The DuPage County sheriff is at the center of an investigation looking into whether he allowed his teen son to ride along as a deputy and participate in police work.
According to a Better Government Association investigation, the teenage son of DuPage County Sheriff John Zaruba apparently has dressed like a sheriff’s deputy and, in some cases, acted as one without being the required 21 years old and having two-plus years of college.
The BGA reports Patrick Zaruba, 19, went on patrols with on-duty sheriff’s officers on several occasions while he was 18. The association notes the then-senior at Wheaton Warrenville South High School also was with his father when the sheriff tried to enter a home looking for a suspect.
Should a high schooler be allowed to ride along as a cop and act like one?
DuPage County Sheriff's Office is one of many police agencies that offer programs letting aspiring cops and media members ride along with officers. The program doesn't condone helping out with police work, though.
In a tape obtained by the BGA, Patrick Zaruba was seen chasing a fleeing suspect with his father.
The father and son apparently tracked down the suspect, Kevyn Cartwright, at his home. The BGA caught up with Cartwright, who said he didn't know at the time the sheriff’s son was not a cop.
In a statement to the organization, Sheriff John Zaruba said his son "responded in an appropriate way."
Not everyone agrees. A professor emeritus of law and criminology at the University of Chicago told the BGA the incident sounds like impersonating a police officer. And the chief counsel of the Metropolitan Alliance of Police said he received complaints from road deputies about the ride-alongs.
Police sources said Patrick Zaruba wears a duty belt and a bulletproof vest but doesn’t carry a gun.