As police chief of Westchester, John comes from successful stints helming law enforcement departments in Oakbrook Terrace, Worth and Willow Springs. Yet he’s by no means a stereotypical law enforcement officer. How many officers can claim they foiled a robbery while off duty? Or started a successful website long before high-tech was in vogue? Chief Carpino has done both, and much more. He also teaches in the Criminal Justice Department at Lewis University.
But when it comes to Westchester, that’s job one. “I treat Westchester like it’s my neighborhood,” Chief Carpino says. “This is not my department. It’s everyone’s department. We’re shipmates on the same ship, and I try to get out of the office as much as I can.”
Chief Carpino grew up in Melrose Park and comes from Italian lineage on his father’s side; his grandparents hailed from Cosenza in Calabria. (His mother has Austrian roots.) His Westchester post, which he assumed in September 2013, is the latest in a long line of stops where he’s been brought in as a proven leader.
His love of law enforcement came from a friend’s father, who worked as a park district police officer. That man, Jack Simpson, filled a void in Chief Carpino’s life after he lost his own father at age 7. “He was a police captain, and I worked for him as a kid. I looked up to him. His son and I were like brothers, and he grew up to be a lieutenant with the Melrose Park Police Department. We’re still best friends.”
After stops in Lombard (as a dispatcher) and Addison (as a patrol officer and detective), Chief Carpino joined the Oakbrook Terrace Police Department. He stayed there from 1979 to 2002, rising to the ranks of deputy chief. It was there that Chief Carpino foiled not one but two bank robberies, one while off duty.
“It was 1994, and I was in a bank in Oakbrook Terrace,” he recalls. “I was getting ready to go to Vegas, and the teller knew I was a police officer, even though I was in a t-shirt, blue jeans and loafers without socks. He told me the bank had just been robbed, and as the robber walked out of the bank, I tackled him. Luckily, there was a police car nearby.”
In November 2002, Chief Carpino beat 101 candidates for the top spot in the Willow Springs Police Department. There he oversaw 31 officers and helped the staff recover after years of low morale and dysfunction.
“I hit the ground running,” Chief Carpino recalls. “I brought in my own commander, two other deputy chiefs and an internal affairs investigator. I still live in that community, so I still hear from them.”
Chief Carpino also started his own website, safetycops.com, in 2000, with Oakbrook Terrace Police Deputy Chief John Kolberg. The two maintain it as a public service to teach readers how to defend themselves against crime.
Chief Carpino holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in criminal/social justice from Lewis University, and is a graduate of Northwestern University’s School of Police Staff and Command Class #115.
Ask him why he’s been so successful, and his reply is straight, true blue and backed by the facts: “I don’t give up and I don’t take no for an answer,” he says. “If I have a goal, I’m going to reach it. I take care of my people, I lead by example and I don’t hurt anybody. I always leave the place better than how I found it.”
Life has been as fulfilling personally as it has been professionally for Chief Carpino. He and his wife, Patti, celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary on April 20, and their daughter, Lindsey Ann, was married to Charles Corella the week before at a Las Vegas destination.
Congratulations and continued success to our 2014 Man of the Year!