Historical Overview of the South Suburban Association of Chiefs of Police (SSACOP)
In the years following WWII, crime in the United States escalated rapidly and could no longer be controlled by outdated concepts of Law Enforcement in our communities and throughout the United States. This situation grew so severe that fear of being victims of crime became a national issue. In the early 1960’s, south and southwest suburban police chiefs organized in order to provide a vehicle for the exchange of information and mutual assistance. Though the organization was incorporated with the Secretary of State on January 7, 1969. Prior to that it existed on a social and informal basis.
Founding members who contributed to the professional growth of SSACOP included; Chief John Braschler, Lansing; Chief Albert Breitzman, Evergreen Park; Chief Wilbur Ellis, Matteson; Chief William Hamby, Park Forest; Chief Gerhard “Ace” Hein, Oak Lawn; Chief Harold Moore, Tinley Park; and Chief John Rinkema, South Holland. All served as officers in the association prior to its incorporation.
President Lyndon Johnson, recognizing the urgency of the nation’s crime problem, established the Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Criminal Justice, July 23, 1965 through Executive Order 11236. The President named Attorney General Nickolas Katzenback to chair the committee. The Commission found that law enforcement training, education, and equipment was inadequate or nonexistent. The report called for major funding of programs for law enforcement agencies at all levels of government.
Most communities represented by this association had previously depended on the Cook County Sheriff’s Police for base station radio communication to their vehicles. Station facilities and space were inadequate. Most departments did not have an adequate number of personnel or equipment to perform basic responsibilities. In some cases there were point-to-point radios providing communication between departments with no one in the station to man them, even if they could afford them. Operating frequencies differed; in many instances a car in the next town may need assistance and the cars in the neighboring department could not receive the call.
As a result of the President’s Commission report titled, “The Challenge of Crime in a Free Society“, the Omnibus Crime Control Bill of 1968 was signed into law by President Johnson. Massive Federal funding became available to the states, through LEAA (Law Enforcement Assistance Administration), under the Department of Justice. In Illinois, Governor Richard Ogilvie established the ILEC (Illinois Law Enforcement Commission) under the direction of Arthur Bilek. The Commission made funds available to all law enforcement agencies on a need basis. The Illinois State Police received an ILEC grant to establish ISPERN (Illinois State Police Emergency Radio Network). This resulted in the State Police providing requesting departments with ISPERN radio units for all police vehicles at no cost to the departments. Illinois was the first state to have an emergency car-to-car network. Our communities received funding for patrol cars, modernized police facilities, education and training.
Prior to LEAA, education and training was minimal, if any. There were no degree programs in law enforcement in Illinois. Community colleges and some universities offered certificate programs, though not accredited. The majority of law enforcement personnel, including chiefs, had two to four years of high school. Not all departments required a high school diploma. LEAA established LEEP (Law Enforcement Educational Program) for police officers to attend colleges and universities to study, tuition-free, law enforcement related courses leading to an Associates, Bachelor’s, or Master’s degrees. As a result of this program, the educational standards in police departments rose over time. Many departments began to require at least a Bachelor’s degree for chiefs and now today, many require a Master’s degree. In fact, it is now not unusual to have front line officer who possess advanced educational degrees.
The Illinois Local Law Enforcement Officials Training Board was established by law. Employment standards and compulsory training standards were implemented. It was a condition of employment that all police officer candidates, regardless of rank, be certified by the training board. Training facilities and programs were required to receive approval by the Training Board for certification. By 1978 professional management concepts and higher administrative values were apparent in most south and southwest Chicago area suburban police departments. Association meetings and workshops provided police administrators with current information towards higher quality of police service. Communities recruited outside the community for the most qualified personnel. Assessment centers were utilized by many towns for selecting the most qualified applicants for law enforcement positions at all levels. It was about this time that Congress stopped funding LEAA and the respective municipalities had to assume funding of law enforcement projects.
SSACOP has grown into an organization respected and recognized throughout the State of Illinois and beyond. The Association has established a working rapport with the South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association and public agencies including legislators representing member communities.
The Association is the largest of fifteen regional Chiefs associations affiliated with the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police (ILACP). Many of our members play an active role on committees of the ILACP. The following members of SSACOP have served as President of the ILACP:
John Braschler –1972
William Nolan – 1985
“Duke” Gorris – 1988
William Burke – 1995
David Weigand – 2002
Larry Burnson – 2007
Pat O’Connor – 2010
Mitchell Davis III – 2021