South Barrington Police Chief Michael Deegan has retired, leaving Deputy Chief Ray Cordell as acting chief and a search for a new permanent chief under way.
Deegan had been with the South Barrington Police Department 25 years when he succeeded the retiring Charles Gruber as chief in January 2008. His appointment marked a change in direction for the village, which had previously hired all but one of its police chiefs from outside the department.
Deegan on Thursday said he didn't know exactly where that practice sprang from other than the department was fairly young and without a long institutional memory. He was just the fourth full-time officer on a force serving a population of just 700 when he joined in 1983. Willow Creek Community Church, the AMC South Barrington 30 movie theater and the Arboretum of South Barrington shopping center all arrived during the course of his career -- in addition to a lot more homes.
"It was just a small, quiet community and that was the way they liked it," Deegan said.
Though some may debate the inevitability of the changes South Barrington has seen, Deegan said the police department saw its task as preparing itself for all of them.
"We always looked at it as a challenge to us to protect the community in different ways," he said.
Deegan's tenure as chief began just prior to the opening of the Arboretum, which raised the profile of the affluent bedroom community as a destination for visitors -- and its potential for property crimes like theft and shoplifting. As recently as last month, the Arboretum's Victoria's Secret store was part of a regional rash of expensive thefts from the retail chain.
But in the wake of the Arboretum's opening, Deegan worked with members of the village board to add a another patrol shift of four officers to the department, even after a request for a federal grant to cover its costs was denied.
For a small department, South Barrington police regularly found themselves handling big responsibilities. Among them was coordinating with other agencies, including the Secret Service, to prepare for the crowds and high-profile speakers at Willow Creek's annual Leadership Summit. Headliners have included then-President Bill Clinton and former secretaries of state Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice.
As a patrol officer, Deegan personally made some big arrests -- including serving a warrant on a Hoffman Estates resident who later was found to have killed seven people in Alaska.
Deegan had been planning for a 2013 retirement for about eight years, though he didn't necessarily expect to be chief at the time. When asked by Gruber if he'd be interested in being a police chief, Deegan replied that he was, but only in South Barrington.
He's told village officials that if the next chief comes from outside the department, he'd be willing to work with that person and share his experience of the town and running the department.
Village President Paula McCombie said consultant Dan McCollum was hired to conduct the police chief search as soon as Deegan gave notice in the early fall and the board opted to consider some outside prospects.
Cordell remains among the eight or nine finalists, narrowed from 31 applications that came largely from the Chicago area, McCombie said. Ads sought candidates with at least 10 years of law enforcement experience and upper-level management training. The position offers a salary range of $92,500 to $132,000.
"We want someone very well organized and who can make sure that we're protected," McCombie said.
The board also hopes for someone comfortable with bringing forward new initiatives and being a public face in the village. This is seen as a priority as village hall and the police station are being expanded to make them more adequate for staff and accessible for residents.
"I really do feel we're a service and that residents can come in and have access to the chief and access to me," McCombie said.
The village board hopes to have the new permanent chief sworn into office in February, she said.