers," said Collins. "And depending on if there were some type of event, there would be more officers."
That’s for a town of a little more than 20,000 people that’s struggling economically and usually has only a few police officers on duty per shift.
Collins said Henyard’s security detail was warranted when it started in 2021 after a police-involved shooting in Dolton sparked protests and threats.
"And at some point, the protests stopped," Collins remembered. "The things going on and around the protests eventually stopped. But the detail continued."
And it grew in size and scope. Collins said Henyard frequently used the officers as her personal valets.
"Officers would be sent out to run errands, do pick-ups, do drop-offs. Whatever the case would be," he said.
The mayor’s detail also racked up thousands of dollars in travel expenses, accompanying Henyard on her many trips out of town.
"Why do you need a security detail while you’re out of town?" questioned Collins. "Who’s on the other end of that flight that’s going to do harm to her?"
Collins said he became increasingly frustrated because the mayor’s detail tied his hands when it came to fighting crime. Just last week, a mass shooting on Sibley Boulevard left four people injured. Collins believes the bad guys know there aren’t enough cops on Dolton’s streets.
"The Village of Dolton has its challenges with gangs, guns, and drugs," said Collins. "And those officers need to be on the street to serve the people who live in the community, and the people who pass through that community. And if the officers aren’t there, the visibility isn’t there. And if the visibility isn’t there, criminals have free rein."
When we tried to ask Mayor Henyard about her use of the detail last year, we were stopped by Dolton Village Administrator Keith Freeman, who stepped in front of our camera. Collins said he got the same cold shoulder when he tried to tell Freeman about the problems the mayor’s detail was creating.
"It more or less was, ‘these are the orders. This is what you have to do. This is what we want. This is what you need to provide.’"
Last week, Collins filed a civil lawsuit against the Village of Dolton for wrongful termination, alleging he was fired by the mayor without cause and without board approval because his wife is friends with some of the mayor’s perceived political enemies.
"Our contention is that it is illegal," said Richard Blass, an attorney who specializes in police issues and filed the lawsuit on Collins’ behalf.
Blass said Collins did nothing wrong and should not have been fired by Henyard.
"Chief Collins, any position he’s ever been in, he’s a policeman’s policeman. He held the rank of chief, but he’s a patrolman at heart," Blass said.
Collins said now that he’s moved on, he hopes the residents of Dolton are able to convince Mayor Henyard to scale back or eliminate the police detail.
"It is frustrating to see officers used like that," said Collins. "I’m sure the officers are frustrated too, but they’re following orders."