If you look at Anthony Scarpelli’s 8th grade yearbook, you’ll find that he listed his future occupation as police officer. Unlike some kids who are content to only dream, young Tony set about the serious business of turning his dream into a reality.
He earned a bachelor’s degree with a concentration in criminal justice at DePaul and a master’s degree in law enforcement and justice administration from Western Illinois University before entering the job market. In the process, he put himself on the fast track to success.
A lengthy search led to his first job as an officer with the Skokie Police Department in 1982, and three short decades later he sits atop the department as chief.
“When I first became a police officer, I never thought I would become the chief. I remember thinking that maybe I’ll be a detective or sergeant one day,” he explains. “I’m very fortunate that I progressed up the ranks the way I did. And I’ve tried to pass it along to the community and make things better for others.”
Scarpelli looks back fondly on his journey to the top, noting that being a detective taught him “it’s not just going to a call and handling it to the best of your ability. The follow up can be quite lengthy depending on the case.”
He was then promoted to sergeant, with a team of officers under his command. “The transition from detective to sergeant was challenging because I was used to being the worker, not the supervisor.”
After sergeant came commander, deputy chief, and finally the chief of police. “Going through the ranks like I did gave me a well-rounded perspective of both the operational and administrative aspects,” he reflects.
Looking back on his career, one particular moment sticks out. In April 1993, Scarpelli and his partner were chasing down two suspects after a carjacking. The suspects shot at them, and one of the suspects ended up shooting the other.
Scarpelli and his partner chased the suspects onto the Metra tracks, where a train was barreling toward them. Acting fast, Scarpelli threw one of the suspects over the dividing wall to prevent him from getting hit, but ended up being clipped by the train. His arm and leg injured, Scarpelli and his partner were still able to take the men into custody.
That may sound like a scene from your favorite crime drama, but Scarpelli’s real-life heroics earned him the Chief Award of Valor, which only a handful of other officers have received. This award is proudly on display in his office, alongside other awards of merit and special service recognitions.
The Skokie Police Department has a well-earned reputation as one of the finest in the area, and as chief of police, Scarpelli is dedicated to maintaining and enhancing that reputation.
The department is accredited by the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, and it has met the rigorous standards set by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies since 1988, consistently scoring in the top 5 percent nationally.
A host of initiatives are aimed at improving the quality of life in Skokie, including the TRIAD program for senior citizens, school anti-drug and safety programs, a citizen police academy and neighborhood watch programs, and regular public presentations on a variety of topics. And the department now operates out of new state-of-the-arts facilities that are eco-friendly and employ a host of cutting edge technologies.
As for being a good police officer and, in turn, a good police chief, Scarpelli believes it all comes down to making the right choices. “You have to make good decisions,” he explains. “You also have to be impartial and rely on the best practice under the circumstance. I think if you master that, you can succeed at every level.”