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 on the same ship, and I try to get out to of the office as much as I can.”
Carpino grew up in Melrose Park and comes from Italian lineage on his father’s side; his grandparents hailed from Cosenza in Calabria. (His mother has Austrian roots.) His Westchester post, which he assumed in September 2013, is the latest in a long line of stops where he’s been brought in as a proven leader.
His love of law enforcement came from a friend’s father, who worked as a park district police officer. That man, Jack Simpson, filled a void in Carpino’s life after he lost his own father at age 7. “He was a police captain, and I worked for him as a kid. I looked up to him. His son and I were like brothers, and he grew up to be a lieutenant with the Melrose Park police. We’re still best friends.”
After stops in Lombard (as a dispatcher) and Addison (as a patrol officer and detective), Carpino joined the Oakbrook Terrace Police Department. He stayed there from 1979 to 2002, rising to the ranks of deputy chief. It was there that Carpino foiled not one but two bank robberies, one while off duty.
“It was 1994 and I was in a bank in Oakbrook Terrace,” he recalls. “I was getting ready to go to Vegas, and the teller knew I was a police officer, even though I was in a t-shirt, blue jeans and loafers without socks. He told me the bank had just been robbed and as the robber walked out of the bank, I tackled him. Luckily there was a police car nearby.”
In November 2002, Carpino beat 101 candidates for the top spot in Willow Springs Police Department. There he oversaw 31 officers and helped the staff recover after years of low morale and dysfunction.
“I hit the ground running,” Carpino recalls. “I brought in my own commander, two other deputy chiefs, and an internal affairs investigator. I still live in that community, so I still hear from them.”
Carpino also started his own website, safetycops.com, in 2000, with Oakbrook Terrace Police Deputy Chief John Kolberg. The two maintain it as a public service to teach readers how to defend themselves against crime.
Carpino holds bachelor and masters degrees in Criminal/Social Justice from Lewis University, and is a graduate of Northwestern University’s School of Police Staff and Command Class #115.
Ask him why he’s been so successful, and his reply is straight, true blue, and backed by the facts: “I don’t give up and I don’t take no for an answer,” he says. “If I have a goal, I’m going to reach it. I take care of my people, I lead by example and I don’t hurt anybody. I always leave the place better than when I found it.”