Chatham Police Department continues to prioritize traffic safety after winning top honor

November 18, 2021  

Last year, Chatham PD won ILACP's 2019-2020 judge’s award, the top honor among all 12 categories for the Illinois Traffic Safety Challenge. The award is one of many that the department has won in recent years for its dedication to traffic safety.  

 Members of the Chatham Police Department pictured at the annual 2021 ITSC Awards Breakfast, from left to right: Chief Vernon Foli, Senior Admin Dispatcher Dacia Marsaglia, Deputy Chief Scott Tarter, and Sergeant Mark Poani.  

Over the past decade, the Chatham Police Department has emerged as one of the consistent leaders in the Illinois Traffic Safety Challenge (ITSC), a friendly competition between law enforcement agencies across the state categorized by size. The program began in the early 2000s and is coordinated by the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police. 

Last year, Chatham PD won ILACP's 2019-2020 judge’s award, the top honor among all 12 categories for the Illinois Traffic Safety ChallengeThe award is one of many that the department has won in recent years for its dedication to traffic safety 

While no in-person awards were held in 2020, this past August Chatham PD was again recognized during the 2020-2021 awards ceremony, this time receiving plaque during an awards breakfast at the annual conference in Tinley Park held in August. Chatham placed third among municipal agencies with 11-25 sworn officers and was one of only 19 departments across the state recognized this year  

Police Chief Vernon Foli continually prioritizes the enforcement of traffic safety in all its facets. Through the Traffic Safety Challenge, the department collects points by addressing different areas of traffic safety – including training, enforcing traffic safety laws, consistently evaluating departmental policieseducating the public about traffic safety, and collecting data and sharing it publicly. The program is a lot of work, but the payoff is not about gaining accolades, says Chief Foli.  

“The program has grown to the point that our officers all believe in its value,” Foli says. “We have a small department, but our team is dedicated to working hard to make our community safer.”  

From DUIs to seatbelts to dangerous intersections, the challenge addresses the complexity of traffic safety and encourages departments to learn more about how to best address specific issues. 

The ITSC serves as a template for law enforcement agencies to identify traffic issues, plan strategies, reduce social harm and improve the quality of life in their communities. The program also helps agencies demonstrate successes to their government officials, community leaders and citizens. For Chatham officers, the challenge has given them a better understanding of where accidents are more likely to happen so increased resources or changes can be proposed at these locations. 

While Foli sets the tone, he credits his “boots on the ground,” such as Deputy Chief Scott Tarter, with the tangible success that Chatham has experienced, evidenced by the reduction in accidents and related hospitalizations in the town of about 13,000 located just south of Springfield 

Senior Admin Dispatcher Dacia Marsaglia plays a major role in the department’s ongoing commitment to traffic safety. Each year she helps compile the data for the comprehensive report required for the ITSC application. Understanding the data helps the department plan and allocate resources for the future. Marsaglia said she appreciates how ITSC pushes departments to improve from year to year as the program evolves to reflect what is happening on the local roadways.  

The chief will add to or change existing policies to not only improve our department, but also coincide with the changing laws,” she explained. “We are proud to see a distracted driving policy was added in 2019, which was extremely important for our department because of the number of accidents being caused by distracted driving in our community. Our chief’s goal is to make our department as efficient as possible by keeping our policies and procedures up to date. 

In the last three years, Chatham has seen a reduction in seatbelt citations from 245 in 2018 to 128 in 2019 and just 68 in 2020 (which is likely especially low because of the stay-at-home order). Similarly, citations for speeding and distracted driving have gone down while efforts to address problem areas have increased.  

The department has also done an exemplary job of communicating what it does to the local community. Programs like “Cops in the Classroom,” “Operation Clear Track,” and the “Child Safety Seat” program – which seeks to ensure that all parents have access to safe seating for children rather than to punish those who may have difficulty securing child seats – all serve to involve the community in the effort to keep Chatham roadways safe.  

Officers and staff regularly “humanize the badge” by telling stories on their popular Facebook page, which is led by Officer David Leach and has amassed over 20,000 followers. The department uses the Facebook page to highlight relevant topics and promote ways people can be safer on the roads. For example, last year Chatham PD partnered with ridesharing app Lyft to provide free transportation to residents to reduce instances of driving while impaired.  

The Chatham PD’s ongoing effort to bring innovation and consistency to its approach to traffic safety has made it a continual leader in the Illinois Traffic Safety Challenge and an inspiring example for other law enforcement agencies of any size in Illinois.  

The Illinois Traffic Safety Challenge is supported by a NHTSA grant administered through the Illinois Department of Transportation, Bureau of Safety Programs and Engineering (BSPE), as well as generous funding from private entities.  To learn more about the ITSC program, visit Illinois Traffic Safety Challenge (