Naperville's new police chief finally lands dream job

  • New Naperville police Chief Bob Marshall says becoming a cop always seemed like a natural thing to do. "I always felt making things better for others was something I was raised to do," he says.

      New Naperville police Chief Bob Marshall says becoming a cop always seemed like a natural thing to do. "I always felt making things better for others was something I was raised to do," he says. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • Police Chief Bob Marshall, left, chats with Cmdr. Mike Anders at the station in Naperville.

      Police Chief Bob Marshall, left, chats with Cmdr. Mike Anders at the station in Naperville. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

Posted7/2/2012 10:28 AM

Bob Marshall was sworn in as Naperville's police chief a little over a month ago, replacing longtime chief David Dial. Marshall recently sat down with the Daily Herald to discuss his first month on the job, the six goals he wants to accomplish in his first 100 days and his lengthy career in law enforcement.

In today's opening installment of a two-part series, Marshall talks about his deep-seeded desire to become a police chief and the promise he made his dad.


Q. Throughout your career you've been a deputy sheriff, police officer, assistant city manager and now chief. How did you get to this point?

A. I spent 27 years in the Naperville Police Department, rising to rank of captain. Then I had an opportunity when the city manager called and said "Would you be interested in applying for the assistant city manager job?"

I thought about it and decided this would be a great way to broaden my perspective of city government and be a chance to contribute to the community in a broader perspective.

I was selected in 2005 for the position of assistant city manager and then started working directly for former city manager Peter Burchard. Two years into his term he decided to retire and I was named acting city manager and served in that capacity for 12 months.

Q. That was a tumultuous time in the city and the start of the economic downturn.

A. That was a tumultuous time. In 2008 our revenues started showing a downward trend and forced us to reduce our budgets significantly. That resulted in working directly with other department directors to craft the first reduction in force plan and implementing it in the beginning of 2009.

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Just before that, Doug Krieger was selected as city manager and I worked with him to implement the plan. We also had some personnel matters to address, specifically a lawsuit filed by a former city councilman.

I worked with Krieger to implement the results of a consultant study that examined our citywide organizational structure. The consultant made a number of recommendations we implemented based on less revenue and fewer employees.

I got a great overview of city government, learned what it is like to work directly for nine elected officials and had six years of great government experience.

Q. But the police department kept calling your name?

A. When I first heard Chief Dial was planning to retire, I thought long and hard about applying for the job for the second time. In 1989 I applied for it as a sergeant and was not successful, but it's always been a goal of mine. I talked to my family and decided this would be a great move for me.


I went through the daylong interview process and was appointed by Krieger.

Q. You made a promise to your father before he died that you would become chief.

A. In 2005 my dad was in a nursing home and he was one of my biggest supporters. He was at every graduation and every promotion.

My great-great grandfather was a U.S. marshall in Howard Lake, Minn., so law enforcement is in our family. My dad's dream was for me to be a chief. So in 2005 when I told him I was considering leaving police work to become assistant city manager, he didn't understand. I told him it was a chance to do something different and broaden my experience and knowledge base.

He said "What about your goal to become police chief?" I said, "Dad, if it's supposed to happen it's going to happen. It's still a dream of mine."

I ended up making a promise to him because he just wasn't buying my explanations. As I was leaving, I said, "Dad, I promise you, someday I'll be the chief of police."

So I fulfilled a promise to him as well as a dream of mine and a goal I set for myself.

Q. Did you explore other chief jobs?

A. I did apply for jobs in other communities and I had a recruiter from the International Association of Chiefs of Police who would regularly contact me about jobs. I'd check them out and finally she got so frustrated with me she said, "Bob, there are no other Napervilles out there." And she stopped calling me because I would compare every opportunity to Naperville. I guess deep down it was my dream to be chief of police in Naperville.

Q. What attracted you to law enforcement as a career?

A. It's in my family history. It was a desire I had to get into public service. I always felt making things better for others was something I was raised to do.

Getting into a public service profession started when I first went to Western Illinois University and took my first criminal justice course and thought about becoming a police officer. I was in pre-law and I wanted to get into a profession dealing with the law because it very much intrigued me.

One of my classmates and fraternity brothers ended up becoming a police officer in Highland Park. He and I would talk about law enforcement and the more we talked about it, the more we got excited about it.

At that time, as a 20-year-old, I wanted to catch bad guys. I grew up with a sense of justice and righteousness and the way in which I could best fulfill those desires was through law enforcement.

I actually started my career as a deputy sheriff in Will County before I came to Naperville. That was a very exciting profession and I enjoyed it immensely.

Q. Is police work in Naperville significantly different from Will County?

A. In Will County we were responding to felonies in progress every night so there was definitely a transition in the crime rate. This is a much more service-oriented department so I did have to make a little bit of an adjustment.

When I started, officers were compensated for having a college degree. When I got here I went on and got my master's degree. I wanted to be a detective. That happened. I wanted to get into narcotics enforcement. That happened. I wanted to be a boss. That happened. So all of these goals I had, I was able to pursue and reach in Naperville.

Q. You've stressed the need for the department to communicate better both internally and externally.

A. One of my objectives was communication and one of the things I started was communication directly from the office of the chief. We developed a process where I can regularly communicate with the department from my office.

At my first staff meeting I talked about the value I have for open and inclusive communication. I had all the staff members change their seats. And the following meeting a couple went back to their original seats and I had to move them around again. My point was I'm open to new and exciting ideas and thoughts and I wanted to set an example.

I met with 100 people in my first 14 days. I'm getting to all the unit meetings, section meetings and division meetings. I'm also in the process of having individual meetings with every staff member and every supervisor. I ask a series of questions about the organization, where we've been and where we need to go.

• Coming Wednesday: Marshall's six-point plan to keep the Naperville department at the forefront of law enforcement.

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