Park Ridge police officer forms ties with hospital, community
Park Ridge Police Officer Matt McGannon. | Contributed photo
NAME: Officer Matt McGannon.
BEST KNOWN AS:Park Ridge Police Department beat leader.
HOMETOWN: Park Ridge
Updated: August 6, 2012 6:10AM
PARK RIDGE — Park Ridge Police Officer Matt McGannon was once a skeptic of the concept of community policing.
“If you had asked me 10, 15 years ago what I thought about community policing, I would have said, ‘It won’t work,’ ” McGannon, a 21-year veteran said.
But today, having been an active part of the philosophy instituted by Park Ridge Police Frank Kaminski three years ago, McGannon’s attitude has shifted.
“It does work in building confidence with the community, building that support,” he said. “It works in the short term and it works in the long term.”
The primary component of community policing is building partnerships with those whom the Police Department serves. This has involved sending officers out into neighborhoods to form relationships with residents, businesses and visitors.
With the creation of a new beat-leader program, McGannon has been appointed the leader of the city’s northernmost police beat. In this position he serves as a primary contact for citizens and employees of businesses who have issues or concerns about matters that may not be of criminal in nature, such as a neighbor dispute or an unkempt property. The position is one of problem-solving, McGannon said.
A large part of McGannon’s job involves working with Advocate Lutheran General Hospital which he jokingly calls his “second home” since he spends so much time there. He checks in with hospital security every day to find out what issues, if any, have cropped up overnight. Threats and physical battery against employees by patients and co-workers, suspicious individuals, thefts and traffic issues are some of the problems McGannon works to address there.
But community policing goes beyond discussing just police-related matters. Often McGannon will find himself talking about family, sports or current events with a business owner, all in an attempt to cement relationships.
“It’s a very classic case of the 1960s police officer walking his beat,” he said.
McGannon also works to resolve quality-of-life issues and nuisance problems, like neglected properties, though he says these are not prevalent within the police beat.
Maintaining a physical presence in a neighborhood can also help calm citizens’ fears, he said, and it can lessen criminal activity. Police officers from Park Ridge and the Cook County Sheriff’s Office in recent years have made themselves noticeable around Maine East High School before and after school in an effort to discourage gang recruitment and harassment in the unincorporated Maine Township area. Though he gives credit to the Cook County Sheriff’s Police, McGannon believes these efforts have paid off.
“I can say with all confidence that it’s really decreased dramatically,” he said. “We haven’t had any gang problems at Dempster and Dee Road this year.”
McGannon also coordinates the Park Ridge Police Department’s Senior Breakfast, which meets on the third Tuesday of each month at 9 a.m. at the Park Ridge Senior Center, 100 S. Western Ave. The program, another element of community policing, shares crime prevention information with area seniors.
Community policing is difficult work, McGannon acknowledges, as it can often involve trying to solve problems that may not have easy solutions.
Still, McGannon says he is enjoying his job and is a believer in the positive outcomes of community policing.
“The philosophy is good,” he said. “Chief Kaminski has us on a right path.”