When working at a small police department, there’s not a lot of room for specialization, Jason Greenwald said.
There is, however, room to do a little of everything – including stepping up as Johnsburg’s interim police chief.
Greenwald, 50, was sworn in Tuesday, replacing Keith Von Allmen, who officially retired. Greenwald is seeking to get the job permanently, too.
“The department is in good hands,” Von Allmen said, noting that Greenwald already had been selected for a command role when Von Allmen announced his retirement a month ago.
Von Allmen now will investigate crimes against children for the McHenry County State’s Attorney’s Office.
Greenwald was first hired by the Johnsburg Police Department in 1999. Except for a short stint during which he left and came back in 2001, he has worked at the department since.
“The town has been a second home to me,” said Greenwald, who graduated from Grayslake High School in 1991.
The department is in good hands.”— Keith Von Allmen, recently retired Johnsburg police chief
Greenwald started in patrol, working the midnight shift for almost 13 years. He also was trained in evidence collection, processing crime scenes, and was the department’s firearms instructor. At the time, he also served as the department’s investigator.
“We didn’t have a full-time investigator because, as a small agency, we didn’t have the ability to do that,” he said. “We rotated that responsibility.”
in 2018, he was made the department’s full-time investigator. In that role, he also was the elder services and adult protective services officer and the liaison for Johnsburg School District 12.
Greenwald was named the deputy chief Aug. 1.
“It was supposed to be a longer lead-up to this, but things changed” for Von Allmen, who was offered another career opportunity, Greenwald said. “He chose to move on.”
When he was first applying to become a police officer in the late 1990s, policing was a competitive field and hard to get into, Greenwald said. He also noted his experience at Johnsburg is vasty different from those of friends in larger departments.
“For our agency, the challenges we face ... are with retention. Being a smaller agency and a smaller village, there may not be the structural opportunity for advancement that larger departments have or specialty assignments” such as gang or K-9 units, Greenwald said.
What he has found is a town that treats him like family.
“It is a unique relationship” policing a small town, he said. “You feel as though you become part of the community. Johnsburg is home to me.”