King aims high at Wilmette Police Department
Wilmette Police Chief Brian King chatted last May with a dispatcher in the police department's communications center. The center's communications and 911 systems will be replaced and upgraded in 2013. | Brian O'Mahoney~for Sun-Times Media
NAME: Brian M. King
BEST KNOWN AS: Wilmette Police Chief since 2009
MISSION: Heading department of 44 sworn officers and support staff who handle 18,000 service calls every year.
Updated: June 18, 2012 8:48AM
When Brian King first worked as a police department service officer, he looked at the summer intern position simply as a way to make money for college. But he quickly realized policing was something more for him.
“I loved the service and public trust aspects,” King, now Wilmette’s police chief, said this week. “In this job you meet people at their best and at their worst, and we have the ability to intervene and make a difference at those important points.”
King, who has headed the Wilmette department since 2009, continues to be enthusiastic about his chosen career, and proud of the national reputation the Wilmette department — his professional home since entering policing — maintains.
“I recently learned that we are among the top 1 percent in terms of college educated officers in the nation,” King said.
That insistence on college education actually attracted him to the Wilmette force back in 1987.
King, who grew up and still resides in one of Chicago’s western suburbs, had graduated from Chicago’s St. Ignatius High School and from Xavier University in Ohio with a political science degree, when he answered a Wilmette advertisement.
He joked that he needed a map to locate the village when he first decided to apply for a patrol position on its force. But he liked the Wilmette department’s requirements, and the fact that it was one of the first in the country seeking national accreditation.
“I came here and fell in love with the job, and with the community,” he said.
In the quarter century since, King has patrolled the beat, worked as a detective and served as a patrol commander and head of the detective bureau. He became deputy chief in 2001.
By then, he also had specialized in homicide investigations, both in Wilmette and as a North Regional Major Crimes Task Force commander between 1997 and 2004. Since 2004 he has taught homicide investigation practices to hundreds of Chicago-area police detectives.
“I loved task force work and the challenge of homicide work,” he said, “but it does take a toll on family life.”
King and his wife, Kathleen, an education teacher at North Central College in Naperville, have three daughters and one son. King said his family time is often spent cheering on the sidelines at softball, baseball and basketball games.
When he’s at work, he remains proud of his department, saying “We have one of the most competitive processes around.
“Before we put a young man or woman in the front seat of a police car we know they’re at the top of the class, not only academically but ethically.”
And, although the department must do more with fewer resources — a common plight among all municipal departments in today’s tough economic climate — King said Wilmette’s officers and staff have risen to the challenge.
That includes serving an increasingly diverse community.
“One thing people might not know (is) that we’ve recruited a number of individuals with foreign language capabilities, and we now have officers who can communicate in a dozen or so languages,” King said. Those languages include Spanish, Cantonese and Mandarin Chinese, Korean, Polish, Tagalog and Farsi.
As for the last 25 years, King said, “It’s gone very fast; almost the blink of an eye.”