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To Serve And Protect

Oak Park Police Chief Anthony Ambrose

Anthony Ambrose is having a busy year. Months after accepting the post of chief of police at the Oak Park Police Department in August, a place he’s called home since his patrol days in 1984, he was elected president of the Columbian Club of Chicago. “Everything is kind of happening all at the same time,” he laughs, “but it’s a chance to give back to the community.” “Community” is a word Ambrose returns to often. He has held eight positions over 33 years at the OPPD prior to his ascent to the top spot, but it’s his time as community ...

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Elmwood Park Police Chief Frank Fagiano

Frank Fagiano, chief of the Elmwood Park Police Department, has been on the job since 1993. He has solved many crimes, and brought countless criminals to justice. But when asked if any of those crimes stand out in his mind, the answer comes easily. Fagiano instantly recalls a particular crime in 1998, when he was a detective. A young woman was working at a Burger King by herself when a man wearing a mask came into the fast food restaurant, robbed it, and then sexually abused her. Fagiano and another detective found her, handcuffed and distraught. “Within five hours of the ...

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Elmwood Park Deputy Fire Chief Michael Ventura

In the early 1980s, Michael Ventura was working as a plumber after attending Elmhurst College and Triton College. But that all changed thanks to Mike Marino, his late wife’s cousin. Now the chief of the Elmwood Park Fire Department, Marino was a firefighter when he invited Ventura down to the station one day. “After attending college, I couldn’t find anything that really sparked my interest, until I stepped into that fire department,” Ventura recalls. Ventura started out in 1982 as a paid on-call fireman, which is basically a part-time fireman. On May 25, 1985, he took the test and became ...

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Elmhurst Interim Police Chief Dominic Panico

When Dominic Panico looks back on all the experience that led up to him being named interim police chief of Elmhurst last year, the one he recalls most fondly was his stint as a D.A.R.E. instructor between 1987 and 1996. “Out of all the opportunities I’ve had here in Elmhurst, one of the most rewarding was getting the chance to interact with fifth graders and have a positive impact on their lives,” he explains. Years later, one of those fifth graders, then a junior in college, visited the police department to say hello to Panico, thank him for the mentoring ...

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Westchester Police Chief John Carpino

As Westchester’s new police chief, John Carpino comes from successful stints helping law enforcement departments in Oak Brook, Worth and Willow Springs. Yet he’s by no means a stereotypical law enforcement officer. How many officers can claim they foiled a robbery while off duty? Or started a successful website long before high-tech was in vogue? Carpino’s done both, and much more. He also teaches in the Criminal Justice Department at Lewis University. But when it comes to Westchester, that’s job one. “I treat Westchester like it’s my neighborhood,” Carpino says. “This is not my department. It’s everyone’s department. We’re shipmates ...

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Elmwood Park Fire Chief Mike Marino

The Our Lady of Angels fire in 1958 had a devastating impact on the community in which it took place. When Mike was a young boy, he watched his school go up in flames, and afterward, his parents told him never to think about it again. And he never did, that is, until he was training to be firefighter, after four years of volunteering. He was in a drill at the academy that focused on the proper use of ladders. The slides displayed during the demonstration were photos of the ladders used in the Our Lady of Angels fire. It ...

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Sheriff’s Chief Ralph DeBartolo

It isn’t uncommon for young boys to play cops and robbers as children, and Ralph DeBartolo was one of those boys. “I loved playing as a kid, and I always wanted to be the cop,” he says. After serving 18 months in Korea, and two years total in the U.S. Army, DeBartolo returned home to Chicago and started to work construction. That changed when his buddy told him he had found an article in the paper announcing openings for 500 police officers. He remembered his days playing cops and robbers, and thought, “Why not?” After taking the exam, he was ...

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Fire Chief Rich Belmonte

Rich Belmonte was not one of those boys who dreamed of becoming a firefighter. But at the age of 32, he was curious if he could perform the firefighter physical agility test with the younger participants. He had already spent time in the Army, having served in Korea years prior, so his strength and agility was comparable to the younger applicants he was surrounded by. Once he passed the test, he decided to accept the position of firefighter for the Village of Westchester. Although he didn’t know it at the time, joining the Army gave him structure and experience he ...

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Melrose Park Police Chief Sam Pitassi

When Sam Pitassi was attending Proviso East High School in Maywood, it was a place of racial unrest and discord. The situation got so bad at one point that school administrators asked police officers from Melrose Park and other west suburban towns to come and patrol the halls. “I admired their commitment and resolve in coming in and accomplishing the task of keeping us safe,” Pitassi recalls. “Plus, my uncle and godfather (Nick Perrino) was a police officer in Chicago in the 1960s, and he inspired me to pursue law enforcement as a career.” The son of Peter and Christine ...

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Franklin Park Fire Chief Steve Iovinelli

Steve Iovinelli was working with his father at a heating and air conditioning company when he saw a help wanted ad in the paper for firefighters in Franklin Park. Intrigued, he went down to the station to ask a few questions, and the answers sparked his interest. He took the test and, at 24 years old, he joined the department, moving up the ranks to fire chief two years ago. Though he went directly from heating and air conditioning to firefighting, Iovinelli stresses that firefighting requires constant education. “If you become a fire fighter and you think your days of ...

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