Outrage at Riverdale police memorial changes

April 13, 2010 3:28:19 PM PDT
The family of a suburban police officer who was killed on the job say they are angry about how city officials are treating his memory.

William Rolniak was killed in south suburban Riverdale in 2004. His widow says Rolniak is not getting the respect he deserves.

He is the only officer killed in the line of duty in south suburban Riverdale. It has been six years since Det. William "Wally" Rolniak was taken hostage at the police department by a suspect, dragged across the street and killed execution style behind a bar.

"It's been a very tough six years," said Maureen Rolniak, William's widow. "I've raised two beautiful daughters."

"It's been very emotional for me not having dad growing up," said Denise Rolniak, officer's daughter.

For Rolniak's family, returning to the Riverdale Police Department was always comforting, because the department was renamed for the fallen officer, and Rolniak's portrait hung high in the police department's lobby, until a few days ago.

"They took down his picture and put it over a copy machine," said Maureen Rolniak.

At the direction from Riverdale's Mayor Deyon Dean, Rolniak's picture was moved to a wall behind the police glass, making it almost impossible for the public to see.

Riverdale Police officers told their union that the mayor planned to remove Rolniak's name from the public safety building.

"They are quite upset. They see it as big disrespect for their fallen comrades," said Ralph Nikischer, Illinois Fraternal Order of Police Labor Council.

Mayor Dean released a statement Monday saying he has no intention of removing Rolniak's name from the building. As for the officer's portrait, Dean says "the intention of the administration was not to discredit the memory of our beloved officer, but to ensure that his memory would be even more cherished by having Det. Rolniak's picture moved to a more visible section of the police department."

"I'm very heartbroken and upset. It is a disgrace," said Maureen Rolniak.

Maureen Rolniak does not think placing her husband's picture above a Xerox machine outside of public view is more visible. Mayor Dean says he also plans to rename the detective division in Wally Rolniak's honor.

The Fraternal Order of Police has tried to contact Dean, but says its phone calls have not been returned.

UPDATE (4/13/2010): Tuesday, the day following ABC 7's report, the union reports that Rolniak's picture is hanging once again in the lobby of the police department.