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updated: 6/20/2014 1:17 PM

Elgin lieutenant to become police chief in Lakewood

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  • Video: Elgin Polcie Lt. Retires

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    John Starks | Staff Photographer Elgin Police Chief Jeff Swoboda applauds Lt. Leigh Rawson at his

  • Lt. Leigh Rawson of the Elgin Police Department, who will take over as chief in Lakewood soon, said Thursday that he left his career as a lawyer behind when he found out "the cool things" police departments do.

       Lt. Leigh Rawson of the Elgin Police Department, who will take over as chief in Lakewood soon, said Thursday that he left his career as a lawyer behind when he found out "the cool things" police departments do.
    John Starks | Staff Photographer

 
 

If it hadn't been for a client who was accused of murdering her husband 22 years ago, Elgin Police Lt. Leigh Rawson, then a lawyer, would have never joined the police force.

Rawson retired Thursday after 20 years in Elgin to become the new police chief in Lakewood.

The Elgin Police Department hosted a ceremony celebrating Rawson's retirement, along with two promotions and a new hire, at the Centre of Elgin.

Getting to know all the "cool things" the police department did prompted him to leave behind his legal career, he said.

"Why am I sitting in an office when I could be in a squad unit?" he recalled thinking at the time.

Rawson served in the patrol, investigations and traffic divisions, plus the tactical response team.

He was promoted to sergeant in 2006 and lieutenant in 2010.

Police chief Jeff Swoboda prompted him to apply for the job in Lakewood, he said.

Swoboda said he's proud that other departments look at Elgin when they are hunting for new police chiefs.

Rawson has always added a balanced, rational perspective to discussions, Swoboda said.

"When you meet Leigh, you can't help but like him and respect him for the work that he does and the manner he carries himself," Swoboda said.

Lt. Colin Fleury was promoted from sergeant, and Sgt. Ken Ericson was promoted from officer.

Fleury compared police officers to "sheep dogs" -- but in a good way, he said, because most people, like sheep, are not prone to violence.

"(People) don't like us when we're around. Then something happens and they call us, and everybody wants to pet us," he said, eliciting laughter.

Ericson said he believes in love and community relationships, which are inextricably linked.

"Be the person that you want to work for," he said. "Try to be positive. In a positive environment, you can achieve so much more."

Richard Free, who served as an officer in Lakemoor, was sworn-in as the newest member of the Elgin Police Department.

Lakewood Village Manager Catherine Peterson, to whom Rawson will report, said he was selected among more than 70 applicants because of his professionalism and breadth of experience.

Rawson will be sworn-in at the village board meeting next week, she said.

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