More than 300 well-wishers packed The Centre of Elgin yesterday afternoon to watch the Mayor, the City Manager, community leaders, and Elgin Police commanders wax poetically about departing Police Chief Jeff Swoboda’s 26-year tenure with the department.
As I’m sure you already know, Chief Swoboda will shortly be heading to lovely Fort Collins, Colorado, to take the reigns of that police department.
It was incredibly heartwarming to see so many folks extoll the almost former Chief’s vast virtue, and Deputy Chief Bill Wolf and the Commanders had a quite a few stories to tell. I especially loved it when those commanders “lost their place” as they were reading their speeches. (Yes! You had to be there to get that joke – ask a friend.)
Who knew the Chief was a cross dresser! (He isn’t – it’s called hyperbole)! But apparently, he does like to give his staff two choices. And I still can’t figure out why the Chief didn’t let me roast him just like I did with former Kane County Sheriff Pat Perez.
But the best part of the ceremony was a video of a slew of EPD officers and staffers bidding the Chief a fond farewell culminating in a bit where middle schooler parodied the command staff’s regular Monday morning breakfasts. It was so bleepin’ funny that Pat Perez and I nearly peed in our pants.
Then the Chief and his lovely wife invited everyone over to The Haight where they paid for some truly exceptional food and an open bar. It’s a good thing I don’t drink when I’m out!
But what truly amazes me is, you rarely see this kind of outpouring of affection for a once-rookie EPD ROPE officer who worked his way up to become one of the most effective police chiefs in the country.
And we all know Jeff Swoboda was effective because the EPD has become the go to agency for police chief recruitment across the nation. It’s the ultimate compliment. Even I’ve lost track of the command staff who’ve left to lead other departments.
From a journalistic standpoint, Kane County has been blessed with two of the most competent and open police chiefs I’ve ever encountered – Jeff Swoboda and Aurora’s Kristen Ziman. And let me tell ya, running those departments is no piece of cake.
I believe I only issued one Freedom of Information Request during Jeff’s tenure, and it was for the Daily Herald’s often-absurd FOIA requests. The EPD’s transparency is so legendary, there were times when, after a source would frantically call me about a school lockdown, the details would already be up on the EPD’s Facebook page before I could dial Jeff’s cell phone number.
Jeff was eminently accessible. He was never shy about discussing the most difficult EPD challenges, he always told the whole truth, and he was clear about what he could and could not convey. When he couldn’t talk about a situation, he always followed up when the information was made available to the press.
Larry Jones and I looked forward to the Chief’s regular radio show appearances if for no other reason than he’s one of the few people on the planet who can talk faster than I do.
In the end, this semi-sad scenario reminds me of the title of the final Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, ‘All Good Things…” The truth is, they do end! And serving 26 years in the same department is more than we could ask of anyone, though that doesn’t mean I don’t want to ask for more.
Ft. Collins’ gain is certainly our loss, but whether it’s Deputy Chief Wolf or another candidate who guides the EPD going forward, I’m convinced that leader will not only continue, but improve upon the impressive legacy Chief Swoboda leaves behind.