Nathan Hayes is the Director of the Major Case Assistance Team, or MCAT.  MCAT conentrates and shares the investigative expertise of officers from twenty-three agencies in twenty municipalities in Cook County.  
 
The 1993 Brown's Chicken murders in Palatine brought huge amounts of local, state and federal resources to bear on solving the case.  However, it also highlighted how overwhelming and difficult those resources can be to effectively utilize.  From that tragedy came the Major Case Assistance Team, or MCAT.  
 
MCAT concentrates and shares the investigative expertise of officers throughout Cook County and brings them to bear on individual cases.  MCAT members come from the twenty-three member agencies in twenty municipalities in Cook County and serves 700,000 people.  MCAT is led by today's speaker, Nathan Hayes.  MCAT is funded by membership dues - each agency pays $3,000 per year.  The salaries of MCAT officers are covered by their home departments because (thankfully) most of their time is spent in their home locale doing 'routine' policework.  
 
MCAT consists of four different teams - forensics, surveillance, investigation and their newest - crash reconstruction.  Major cases often exhaust the resources of small communities, even if they happen to have officers with the necessary training.  One murder, taking up to two weeks' of 16-20 hour days, can use a year's worth of overtime or more for a department.  This is where the MCAT comes in to help provide expertise and manpower.  A major car crash can close down a major intersection for over a day.  MCAT can process the scene and get it open to traffic in around two hours.  
 
When first formed, MCAT was working on over twenty murders each year.  Thankfully that has diminished over time, in part due to MCAT's excellent work.  Nathan told us that the Team has a 91.4% clearance rate on murders, compared to approximately 50% nationwide.  MCAT's ability to give officers the training and experience they need to develop their areas of expertise is key to their success.  
 
Nathan also outlined how MCAT might help local agencies implement the upcoming Safe Neighborhoods Act which will require departments to use outside agencies to investigate department-related incidents such as squad car crashes and officer shootings.  MCAT might be able to fill that investigative role.  
 
During the Q&A period, it was interesting to learn that there are other regional groups similar to MCAT that serve other counties in Illinois.  A main reason for different agencies instead of fewer, larger ones is to allow each group to work exclusively with one county court system.  Those systems can vary widely with their policies and procedures, so its easier to just focus on one.  That's not to say the MCAT-like organizations don't cooperate with each other - they do.  They'll call each other for advice and assistance, especially when the crime happens close to a group's border.  But everyone acknowledges whose jurisdiction takes precedence.  
 
This is another way local governmental agencies are combining resources and tax dollars to obtain an incredible return on those investments.  For $3,000 a year plus perhaps allowing an officer or two to attend the necessary training and then to go work on regional cases, the PHPD gains access to an incredible range of manpower and expertise that can help them process cases that would otherwise bust their budget.  
 

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