Glenn Burmeister, Deputy Chief of the Lake Forest Police Department, doesn’t really want to retire after 30 years of service. Due to the state pension plan, it’s in his best interest.
“I’m retiring now because my pension doesn’t increase anymore,” Burmeister said. “Pensions are under attack by legislators. The best position to be in is the group receiving their pension, frankly.”
“I would prefer not to retire now. I’ve got a great job, a big office, great bosses—I’m sad about retiring. It seems anti-climatic.”
The need for pension reform has become an increasingly important issue for Chicago Police and firefighters. Pension debt is growing by an average of 24 percent per year, in danger of becoming insolvent in less than a decade, according.
However, Burmeister, 55 next month, does not see this as the end of his career. “I wasn’t able to become a police chief, so maybe I can do that. Start over somewhere else,” he said. “I still have things to contribute.”
Burmeister grew up in Lombard and joined the army out of high school. While stationed at Fort Leavenworth, he started taking classes for his associate degree in criminal justice.
“I didn’t know what else I wanted to do,” he said. “I wanted to be a military police officer. I liked the sense of justice in law enforcement.”
Burmeister Holds Two Masters’ Degrees
He went to school while working for much of his career and has two masters’ degrees from Webster University.
Burmeister became a deputy sheriff in Larimer County, Colorado. After two years, his wife Pam wanted to move back home to the Chicago area, so Burmeister applied to the Lake Forest Police Department.
“Pat Kurz, he told me about the opening in Lake Forest and encouraged me to apply,” Burmeister said. “He even let me stay at his house for the two days of testing. His leaving created an opening for me to be promoted. He was the best interrogator I’ve ever seen.”
Burmeister started as a motorcycle officer in 1982 and field training officer in 1986. He became Deputy Chief of Police in 2007. During his career, he received one Department Commendation Award and three Honorable Mention awards.
He remembers his first felony case – someone stole a briefcase out of a golf cart at the golf course. He also recalls chasing down a snowmobile by foot. All he had to do was park his car and follow the tracks.
It’s Not Like Television
“You expect what you see on television,” Burmeister said of becoming a police officer. “You expect more crime, but investigations take longer and there’s more deterrent patrol than activity time.”
Most people do not see how generous Lake Forest residents can be. “What I enjoyed most was the respect given to police in Lake Forest. Back in the 70s and early 80s, public servants weren’t well appreciated,” he said. “It’s come full circle.”
Burmeister said he was motivated by “trying to achieve the best level of service for residents.” He noted Lake Forest police do more service than most departments, including resolving animal issues, neighborhood and boundary disputes, and striving to maintain quality of life in Lake Forest. “We are the 24 hour phone number you can call for any reason,” he said.
Of all his accomplishments at Lake Forest Police Department, Burmeister is most proud of getting the department nationally accredited in 18 months. He’s also proud of his work with Speak Up, the anti-drug and alcohol coalition which focuses on youth outreach and empowerment.
“As an officer, I learned and saw firsthand the effects of drug and alcohol use on kids,” he said. “I saw the tragedy it brought to families.”
As the media spokesperson for the department, Burmeister often had the task of commenting on local tragedies. “While it was difficult, my relationships in the community helped me deal with that,” he said.
“You always remember the tragic things,” Burmeister said, lamenting the deaths of local youths and cases of suicide. “You have to stay positive for your family. You take good responsibility for your family, set an example and try to make a positive contribution to society. That way, when I see all this negative stuff, I can say, I’m glad I’m not like that.”
Burmeister and his wife Pam live in Wadsworth and recently celebrated their 36th wedding anniversary. Pam is a medical practice manager. They have an adult daughter, Amy, and a shared interest in motorcycle travel. They’ve been to 38 states, two Canadian provinces and two Mexican states, all by motorcycle.
“One of the secrets to my success is not getting caught up in police culture,” he said. “I put emphasis on relationships outside my department. It helped me to be as successful as I am.”
On October 19, Burmeister will attend his last department recognition dinner. He doesn’t plan to take any vacations before rejoining the job market.
“In police code, 10-4 means okay and 10-8 means you’re available. Well, my last day is October 4 and I’m available October 8,” he joked. “In between, I’ll have a long weekend.”