After being hired by the Northlake Police Department and graduating from the Chicago Police Academy, the first police officer got to really know, besides my FTO, was Earl. I remember my first impression, and the first impression is very important, was that this guy was very confident and knew his stuff.
My FTO, Dan, had told me which officers I could trust and which ones I couldn’t and Earl was the first that I was told I could trust. I took this with a bit of hesitation since several of the old timers, Don M., Louie D. and Tommy O., had each told me, in general, to watch out who I trusted. Boy, what a way to enter a workplace!
I quickly learned who were the political suck ups and couldn’t be trusted and who were the straight shooters who could be trusted. It is strange to look back and have to think this way but in the policing world that I was a part of at the Northlake Police Department things did not run according to the norm I knew about. At the time I was hired, the City was run by an egotistical and very arrogant mayor, Reid Paxson, who was a former cop and insisted on being involved in all departmental affairs. Little did I know that in 1998 the city would hire Dennis Koletsos, Reid’s clone, to run the Northlake Police Department.
I quickly got to know Earl since my first shift assignment was midnights and he was a permanent fixture on that shift, the vampire that he was…business was quite brisk at the time I was on the street and I quickly learned which police officers would have my back–this included almost all the younger officers. Earl was one that stood out to me. Even though he wasn’t physically imposing, he exuded confidence and could raise his voice to an imposing level. I observed him to quickly gain respect from the people we dealt with on the street. He knew how to talk to people at their level and how to get desirable results whether it was a peaceful arrest or peaceful disposition of the matter at hand. I also observed that lots of the street people, criminal element, knew Earl and most respected him too which is quite an accomplishment.The citizens of the city of Northlake also knew Earl and most respected him as well.
Another thing I quickly observed was the fact that the surrounding police departments’ officers all knew and respected Earl. This told me volumes compared with what some of the “leaders” of our department may have conveyed or displayed.
Of course, there were those times, and we all have had them, where things did not go so smoothly between Earl and the criminal element. As I stated, Earl had confidence, sometimes too much with the wrong person, and things went awry. Whether he got smacked in the face by a girl, LOL, or taken down by an arrestee, Earl always bounced back and was in the mix at all times. That is what teamwork was about with all of us, we never hesitated to come to one anothers’ aid. We backed each other up and worked as a team and the job was a joy. We never worried about what we said or if we may be breaking a minuscule departmental rule, say, as going out of the city’s boundaries. We knew that the other officers wouldn’t run and tell the “leaders” everything. By leaders, I am mostly referring to certain Sergeants and, of course, the goofy mayor. That is, until Dennis the menace came to town under the new mayor, who we supported, Jeffrey Sherwin.
Earl also never hesitated to come to another department’s aid, even if it meant risking departmental discipline since there were Sgts., one in particular, that didn’t care for Earl and would have loved to get him in trouble. This rubbed off on all of us and we all worked very closely with the neighboring police departments of Franklin Park, Stone Park and Melrose Park. That is, until Mr. Koletsos came on board. And, the other departments responded in kind. I remember going for “lunch” on midnights with officers from Melrose Park, Stone Park, Franklin Park, Illinois State Police, Cook County Sheriff’s Police, and sometimes others such as Bellwood. things were tight between officers of all these departments and Earl was always in the midst of it.
One of the things I most fondly remember is the fact that we were not only coworkers but we would also get together after work and on special occasions. That first period on the job not only included a lot of action but many mornings at the Town and Country Bowling alley bar where we all got together and had lots of laughs. As the years went by, and before Dennis Koletsos came on board, there were many, many parties with the trustworthy police officers at the local establishments.
Whenever an officer of the department was facing discipline, even if it was an officer that we didn’t care for or trust much, Earl was always supportive and gave them genuine advice. He would even attend their disciplinary hearings even though it was not favorable to him in the “leaders'” eyes. He stood for what he believed in whether or not the departmental higher ups agreed or not. he was involved in the union and knew all the union procedures. If anything happened where an officer could face discipline, even if it was one of the political suck up officers, Earl was always there to support them and protect their rights. This rubbed off on me and I often told new officers that they could trust Earl no matter what. This is how coworkers should work and support one another.
Policing was Earl’s passion. Even when he was not working he was working. He had a scanner in his home and there were occasions when he would chime in on the radio even when he was off! His voice would come over in answer to a question or something similar so he was always ready and willing to help. He lived the job.
A funny story that demonstrates how seriously he took his job and position goes like this. One night, Earl was in charge since the Sgt. was off and he had the most seniority. We received a call–maybe a domestic disturbance?– and Mike K., Earl and I responded. I believe that Mike and I arrived first and the male subject was giving us a hard time or something like that. Earl proceeded to go to the door and introduce himself as the “commanding officer in charge” or something very close to that effect. I just remember how serious he was when introducing himself to this person and that Mike and I looked at each other and began laughing! We had to take a step back so that we didn’t distract from the situation. Good times!!
One more thing that I will add. Earl was as dedicated to the job–and the City of Northlake–as anyone I knew. So, when I heard of the travesty that happened to him in his 19th year of service–I was dismayed at how the City of Northlake treated him. A man that dedicated more than anyone I know to the Northlake Police Department and to be screwed out of some pension due to a disability he received while working (See More Here) is very unfortunate.
Oh, and Earl’s nickname all those years was, “The Duke” 🙂 it was a pleasure working with you those 12+ years!