Lake County's first female police chief calls it a career after 16 years in Hawthorn Woods

  • Hawthorn Woods Police Chief Jennifer Paulus is retiring after 16 years as the village's top cop. The first female police chief in Lake County, Paulus will be on paid leave until March 31.

    Hawthorn Woods Police Chief Jennifer Paulus is retiring after 16 years as the village's top cop. The first female police chief in Lake County, Paulus will be on paid leave until March 31. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Jennifer Paulus has served 23 years in Hawthorn Woods, the last 16 as police chief. Her last day on the job was Sept. 30, but she'll remain on paid leave until March 31, 2022.

    Jennifer Paulus has served 23 years in Hawthorn Woods, the last 16 as police chief. Her last day on the job was Sept. 30, but she'll remain on paid leave until March 31, 2022. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Hawthorn Woods Police Chief Jennifer Paulus has resigned but remains on paid leave until March 31, 2022.

    Hawthorn Woods Police Chief Jennifer Paulus has resigned but remains on paid leave until March 31, 2022. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

 
 
Posted10/6/2021 5:30 AM

A new era of policing is underway in Hawthorn Woods with the resignation of Chief Jennifer Paulus.

After 23 years with the force, the last 16 years as chief, Paulus' final radio call and walkout ceremony last Thursday marked the end of a long career with the village.

 

"I've always considered myself lucky to have such a beautiful place to work," said Paulus, who grew up next door in Lake Zurich and was the first female police chief in Lake County.

But she's now out of the picture as the village restructures its public safety entities.

Circumstances of her departure are unclear, and Paulus acknowledged, "The timing wasn't mine."

Paulus will be on paid leave through March 31, 2022. Then, she'll "voluntarily and irrevocably" resign and be deemed to have retired in good standing, according to a separation agreement obtained through a Freedom of Information request.

Until then, she'll be paid her current salary through a combination of accrued sick, vacation and holiday time, and severance pay. An unspecified shortfall will be covered by the village when those sources are exhausted.

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In the interim, Paulus won't be on the premises and isn't allowed to attend meetings or perform any work for the village.

The four-page "voluntary separation agreement and complete release of all claims" was signed by Paulus and approved 5-0 by the village board in late July.

"Obviously, I've loved and cared for and had my loyalty for the village," said Paulus, who declined to provide further details of her departure.

Mayor Dominic DiMaggio said Paulus chose to step down as she has reached an age to retire with full benefits. An interim chief will serve until a permanent replacement is found, he added.

The recent hiring of former Lake Zurich Fire Chief John Malcolm as the civilian director of public safety is among the changes being pursued by the village. Malcom will coordinate the village effort to integrate police service, park safety, emergency management and coverage from four fire districts that serve Hawthorn Woods, DiMaggio said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Earlier this year, the police department's commander position was eliminated to allow more officers to be promoted from within rather than having to leave to advance their careers.

In response to what he called misinformation on blog posts, DiMaggio told residents Malcolm is not replacing anyone in the police department.

"He is an addition to our civilian staff to enhance our community preparedness and public safety," DiMaggio told residents.

Including the chief's position, the Hawthorn Woods Police Department has 12-full time officers. Serious crime is rare in the quiet, upper-class neighborhoods that constitute the village.

"We hate to be compared to Mayberry," said Paulus. "Just because (the officers) don't deal with those situations doesn't mean they're not trained to do it."

Paulus graduated from Lake Zurich High School in 1990. Her father, Jeffrey Sedlack, was a Lake Zurich village trustee for several years.

"I grew up with a very strong sense of community," said Paulus, who envisioned a career in law enforcement early on.

In her high school yearbook, Paulus said she wanted to be "the cop at the bottom of the hill," referring to the area outside the high school.

She began her career as a dispatcher and community service officer in Lake in the Hills, was hired in Richmond in 1997 and Hawthorn Woods a year later.

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