Shiloh Deputy Police Chief recalls ‘fond memories’ from 30-year tenure
Thirty years after being sworn in, Shiloh police Deputy Chief Gary McGill is hanging up his hat at the Shiloh Police Department for retirement.
"I know he is excited about what lies ahead. He is taking with him a knowledge and understanding of the Police Department and the village that only comes through experience. He has been a trusted confidant and will be missed by myself and the other members of the Shiloh Police Department," said Shiloh police Chief Richard Wittenauer.
McGill said it's been an "amazing experience" watching Shiloh grow from a "small" village department serving about 1,400 to 14,000 residents.
Looking back, he said, "I've dedicated pretty much my whole self to the residents of Shiloh since 1988, and I'd do it again in a heartbeat."
McGill was Shiloh's longest running officer. He officially retired May 25.
"I love this place. It's been really great to me," McGill said. "The biggest thing I have to say to the community is 'Thank you,' because this is not a job that was owed to me. This is something that you gave me."
His fondest memories are in the "fascinating stories" he's heard during his tenure, and the people who tell them.
"We've had some residents, and we still do, who have not only had great stories and come from great places, but they've lightened my life and taught me things, so it's not just about me working for the community — it's the community shaped me for 30 years and pretty much turned me into what I am now," McGill said.
McGill plans to enjoy a relaxing summer with his wife, Cindy.
"I have a swimming pool and a motorcycle that need my attention, plus a very long 'honey-do' list to work on," McGill said with a chuckle.
As a drummer, and occasional bassist, McGill said he's been a musician since the sixth grade. He and his wife enjoy going to music shows at small, local venues in their downtime.
"But, I know I'm going to take some time off and concentrate on my house in the meantime," McGill said.
McGill is looking forward to "not going to every major crime in Shiloh" since the 1980s.
"I really have no plans yet, no job offers or anything, but ideally I'd really like to stay involved with the village of Shiloh, in some capacity because this is my home. I'd like to stay in public service because that's what my degree is in and that's everything I've done since I was 22-years-old," McGill said.
He and his wife will continue their efforts to support Special Olympics and local fundraising events for police, fire and emergency medical service officers and their families.
"We've been active with many charity, fundraiser and Special Olympics Polar Plunge events, and will continue to as long as we are able," McGill said.
Growing into the badge
Growing up in Peoria, McGill, 52, said he spent much of his late teens and 20s traveling the country. He was working for a construction company and various odd jobs until he settled for a few years in South City St. Louis before planting his roots in Shiloh.
"I decided I wanted to be a police officer, so I did some ride-alongs in Illinois with Centreville and with Lebanon, then I went to (St. Clair County) Sheriff Mearl Justus when he was still here," McGill said. He asked Justus to sponsor him for the local police academy.
He trained to be a police officer at Southwestern Illinois College before attending St. Louis University. He then went onto receive his bachelor degree in public safety from Capella University, an online-based program.
Over the years, McGill has worn many hats at the Shiloh Police Department.
"I've been a patrolman, detective, juvenile officer, DARE instructor, patrol supervisor, evidence control officer and a training officer over the years," McGill said.
He also served as a certified lead homicide detective with the Greater St. Louis Area Major Case Squad and a public information officer with specializations in interview techniques, homicide investigation, cyber stalking, computer crimes, open source intelligence and officer safety.
In addition, he's been an instructor with the Illinois Department of Emergency Management for Emergency Response to Terrorism and Hazardous Materials and with the U.S. Department of Justice in the State and Local Anti-Terrorism Training Program, which was complimented with training in Cyber-Terrorism, Chemical and Biological Incident Management, Hate Crimes, Religious Obsession and Fundamentalism and Advanced Interview and Interrogation.
"I don't think there's a job I haven't done with the department — besides chief, of course," McGill said.
He explained that he didn't want to be chief when Jim Stover retired, because he knew he would have to retire soon.
"I knew it wouldn’t be fair to the taxpayer's for me to (possibly) move into the chief's position and then turn around and have to retire shortly thereafter ... plus this job is for younger people anyway," McGill said.
