'It was never a job to me, it was a calling': Round Lake Park police chief George Filenko to retire
Round Lake Park Police Chief George Filenko will retire Feb. 18 after 37 years in law enforcement.
Filenko, 64, became the chief of Round Lake Park's department in August 1999. While he was chief, he worked for Lake County's Major Crimes Task Force for 11 years and served as its commander for six, investigating more than 200 homicides during his tenure.
He grew up in Chicago's Humboldt Park neighborhood and worked part time as Hainesville's police chief before joining Round Lake Park as a part-time officer. He attended the Suburban Law Enforcement Academy at College of DuPage and rose through the ranks to eventually become Round Lake Park's chief.
State law requires police officers to retire by age 65.
"It's a bittersweet feeling," Filenko said. "I have always loved the communities I served and working for the people. It was never a job to me, it was a calling."
Filenko worked on several high-profile cases as the Major Crimes Task Force commander, such as the suicide of Fox Lake police Lt. Charles Joseph Gliniewicz, the homicide case against day care worker Melissa Calusinski, and the murder of Rhoni Reuter, the girlfriend of former Chicago Bears defensive back Shaun Gayle.
One case that Filenko said has stuck with him over the years was the murder in 2013 of 5-month-old Joshua Summeries in Zion. The baby's body was never found. Demetries Thorpe of Zion was sentenced in 2014 to 30 years in prison.
Filenko said transparency and building relationships with the communities he served in was the most rewarding aspect of his job, with outreach and initiatives such as Shop with a Cop or National Night Out.
Additionally, Filenko invested in the "We Never Walk Alone" support group software to make mental health counseling available for Round Lake Park police officers.
Filenko said he is proud Round Lake Park became the first community in Lake County to implement body cameras for its officers in 2016, despite the initial problems in their inception.
Village Clerk Karen Eggert said Deputy Chief Daniel Burch will replace Filenko on an interim basis until after the April 6 election.
"I never thought my last year in police work would have all these things in the world happening," Filenko said. "I got COVID this year; all the protests that occurred. We have such a forward-thinking and diverse police department that truly reflects the community. We don't really know what the future holds, but I believe we're in great shape to handle anything."