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'Destination career': St. Charles Police Department attracts officers working elsewhere

ST. CHARLES – As someone involved in the hiring of St. Charles police officers, St. Charles Police and Fire Commission Chairman Don Haines knows applicants aren’t applying to the department on a whim.

“We find that they research quite a bit,” he said.

Officers seek to join the St. Charles Police Department for multiple reasons, including a desire to work for a more experienced department, Haines said. He added the community’s reputation also plays a big role.

“It becomes kind of a destination career for them,” he said. “They want to come here, live here, work here because it’s the place they want to spend their time.”

Police chief James Keegan said the composition of the police force speaks to that sentiment. Of the 54 sworn officers, he said, slightly more than half – 30, including himself – came from departments in other municipalities.

The ability to attract and retain officers from elsewhere is a testament to the department and city, which boasts good schools, parks and diverse housing, Keegan said.

"It's a good place to put roots down," he said. "It's a good place to call home."

He attributed the department’s appeal to its accreditation and “very solid reputation” in not only Kane County but also in the greater metropolitan area.

“We’re known in law enforcement circles to have a professional, progressive, 21st century police agency,” Keegan said.

Officer Matt Phillips, 33, was sworn into the St. Charles Police Department on July 18 after working for the Oak Brook Police Department for nearly four years.

“This was my No. 1 choice,” Phillips said, noting he previously applied to St. Charles in 2012 but took the first job he was offered.

St. Charles appealed to him because it was closer to home, has a good reputation and is a place where families want to be, Phillips said.

When he broke the news to his bosses in Oak Brook that he would be leaving, he said they had “nothing but high praise for St. Charles.”

Fellow officer Jose Jacobo, 32, left his post as a detective for the Round Lake Park Police Department to join the St. Charles force last September. He said St. Charles, which is closer to his two children, was one of three departments he would have left his previous employer for.

Just as Haines said many applicants do, Jacobo said he did a lot of research on the St. Charles department – probably as much as it did on him.

“It’s been worth it,” Jacobo said of the move.

Hiring officers from other departments is valuable because each person brings a unique set of experiences and new ideas, Keegan said.

“We’re raising the bar,” he said.

Haines agreed that employing experienced officers “elevates the department” but he said the department shouldn’t solely hire from that candidate pool. Traditional first-time officers are valuable as well, he said, adding these first-timers might offer new ideas and have a “go get ‘em” attitude.

“We need new people,” he said, “new young men and women who want to have a law enforcement career.”

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