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A net gain for Illinois Conservation Police: Jed Whitchurch becomes captain

Jed Whitchurch (center) was promoted to captain on Feb. 1 in the Illinois Conservation Police.
From an Illinois Department of Natural Resources tweet

Well, there was the shark-fin case.

On Friday, Jed Whitchurch became a captain of the Illinois Conservation Police.

He will oversee four sergeants, two investigators, 23 Conservation Police officers and two administrative staff in 18 counties in northeastern Illinois framed by Vermilion, Macon and McHenry counties and Lake Michigan.

It’s a good fit. He’s the rare CPO who wants to be in the Chicago area. I interviewed him a decade ago, and he unabashedly said, ‘‘I plan to retire in this job.’’

By contrast, most CPOs around Chicago can’t wait until they have the seniority to transfer downstate and get away from the concrete.

Asked if any case stuck with him, Whitchurch emailed: ‘‘Being the first CPO to enforce the Unlawful Possession of a Shark Fin in Illinois was an interesting one. Catching numerous people unlawfully hunting in Chicago-area forest preserves. Catching people unlawfully commercial-fishing on Lake Michigan.’’

Whitchurch will operate out of the IDNR’s Region 2 office in DuPage County. His District 4 Sergeant slot should be filled soon.

Until recently, Whitchurch said he had not even thought about being a captain.

‘‘I truly enjoyed my field duties over the years,’’ he emailed. ‘‘Catching the bad people and interacting with the outdoors people daily was always fulsome for me.’’

(OK, I enjoy a CPO who slips in a word such as ‘‘fulsome.’’)

He took interacting with the public very seriously, and it’s one of his strong points.

Public outreach has been a strong suit with Conservation Police Officer Jed Whitchurch, shown a decade ago working an outdoors show at Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont. Whitchurch has been promoted to captain.<br>Dale Bowman/Sun-Times
Public outreach has been a strong suit with Conservation Police Officer Jed Whitchurch, shown a decade ago working an outdoors show at Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont. Whitchurch has been promoted to captain.
Dale Bowman/Sun-Times

He had been worried about manpower, a decades-long issue in Illinois, but those fears are slightly alleviated by the 38 CPO trainees in the system.

‘‘Leading in an attempt to bring any number of people together who all have different ideas and personalities is not an easy task,’’ Whitchurch emailed. ‘‘Especially when you are trying to mold things together for a single-minded purpose. The adage of the best example of leadership is leadership by example is a practice I will partake in with hopes of achieving this goal.’’

Whitchurch knocked around minor-league hockey for a few years after playing at Colgate, where he met his wife Danielle. He started in law enforcement as a police officer with the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County in 2002. He became a CPO in 2007.

He still plays hockey regularly with the Skatin’ Bacon, a team of Chicago-area law enforcement.

‘‘This brotherhood extends far beyond the front lines of public service,’’ he emailed. ‘‘We enjoy getting together to play the game we love. We also support each other off the ice, which is needed, seeing we all chose high-stress professions.’’

Stray cast

Listening to Charlie Potter dance around climate-change impact on waterfowl is like watching a Brittany prance by the door to be let out.