Buffalo Grove police chief looks back on 36-year career
Buffalo Grove Police Chief Steve Balinski announced Monday he will retire from the department in April, after 36 years serving Buffalo Grove. | Ronnie Wachter~Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 19, 2012 12:10PM
BUFFALO GROVE — One could take him to any intersection or the middle of any block in Buffalo Grove, and Steve Balinski could tell story after story about what’s happened there in the last 36 years.
“They’ve mostly been positive,” the chief of the Buffalo Grove Police Department said.
On Monday, Balinski announced that he will retire from the Department on April 2.
“Bo” spent his entire 36-year career in Buffalo Grove, 10 of them as its chief of police. He rose from officer up through the ranks. Village Hall is now searching for his successor.
“I have reached the pinnacle of my career, having served a community that is second to none,” he said. “It was an extreme honor and privilege.”
At the Monday night Village Board meeting, many officials honored Balinski’s work, and his patience.
“He’s never pulled out his gun and shot me,” said village manager Dane Bragg, who has asked Balinski to leave positions unfilled for the last two and a half years. “For that, I thank him.”
Village President Jeff Braiman said the Department is losing a lot.
“You’ve been a great asset to the village for a long, long time,” he said. “You’ve been really marvelous.”
Balinski, who now lives in Arlington Heights with his wife, Karen, came to Buffalo Grove in 1976 after graduating from Western Illinois University’s law enforcement school. At the time, the Department had about 25 sworn officers, and just about the only technology they had to work with were their firearms and squad cars. The appeal of police work, he said, was in helping other people, and seeing a new situation regularly.
“It’s all about going to work every day, knowing that something different will happen, and it will be challenging, and it will impact people’s lives,” he said. “Law enforcement is the noblest profession in the world.”
The BGPD now has 68 sworn officers, down from a high of around 75 earlier in his term as chief. Cops now use laptop computers in their cars and mobile phones on their belts. And those, Balinski noted, are not the big change that suburban law enforcement has undergone during his time.
“The big change, for all leaders, is the challenge of sharing your resources,” he said. “Formulating a relationship with the task forces is critical.”
Suburban police departments now contribute heavily to — and rely heavily on — amalgamated groups like the Major Crimes Task Force, Major Crash Assistance Team, Metropolitan Enforcement Group and others, which occupy the time of some of each agencies’ best men and women. Balinski stressed the importance of his successor working with this units, as they are able to solve cases no individual suburb could.
Balinski said he still wonders about two cases that got away. A pair of murders connected to Buffalo Grove have gone unsolved during his tenure. In the first, officers found a body in a car trunk at the intersection of Dundee and Buffalo Grove roads; in the second, Evanston officers found the body of a man believed to have been killed in town.
“Keeping this community safe was a priority,” he said, “and for many years, we’ve accomplished that. It’s been very personal to me.”