He was one of the first two full-time officers when the Police Department was just a single desk inside the old Shiloh Village Hall, prior to moving to the department's current building on Lebanon Avenue.
McGill has served under four chiefs, including current Chief Wittenauer.
"I was hired by Kent Meyer in 1988, served under Bill Glasscock and Jim Stover, who retired last year," McGill said.
In 2000, the village board unanimously voted McGill to be the deputy chief.
In over three decades, McGill said he's never had to discharge his weapon, which he described as "typical of most officers."
According to McGill, officers "involved in shootouts is a rare occurrence ... TV makes you think it happens all the time, but it really doesn't."
For McGill, he said, his weapon has "left its holster quite a few times, but I've never had to shoot it in aggression anyway."
"A lot of it is good training and decision making because there's been a couple situations I've been in where I thought it was going to happen where I was in a standoff with people who had knives, and they put them down at the last minute."
Another time, McGill recalls, "I was entering a room, instead of shooting me a person shot himself, and I thought I was going to shoot him, but he wound up turning it on himself."
"I was close to 30-years-old at the time, and it wasn't easy, but situations like that are never what they seem, and are unpredictable," McGill said.
Leaving a legacy
Whether he's been there "backing, supporting or providing information" or even coming up with ideas for new policies or programs, McGill said, in the last 18 years he's played a "big role" at the Shiloh Police Department.
"I like to think that since I've been assistant chief, I've helped with, not every decision per say, but every major thing the chief of police did," McGill said.
Some of the ideas were even his, he said.
"I like the fact that 25 years ago, I was helping Shiloh get into the information technology age. I helped them implement their first computer systems at the Police Department, which was a crazy undertaking," McGill said.
Another on the list, McGill said he "helped (retired Chief) Jim (Stover) design and move the department into the current building."
Currently, the village is seeking out a location for a new municipal building to include the police and village staff.
Passing the baton
After being on the Shiloh police force for nearly 13 years, Detective Sgt. Jesse Phillips said he is "very honored for the opportunity" to be the new deputy chief.
"I'm looking forward to just helping Chief Wittenauer keep moving the department forward and hopefully continuing to grow," Phillips said.
For his first seven years with the department he was "on the road" as a patrolman before becoming a detective for about three years. In recent years he's been a detective sergeant overseeing the criminal investigations department.
McGill said Phillips has been the "powerhouse behind our National Night Out and Neighborhood Watch program since we first developed those things for Shiloh."
"Jesse has been slowly absorbing the duties of deputy chief for the past month," Wittenauer said.
He has a bachelor's degree in sociology with a criminal justice emphasis from McKendree University and is currently working on his master's degree in criminal justice administration from Lindenwood University-Belleville.
"I have worked at the Shiloh Police Department pretty much since I graduated college. I started in Shiloh in January 2006," Phillips said.
Phillips took over as the new deputy chief on May 28.
"He left me some pretty big shoes to fill," Phillips said, who joked with McGill last week that they both will keep one another in their cellphone speed dial lists indefinitely.
McGill said, "I know Jesse is an good choice, and I see him really going places in law enforcement."
Shiloh's force growing
Shiloh's police force is two officers shy of it's full complement of 20 officers.
Officer James Korba was hired in July 2017, but recently left to be a part of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency police force. Another just left, too: Officer Zach Green took a position with the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, after working with Shiloh police for 12 years.
"We're going to miss them," McGill said. "A lot of times we're stepping stones for other departments, so people will come here and they would train here and go through the police academy through Shiloh and then go get jobs elsewhere."
That "led to a lot of turnaround" over the years, but not as much now as it used to, he said.
"There's such a whirlwind of officers leaving and more being hired right now," McGill said.
Two new officers were sworn in April 23 at village hall, Officer Lance Rensing hailing from Crestwood, Missouri, and Officer Chris Flynn, hailing from Freeburg.
Flynn said he's "happy to be aboard with Shiloh," and Rensing said he's "excited" to join the village force.
"We're proud to have them," Wittenauer said.