East Carondelet, IL – A former arsonist who became fire chief in Prairie Du Pont is now also a police officer in East Carondelet, without ever having to spend a day in training.
Ten out of 13 members of the volunteer fire department quit in December of 2021 after the Prairie Du Pont Volunteer Fire Protection District Board of Trustees made Jerame Simmons their chief.
Simmons is the son of Herb Simmons, the long-time director of the St. Clair County Emergency Management Agency, KTVI reported.
But 20 years ago, he pleaded guilty to arson after setting fire to a vacant home and setting a small fire in Dupo High School.
Simmons was 18 when he set the fires, and he told KTVI that Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker has since pardoned him.
But the pardon doesn’t erase his crimes from the memory of the community members.
“It’s a pardon. Still, the town remembers the school being set on fire,” former Prairie Du Pont Volunteer Fire Captain Laura Rosencranz, who is also the wife of the now-former chief, told KTVI.
“The town remembers the house set on fire where we had firefighters fall and be injured,” Laura Rosencranz added.
A soon as the board appointed Simmons to acting chief, firefighters rose from their seats and began turning in gear right in the meeting room along with their resignations, FOX News reported.
In March, Simmons also joined the East Carondelet Police Department as a part-time officer, the Belleville News-Democrat reported.
His father, Herb Simmons, has served as the mayor of East Carondelet for more than 30 years.
Simmons had previously served as an auxiliary police officer for the village of 500 residents that borders the Mississippi river, according to the Belleville News-Democrat.
His father, who runs the St. Clair County Emergency Management Agency, was also previously the chief of police in East Carondelet.
Simmons lucked out on his timing because he became an officer before a new state law goes into effect on July 1 that would have required him to complete nine months of training before he was handed his badge and gun, the Belleville News-Democrat reported.
Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board showed that Simmons joined the East Carondelet Police Department on March 14 and completed firearms training on March 23.
He has 18 months to complete the nine months of training required, the Belleville News-Democrat reported.
The pardon issued by the governor did not restore Simmons firearm privileges.
However, a federal law that exempts police officers from having to obtain a Firearm Owners Identification Card or concealed carry license allowed Simmons to get around that potential barrier, the Belleville News-Democrat reported.
The arson conviction was not Simmons only brush with the law.
He was arrested multiple times in the 23 years he spent as a convicted felon, the Belleville News-Democrat reported.
In 2018, he allegedly told a strip club bouncer that he was a police officer after his wife got into an altercation and was ejected from the club, the Belleville News-Democrat reported.
Simmons was ultimately charged with disorderly conduct and sentenced to 90 days of probation.
In 2006, he pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of an accident and was sentenced to six months of supervision, the KTVI reported.
Simmons pleaded guilty to obstructing a police officer in 2009 and was sentenced to conditional discharge.
He pleaded guilty again in 2016 to disorderly conduct and was sentenced to probation, KTVI reported.
Multiple charges have also been dismissed against Simmons over the years.
He was charged with violating an order of protection in 2006, impersonating a police officer in 2008, and then charged again twice with violating an order of protection in 2008, KTVI reported.