Arlington Heights police honor two officers of the year
A longtime Arlington Heights police officer who helped launch a village program to battle the opioid epidemic and a up-and-coming officer already seen as a "great leader" shared the spotlight Thursday as the department's best and brightest.
Cmdr. Joseph Pinnello and officer Andrew Gatz were honored as co-recipients of the L.W. "Bill" Calderwood Officer of the Year award -- the first time there's been a tie in the 30-year history of the recognition. The department's command staff votes to select winners.
Pinnello was the point man on the village's Community Addiction and Recovery Effort, which launched last July to connect residents who abuse opioids with local resources.
Under the program, individuals who come into contact with police or firefighter/paramedics can get a ride to the Linden Oaks Behavioral Health Unit at Northwest Community Hospital to meet with a licensed clinical counselor. They can be referred for treatment at the hospital or at a partner agency.
It took Pinnello, a 19-year department veteran, 18 months to put together the program after being tasked with the assignment by Police Chief Gerald Mourning and Village Manager Randy Recklaus. Mourning says Pinnello spent countless hours researching models put in place by other communities, identifying partner agencies, setting up meetings, and leading the overall effort.
"Traditional approaches to combating the opioid epidemic such as continually arresting individuals who have shown signs of opioid addiction have proven to be ineffective in the long run," Mourning said during the awards presentation Thursday at a Rotary Club luncheon. "I am confident the CARE program -- largely due to Joe Pinnello's efforts -- will contribute greatly to the overall betterment of the community."
Gatz was recognized by Mourning for "going above and beyond" the normal expectations of a patrol officer.
Hired by the department in 2015, Gatz has devoted his personal time to training probationary officers and is known for his high level of professionalism, Mourning said. The officer has been able to de-escalate tense domestic situations quickly without condescension or taking sides, the chief added.
"Andrew has all the traits of a great leader," he said.
For Gatz, law enforcement service is personal. His great-grandfather was killed in the line of duty two months after becoming a patrolman for the Chicago Police Department in 1922.
Gatz says he also thinks of Calderwood, the former Arlington Heights police chief who served from 1958 to 1976.
"Every day I put on the uniform I try to remember their legacies while attempting to build my own, and I urge all my fellow officers in this room to do their best to leave their legacy and doing so the L.W. Calderwood way to inspire the youth of today," Gatz said. "Give them a sticker or a high-five. Turn on your red and blue lights. Blare your siren with pride when they wave at you. Get out of the car and say hello."