Jeff Swoboda knows well that the most effective police work is in getting to know the people in your community -- to show them you're just as human as they are and to gain their trust.
It's Swoboda's start as a resident police officer in one of Elgin's more troubled neighborhoods that set him on the path to one day lead his department. So it's no surprise that Chief Swoboda is now part of the main event of a friendly boxing competition among a bunch of cops and lawyers in the Fox Valley -- none of whom knows how to box -- to raise money for a good cause.
Cops all over the suburbs for years have participated in Torch Runs to raise money for Special Olympics. Also as part of that, they climb atop doughnut shops.
They've staged local franchises of the National Night Out Against Crime, a community mixer with police at the center that regrettably has fallen by the boards in some communities in tough budget times. They work with other first responders in Touch a Truck events that showcase specialized equipment and win over younger kids. They work with Neighborhood Watch groups.
Some chiefs hold monthly chats with the public on whatever topic moves them. Some sponsor citizen police academies. They work in and with schools against bullying and drug abuse. They go on shopping sprees with underprivileged kids through Shop With a Cop.
In the case of the Resident Officer Program of Elgin (ROPE), of which Swoboda was a part in its infancy, officers live in city-owned homes in targeted neighborhoods, walk a beat, get to know the residents and head crime off at the pass.
If you haven't crossed paths with a police officer in a good way in the past couple of years, it's not through a lack of trying on their part.
On Sunday, 20 police officers and prosecutors will entertain during a day of boxing in Aurora. There will be 10 three-round exhibition bouts that feature police chiefs, the Kane County sheriff, two female police commanders and -- in potentially the most intense matchup -- an assistant state's attorney and a defense attorney.
A trio of stories Monday by Josh Stockinger and Harry Hitzeman showcased the competition and the reason behind it: The winners will bring home scholarships through the Aurora chapter of the National Latino Peace Officers Association. The tale of the tape dispels the notion that cops and lawyers have no sense of humor.
Sheriff Pat Perez, at 56, is the oldest pugilist in the bunch. He pledges not to nap between rounds. Asked about his reach, Swoboda claims he inspired the phrase, "the long arm of the law." And Aurora Cmdr. Kristen Ziman says she's been preparing for her bout by watching YouTube tutorials and renting "Rocky."
Further evidence that by and large cops are good people who work hard to reinforce that notion every day.