PEKIN — Mike Eeten’s decision to enter politics will require his removal as the Pekin Police Department’s public information officer, the police chief said Tuesday.
That’s no small change. Eeten has been “the face” of the department that stands out in central Illinois for its public interaction programs focused on both crime solving and community building, said Chief John Dossey.
Eeten, 40, has actively promoted those efforts during the 3 1/2 years he split his time as a detective and the department’s PIO, Dossey said last week. But they must end.
A conflict of interest, as defined by department policy, arose last month when he announced his candidacy for Tazewell County sheriff, Dossey said.
Eeten was often seen and quoted in the media as the city police department’s public representative. That exposure now could blur the perceived line between his police duties and his political campaign, the chief said.
“There has to be a clear and separate venue between politics and police and city business,” Dossey said. “Department policy clearly states you can’t use your (police) position for political purposes.”
Eeten, who will be assigned to other department duties, deferred comment on his work as PIO to Dossey, who said he “has gone above and beyond in his performance” in that role.
“He’s taken us to extreme new levels of community engagement,” Dossey said.
Those duties will continue with the next PIO, which Dossey said he hopes to appoint by March after the position is posted and applicants are reviewed.
Like his predecessors, Eeten was often seen on TV asking for public help as the department’s CrimeStoppers officer, focusing on crimes both in and around Pekin. He mixed with citizens throughout the year at department-related events including Cops for Kids and the annual Night Out Against Crime at the Avanti’s Dome.
Eeten also strengthened public-police interaction through the department’s Facebook page, which preceding PIO Don Jolly began, and other social media venues.
Follow Michael Smothers at Twitter.com/msmotherspekin