During his brief time in Shiloh, Police Chief Richard Wittenauer said he’s been “happy and impressed” by the way his officers work and “the outpouring of support from the community” for the department.
Wittenauer said citizens routinely delivered treats to the department, as well as words of praise about the extra level of care they receive from Shiloh officers.
“Our officers are great community officers who are doing a lot of really good work and are very results-oriented. I’m proud of them and glad to be here,” he said.
That’s why one of his main goals this year is to hire two new officers, which would bring the force up to 20, including himself. But the task is easier said than done.
“(In) this day and age, it’s getting harder to find qualified people (who) want to be police officers,” he said.
To ensure the village gets only the best candidates, the department has joined the Southwestern Illinois Police Consortium, and the village also adopted a lateral hire policy to help find already certified police officers.
“I think these two avenues are gonna help us do that,” Wittenauer said.
A new police station
Wittenauer said he is looking forward working with a committee made up of police officers and local residents as the village plans for the construction of a new police station.
“I’m excited about getting that off the ground, because I know the village has had it on their wish list for a while now,” Wittenauer said.
Wittenauer committee will help with big picture aspects, as well as what is needed inside the new department.
“They’re going to be instrumental in helping us to that,” he said.
The village has been searching for a location to build a joint-use facility that will house the police department and the village’s municipal building.
“The ground hasn’t been picked out yet, but we’re looking at a couple of places,” Wittenauer said.
Since late July, village officials have been actively searching for either already village-owned or new property to build the facility to allow for room for expansion.
“We want it to be conducive for growth, so we will be visiting other local police departments in the area that are fairly new to see what we like or think will need, tailoring to our specific needs,” Wittenauer said.
The village rents the space for its current police station is at 3498 Lebanon Ave., which is owned by Ambrosia Land Investments LLC, which in turn is owned by the Wilke family, proprietors of Wilke Window & Door and Norm’s Bargain Barn. The police department shares the same parking lot with those businesses.
Rent is more than $3,000, monthly. Cost to the village has been over $430,000 since 2008. The village covered the cost of the building’s $124,535 renovation in 2008, too. The lease ends in 2019.
“I know the officers here are excited and anxious about having a new home,” Wittenauer said.
Deputy chief retiring soon
Deputy Chief Gary McGill announced in fall 2017 his plans to retire summer 2018.
“He’s leaving some pretty big shoes to fill, so that’s another thing that’s big on my list,” Wittenauer said.
McGill is the longest-sevring employee of the village today, having been with the Shiloh Police Department since 1988.
“We are going to miss him. He does excellent work, which I’ve witnessed over these last months, and he served as interim chief for several months before I came on board. So he’s a hard worker and dedicated, to say the least,” Wittenauer said.
Said Wittenauer the plan is fill the position from within the department’s current ranks.
“Having someone in that position who already knows the ins and outs of the village and how we do things here will be important,” he said.
Education and training
Growing up in Belleville and Millstadt, Wittenauer graduated from Althoff Catholic High School in 1986. He went on to attend Belleville Area College, now called Southwestern Illinois College, from 1988-89.
Shortly thereafter, he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps and served in the Marine Corps Reserves until 1994. He served in Operation Desert Storm in 1990-91.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in law enforcement administration from Western Illinois University in 1992. He went on to earn a master’s degree in human resource development from Webster University.
In 1994, he graduated from the 54th session of the Southwestern Illinois College Police Academy and made law enforcement his life’s work.
“I wanted to be apart of something bigger than myself. I’ve always wanted to be where things were happening. I wanted to be of service similar to my desires to go into military service,” Wittenauer said.
In 2006, he graduated from the Northwestern University of Police Staff and Command in Evanston, Ill., and in 2012, completed elite training from the FBI National Academy in Quantico, Va.
After former Chief Jim Stover announced his plans to retire in 2016, Shiloh spent nine months looking for his replacement before deciding on Wittenauer, who was working with the Collinsville Police Department at the time.
Wittenauer, who also spent time as an officer in Cahokia, started working for Collinsville in 1994. He became a lieutenant in 2009. He took on the role of assistant police chief three years before being welcomed to Shiloh.
“I worked with the Major Case Squad during that time as an investigator, and then as a deputy commander before stepping down when I became chief here in Shiloh,” Wittenauer said.
He was also named CPD officer of the month four times while holding several other positions, such as patrol and field training officer, detective, patrol commander and detective sergeant. Some of his other responsibilities included being a juvenile officer, defensive tactics instructor and public information officer.
From 1998 to 2001, he served as an investigator with the Metro East Auto Theft Task Force. Wittenauer recently taught as an adjunct professor at Lindenwood University in Belleville.
In 2003, he was awarded the Medal of Valor by the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police for extraordinary heroism.
Family and free time
Wittenauer lives with his wife and two stepdaughters, 16- and 22-years-old.
Wittenauer said he enjoys spending time with with family and friends and being outdoors.
Whether it’s putting on the green, or working out, Wittenauer said, he tries to stay active.
“We just went ice skating, and that was fun,” he said.