U.S. Marshal Don Slazinik retired Thursday, ending a 42-year career in law enforcement.
“Right now, my wife and I are going to look for things we can enjoy together.” he said. And, he plans to beef up his golf game. In his office, he has several golf trophies that he won at golf tournaments through the years.
Slazinik, 66, and his wife Debbie have two sons. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Southeast Missouri State University in education and a master’s degree in administration of justice from Webster University. He began his law enforcement career in Des Peres, Missouri, and is a former police chief in O’Fallon. He is also an ex-marine and former member of the U S Army.
Describing the job as U.S. marshal for the Southern District of Illinois, Slazinik, said, “I have the best job on the face of the Earth. I love this job. But, at some point in time you owe your family some of your presence. I owe my wife a share of my life,” he said, smiling.
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Retiring is not the end of something, but rather, “It’s a liberating kind of experience,” he said.
Slazinik expects Karen Simons to take over as acting U S marshal until a replacement is named by U.S. Rep. John Shimkus’ office.
Worked under three presidents
Starting in 2002, under President George W. Bush, a Republican, Slazinik remained in the job under former President Barack Obama, a Democrat, and now President Donald Trump.
Asked how the job changed under different presidents and political parties, Slazinik said, “It changes based on the priorities of the administration.”
Slazinik talked about one of the key aspects of the job.
“We protect the judiciary ... judges, the courts, everybody’s right to a free and fair system of justice,” he said.
The Marshal’s Service is also responsible for guarding homes, cars, jewelry and stolen money that is seized. “We’re the protector of these assets. We make sure they’re protected and disseminated,” he explained.
“This is part of what the agency was created to do under George Washington. We protect everybody’s constitutional rights. In doing that, we also hunt fugitives for all federal agencies, as well as state and local agencies,” he said.
Additionally the U.S. Marshal’s Service administers the Witness Protection Program. The witnesses testify in federal trials. In some cases individuals get a new identity in exchange for testimony, Slazinik said.
In his office hangs a picture of some U.S. marshals escorting a young black girl to school during the segregation era of the 1950s. “This is one of the better things our agency has been involved in,” he said proudly.
I have the best job on the face of the Earth. I love this job. But, at some point in time you owe your family some of your presence. I owe my wife a share of my life.
Retiring U.S. Marshal Don Slazinik
Law enforcement was not Slazinik’s first choice for a career. He graduated from college with ambitions of becoming a history teacher or a football coach. But, he said there weren’t many jobs in those fields when he graduated.
The moment that changed his life forever came when he was stopped by a police officer and ticketed.
“I went to pay the speeding ticket at City Hall and they were taking applications for public safety. I ended up getting hired,” he said.
And, in an ironic twist, he said, “The guy who wrote me a ticket ended up working for me. I was his lieutenant.”
For Slazinik, law enforcement has been a dream job. In law enforcement, he said, “I learn something new every day. We don’t know what we’re going to get next. The guys and gals who get into it have to be adrenalin junkies,” he said.
Slazinik has worked all kinds of cases — from homicides to high school suicides. He said the cases that are particularly disturbing and most heart-breaking are the ones that involve children.
“They are innocent people who are victims, whether accidental or people who go crazy and kill kids. These cases are hard on cops.”
How has police work changed?
“Police work is very dangerous now. Every time we get out of a car, we follow tactical procedures because so many police officers have been killed,” Slazinik said. “People are more accepting of the fact that they can fight the police or shoot at them,” he said.
Slazinik said police know, too, that every time they step out of their cars they’re being videoed. “We don’t mind. We don’t get credit for all of the times we do it right. We only get credit when we drop the ball,” he said.
And police-involved shooting are much more under the microscope today.
“When you pull your gun out you have to make the decision whether to use deadly force. If deadly force is necessary, the decision is made in a split second. “They (police officers) make that decision so they can go home. I think every cop wrestles with that. I have never had to shoot and kill anybody. I have had to issue an order, though,” Slazinik said.
Carolyn P. Smith: 618-239-2503