Meet HP’s New Director of Public Safety

Highland Park’s new director of public safety came from within the department.

Chuck McGinnis has served the town for the last 21 years but took the reins as chief Sept. 28.

McGinnis has worked as a patrol officer, detective, sergeant, lieutenant, captain, regional SWAT team member, administrative captain, assistant director, and now chief.

“I feel like that when the newest guy is talking to me, I can put myself in his shoes, and I can understand what they’re talking about because I was there,” he said. “When the most senior guy is talking to me with all this experience, I understand because I was there.”

Highland Park officers cross-train as police, firefighters, and EMS providers.

McGinnis became a first responder because he wanted to help people in the community while working with like-minded individuals. He sees Highland Park as a “destination organization” where people want employment and a work family to call home.

“My goals for the department are to try to get better a little bit every day (and) to try to breed the mindsets of the individuals in the department to want to better themselves for the organizations and the town,” he said.

Some of the director’s duties include attending Town Council meetings and giving presentations, overseeing the department’s $17.2 million budget, and taking calls from the community.

“When you’re trying to be a fiscal steward for the town and be responsible for the town’s money, everything that you look at, you have to look at it with significance and say, ‘Is this in the best interest of the citizens?’” McGinnis said.

The department is undergoing a restructuring process incorporating deputy chiefs of fire, police, EMS, and operations to ensure the department can be the best in every discipline.

Recruitment and retention also remain top of mind. Lt. Zach Sitton has tweaked the recruiting process to include recruits’ families and spouses to help them understand their loved one’s potential employer.

“We invest a lot in the people that we want to get into the door, so that’s why we invest so much into our recruiting,” McGinnis said. “We want to get the right people; we want to get the right applicants.”

The department is one spot shy of having a full team after the Town Council last year approved an increase in staff: “The way we have progressed and the reputation of our organization has made it to the fact where some of those recruiting problems are not necessarily our problems anymore,” McGinnis said.

McGinnis is thankful for his wife, Amanda, and three kids, Saeben, Cooper, and Addison, for being part of his success.

“They have all sacrificed and lived through the good and bad times of being the family of a police officer and have never wavered their support of me and my career,” he said. “I am truly grateful and blessed to have that.”

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