Police work more than awards or arrests
Wilmette Police Detective Landon Girard works at his desk November 1, 2012. Girard has been voted officer of the year by colleagues in the department for the third time. | Curtis Lehmkuhl~Sun-Times Media
WHO: Detective Landon Girard
WHAT: Wilmette Police Officer of the Year
WHAT ELSE: Three time winner of the award
Updated: December 9, 2012 6:23AM
It’s rare in life to win an award once, rarer still win the same award again. That makes Landon Girard’s third Officer of the Year award from the Wilmette Police Department truly noteworthy.
For Girard – the first Wilmette officer to be thrice honored by his colleagues and the first to win it two years running – police work isn’t a matter of winning awards. Nor is it a matter solely of arrests, Girard said Nov. 1.
“To me, it’s how many people’s lives I’ve affected, how many people I’ve maybe helped make a positive change in their lives,” he said.
Girard has been doing all that with the Wilmette department since 2003, first as a beat officer and, for the last six years, as a detective. His work attracted the approval of fellow officers and the department’s awards board gave him his first officer of the year honor in 2008. It did so again in 2010 and, most recently, for his work in 2011.
Police Chief Brian King presented Girard with his latest award at an Oct. 9 Wilmette village board meeting. His low key, friendly attitude plays into his excellence as a police officer, King said: “His demeanor is well suited to his job as an officer and a detective. He has an ability to connect with people, whether it’s a victim or a suspect,” King added. “He also has an incredible work ethic.”
Girard, who grew up in Northbrook and went to Glenbrook North High School, had no immediate police role models as he was growing up. But he said last week he had no doubt about what he wanted to become.
After attending Illinois State University and getting his degree in criminal justice from Northeastern Illinois University, Girard, 33, joined the Wilmette department.
The attention to detail he once brought to an Eagle Scout project (organizing a cluttered collection of medical equipment so it could be used) served him well in his new career.
King cited one example of that; in 2011 Girard noticed a suspect in Wilmette’s Metra station parking lot during a time when bicycles were being stolen from station bike racks. He didn’t stop the suspect immediately. Instead, he followed the man to other North Shore stations, watched as he stole more bikes, then followed him to Chicago where the bikes were stored. Girard’s careful surveillance helped clear cases well beyond Wilmette’s borders.
Last week Girard said he was proud of doing that. What made him equally happy was working with young people, and helping them make good life decisions.
“When I get a letter from some 16 year old that says, ‘Thank you for arresting me. It changed my life and put me on the right path,’ that’s the kind of thing that I like the most,” he said.
Girard praised his fellow officers, saying he’s learned from them. He also thanked his wife and two young children for their patience and support.
Ultimately, he said, what matters is being a credit to the badge: “It’s a symbol of trust rather than authority. People need to trust you. We are here to protect people.”~.