Timothy McCarthy, who took a bullet for President Reagan, to retire as Orland Park police chief

McCarthy will retire Aug. 1 after 26 years as Orland Park police chief and 22 years in the Secret Service.

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Orland Park Police Chief Tim McCarthy revisits the attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan on its 30th anniversary during an interview at his office at Orland Park Police Headquarters in Orland Park, Illinois, Tuesday, March 29, 2011. McCarthy, who was part of the secret service detail assigned to the president, was shot in the chest. The picture in foreground is of Chief Tim McCarthy and his wife Carol with President Ronald Reagan and his wife Nancy from Christmas of 1982.

Orland Park Police Chief Timothy McCarthy, who was shot in the chest as a member of President Ronald Reagan’s Secret Service detail in 1981, announced his retirement Wednesday.

Sun-Times file

After a 48-year career that included taking a bullet to protect a U.S. president, Orland Park Police Chief Timothy McCarthy said it’s time to turn to his family.

McCarthy, 71, announced Wednesday he will retire Aug. 1. He said his “rewarding career” includes 26 years as chief of police in Orland Park and 22 years working for the U.S. Secret Service. While serving on former President Ronald Reagan’s protection division, McCarthy was shot in the chest protecting Reagan from an assassination attempt on March 30, 1981.

“I guess a moment of terror describes it,” McCarthy said of the assassination attempt. “You never think you’re going to be in a situation like that. ... I reacted in a way I was trained to do.”

Growing up on the South Side with a Chicago Police Department sergeant as a father, McCarthy said he naturally felt drawn to law enforcement. After college, McCarthy joined the Secret Service in 1972 as an investigator at the Chicago field office. He went on to serve in the presidential protection division for Presidents Jimmy Carter, Reagan and George H. W. Bush before returning to Chicago, where he retired in 1993 as special agent in charge of the Chicago office.

McCarthy took on the role as Orland Park police chief in 1994, a job he said was “just as high stress” as his time working in the Secret Service. He led development of new policing strategies in the southwest suburb, including bike patrol officers, cookouts with cops and community meetings with beat officers.

“Sitting police chiefs only last usually three to five years,” said former Orland Park Cmdr. John Keating, who was assigned to the first bike patrol unit when McCarthy rolled out the program shortly after he took over the department. “He’s been there for 26 years now. That’s unique in itself.”

Keating, who retired in 2016, said McCarthy never hesitated to join officers in the field, whether it was coming in as backup for a search warrant or reporting to a crime scene at 4 a.m.

Former Deputy Chief Jerry Hughes recalled when a weekend storm triggered flooding in Orland Park. As officers were throwing sandbags to dry out areas, McCarthy stood right next to officers, throwing the next bag, Hughes said.

In 2016, McCarthy received the first Chief of Police of the Year Award from the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police. Ed Wojcicki, executive director, said McCarthy’s leadership extended beyond Orland Park to the entire profession of police chiefs.

“We hope that everybody in law enforcement has the highest standards and highest degree of integrity,” Wojcicki said. “He demonstrated that.”

Orland Park Mayor Keith Pekau said in a release McCarthy has “faithfully and diligently served” the village. McCarthy will be “sorely missed by everyone,” Pekau added.

McCarthy said he’s taking on retirement without an agenda other than to spend time his wife, Carol, his three children and seven grandchildren. He plans to stay in Orland Park.

Orland Park Deputy Police Chief Joseph Mitchell will take over as interim chief.

“More so than the respect that he had in the police community nationally, he’s an even better family man,” Keating said. “I’ve never met a man who knew more people and endeared as many people.”

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