Cook County Sheriff Thomas J. Dart

Cook County Sheriff Thomas J. Dart

A law enforcement ‘agency to be proud of’

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Cook County Sheriff’s Office celebrates a century of growth

From staff reports

April marks the centennial celebration of the creation the Cook County Sheriff’s Police Department, an agency that has grown from patrolling Cook County with 32 sworn officers to a dynamic operation of nearly 500 officers devoted to promoting public safety, social services, and mental health.

In December 1921, Cook County Sheriff Charles W. Peters proposed the Sheriff’s Office create a police force responsible for patrolling the roadways and other areas of suburban Cook County.

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Cook County Sheriff Thomas J. Dart

In early January 1922, the hiring of 70 highway police deputies was approved by Cook County, and on April 1, 1922, the first 32 Cook County Highway Patrol Officers were officially sworn in. These officers were required to patrol on their own motorcycles and were paid $125 per month, along with a small stipend for the upkeep of their vehicle.

Several police stations were strategically opened throughout the county. The first station, known as Station 1, was at Waukegan Road and Dempster Street until a permanent building was completed in 1924 in Maine Township. Other locations were proposed, with one near 147th Street and Western Avenue, and another in Palos Park.

Eventually, the Highway Patrol deputies were reorganized into a Sheriff’s Police force, and their responsibilities continued to grow throughout the 1940s and 1950s, corresponding with post-war suburban population growth.

In the early 1960s, Sheriff Richard Ogilvie worked with state legislators to create a Merit Board to test police applicants and review credentials for police officer positions. The name “Cook County Sheriff’s Police Department” was adopted, and the colors of tan and brown were introduced for the new Sheriff’s Police uniform.

Today, the Sheriff’s Police Department is the third-largest police department in the State of Illinois. The Department is divided into five principal divisions: Field Operations, Criminal Investigations, Street Crimes, Communications Operations, and Operational Support.

“The Sheriff’s Police Department is a leader in protecting the health and safety of residents throughout the county and a trusted partner to numerous local police agencies,” said Sheriff Thomas J. Dart. “The fact that the organization that has grown from a small number of people patrolling county roads a century ago to become the multi-faceted and nationally recognized agency it is today is an achievement every Cook County resident can take pride in.”

Sheriff’s Police currently provide primary police services to more than 126,000 residents in unincorporated Cook County as well the Village of Ford Heights. The Department also provides backup services to several suburbs that have significant budgetary constraints, as well as ancillary services to scores of suburbs, including a K9 unit to help locate missing individuals, crime scene technician services to help solve crimes, and the Community Safety Team, which provides proactive policing in areas of high violence.

Sheriff’s Police have been on the cutting edge of law enforcement, implementing programs that include:

• Treatment Response Team (TRT): This initiative was developed in 2019 to integrate clinicians and social workers with the police department to prevent the involvement of individuals in the criminal justice system who are suffering from opioid addiction. The clinicians work closely with individuals to help them engage in treatment.

• Co-Responder Program: Sheriff’s Police launched a virtual co-responder program in 2021 that provides officers the assistance of a trained clinician during mental health related calls for service. The team of clinicians work with the individual and their support network to identify and navigate appropriate treatment options. The program is currently being used by other suburbs, including Oak Lawn, Blue Island, and Northbrook.

• Hostage Barricade Team (HBT): This team is trained to respond to hostage and terrorism incidents. These specialists and SWAT officers work to resolve hostage or barricade situations without injury to civilians, victims, police, or offenders.

• Juvenile Justice & Advocacy Unit (JJAU): This unit is tasked with advocating for children who fall between society’s cracks. It is comprised of officers who have received special training on how to engage young people. It also participates in several Sheriff’s Office outreach programs and coordinates scholarships for Cook County students.

• Carjacking Initiative: Developed in 2021, this unit combines detailed data analyses with partnerships with automobile manufacturers and other law enforcement agencies to rapidly recover stolen vehicles before they can be used in other crimes.

• Chicago Initiative: Sheriff’s Police set up a permanent presence in the 15th District on Chicago’s West Side in 2018 to work alongside Chicago Police to address violence. The effort has included community policing, bike patrols, foot patrols, and deep engagement with local organizations. The initiative has contributed to a decrease in shootings and homicides. Sheriff’s Police also assist Chicago Police in numerous other areas of the city.

“I am honored to have this centennial celebration happen under my watch.” Sheriff Dart said. “As a department, we are all looking forward to continuing to serve and advocate for Cook County residents with integrity, compassion, professionalism, diversity, and transparency.”

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