Champaign deputy police chief turning in his badge after 24 years

Champaign deputy police chief turning in his badge after 24 years

CHAMPAIGN — Joe Gallo was doing a ride-along with his friend, Champaign police officer Robb Morris, in 1994 when he helped nab an armed robber.

Then an officer in Lincolnshire, Gallo and his police academy buddy were cruising Green Street through Campustown, about to clock out to enjoy a beverage, when Morris saw a man he believed was a suspect in a recent string of holdups.

Morris and Gallo watched from a distance as the man approached a business, then walked away. But the young officers stayed close.

"Robb was convinced he was coming back. Sure enough, he did ... at the old Pizza World. This guy lunges across the counter with a knife, and Robb called it in, and we went across the street, and as he was coming out, he got arrested. That's how it all started," Gallo said of his career as one of Champaign's finest.

With that impressive assist to talk about during his job interview, Gallo was hired a few months later as a probationary Champaign police officer under the department's then-novel "experienced officer hiring program." A graduate of Illinois State University, Gallo had also been a police officer there before Lincolnshire.

On Tuesday, the 50-year-old wrapped up his 24-year affiliation with Champaign police, retiring as deputy chief and having done almost every job in the building but chief. He worked under five chiefs.

Anthony Cobb, who promoted Gallo to deputy chief just a month after he was named chief in 2012, said he's going to miss his colleague.

"He's been my right arm for a long period of time," said Cobb, who recalled speaking with everyone from the janitorial staff to patrol to command before choosing Gallo as deputy chief. "Overwhelmingly, the staff supported and respected Joe."

Cobb credited Gallo for pushing the concept of "unconditional respect" department-wide, helping establish the Youth Assessment Center to keep juveniles out of the justice system, and hiring approximately 60 new officers since about 2013.

"We've been hiring about 15 to 16 police officers a year. He sat through most of the interviews," Cobb said.

Today, Gallo will apply what he has learned in Champaign to his new full-time post as the assistant director of the Police Training Institute at the University of Illinois.

As the second in command to Director Michael Schlosser, Gallo will help supervise a staff of five other full-timers and about 128 "adjunct" staffers, many of them retired and active officers who teach recruits in 14 weeks how to properly police.

"It was just too good of an opportunity to pass up," said Gallo, who fills a slot vacated earlier this year by Chuck Deakin, who had been at PTI for about 15 years. Deakin was a retired Champaign County sheriff's lieutenant when he began working at PTI.

In Champaign, Gallo started in patrol in December 1994. He was a detective from 1997 to 1999 before being promoted to sergeant in 1999, then lieutenant in 2002. From 2004 until his promotion to deputy chief in 2012, Gallo headed up the investigations division. He was also a SWAT team member and later commander for a while.

In his most recent role, Gallo has been responsible for professional standards: internal investigations, training, overseeing background checks on recruits, alcohol enforcement and police services, the civilians who staff the front desk and records.

"I'll miss the people," he said. "I'm retiring from the police department, but I'll only be 10 blocks away, so it's not like I won't see them."

As deputy chief, he was earning about $146,800 a year. His PTI job pays between $75,000 and $85,000.

Cobb has promoted Lt. Tod Myers to Gallo's deputy chief position, effective Dec. 24. Cobb said Myers' 16 years of supervisory experience within the department and his military background made him a good choice.

Myers' promotion and Gallo's departure means there are openings for a lieutenant, a sergeant and a detective to be filled.

The other two deputy chiefs under Cobb are Dave Shaffer and Troy Daniels.