The leadership torch has been passed, as Downers Grove Police Chief Shanon Gillette looks to assume the position left vacant following Kurt Bluder’s retirement earlier this month.
The Downers Grove Village Council confirmed Gillette’s appointment to police chief at its Jan. 9 regular meeting, at which point members of his family and current and past law enforcement officials were on hand.
“It’s an exciting time for us,” Gillette said in a phone interview. “I’m grateful for the opportunity, the experience. [The support] throughout the community has been amazing.”
Gillette has been a member of Downers Grove Police since 1993. Since that time, he has served the public in various capacities, with previous assignments working as a patrol officer, community-oriented police officer, field training officer, detective, patrol sergeant, sergeant of community-oriented policing, lieutenant of patrols, lieutenant of investigations and deputy chief of investigations.
“I have been very pleased to have a wide array of experiences,” Gillette said.
Gillette gave credit to the law enforcement officials that came before him for leading by example.
“I’ve been fortunate to have key mentors above encouraging me to continue my education and seek added training,” he said. “My oldest brother is a police chief in Round Lake, and he’s been a huge mentor. I’ve had many mentors encouraging me.”
The Downers Grove Police Department prides itself on striving for excellence.
“We’re fortunate to have an exceptional department and community,” Gillette said. “Our biggest challenge internally is maintaining high standards. Externally, the role of an officer has evolved.”
Police officers often have to wear many hats to help ensure that the community is safe in today’s world.
“They go on to connect members of the community with what they need,” Gillette said. “We can’t be experts at everything, but we’re able to direct them to resources that can help.”
Gillette said it is clear that law enforcement officials have a positive and encouraging relationship with the Downers Grove community and referenced, as an example, the success of the police department’s public education program, in which they partner with area schools to establish relationships with the public, so as to help ensure that in the event of an emergency, connections are already made.
Gillette has a list of priorities he intends to be committed to during his time as police chief, including efforts to maintain standards of excellence, listen and learn from staff, encourage and equip future leaders, promote officer safety, and address employee wellness.
At a time when law enforcement officials face scrutiny sometimes for what they do and what they don’t do, Gillette said it is important for police officers to remember why they decided to serve.
“Every officer embarks on their career to help people and make a positive difference,” he said. “We work hard to reaffirm that and encourage officers to maintain the interest they came in with. We hard to focus on why we started our police work in the first place.”
Gillette said even with the reputation that police officers sometimes get, he remains “enthusiastic” about encouraging young people to consider careers in the field.
“Recruiting well-educated and high-quality candidates is important,” he said. “I would encourage them to pursue a career in law enforcement.”