Slain cop's wife upset his portrait was moved

The widow of a slain Riverdale detective said she’s insulted that village officials moved a “sacred” portrait of her husband that hangs inside the police station.

The portrait was moved from a second-floor balcony in the lobby to a wall behind the lobby information desk last week. Maureen Rolniak, 43, believes the portrait is now in a less public place.

“It’s very disrespectful for any officer, in any town, any city” killed in the line of duty, said Rolniak, clad in a white T-shirt and a blue dog tag, both emblazoned with her late husband’s smiling face. “He gave the ultimate sacrifice.”

Rolniak is the widow of Detective William “Wally” Rolniak Jr., who was killed on Feb. 4, 2004, after he was taken hostage by an escaping prisoner who grabbed Rolniak’s gun, forced him outside the Riverdale police station, then shot him in the head. A year later, the village named the public safety building after Rolniak, who was 39 and the only Riverdale police officer to die in the line of duty.

Riverdale Mayor Deyon Dean said in a phone interview that he thought he was helping people who had to crane their necks to see Rolniak’s portrait. Dean said the portrait in its new location is the first thing people see when they walk in the front door.

“The intent 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 Detective Rolniak’s picture moved to a more visible section of the police department and renaming our Detective’s Division in his honor,” Dean said in a statement.

The Illinois Fraternal Order of Police Labor Council issued a press release Monday, criticizing the mayor’s decision to relocate the portrait, an oil painting of the smiling officer in a suit. The union also said Dean planned to remove Rolniak’s name from the Det. William “Wally” Rolniak Jr. Public Safety Building. The mayor said that’s not true.

Riverdale officials do plan to add the village’s new logo to a sign at the entrance of the building parking lot and tweak the name to the William Rolniak Jr., Riverdale Public Safety Building, Dean said.

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