A former Chicago police officer will be sworn in Thursday as the first Black police chief for south suburban Calumet City. “My first order of business is to connect with the community,” said Edward L. Gilmore, 54. “People can connect wit

He will have his first opportunity to connect with residents at a town hall meeting later on that night at 7 p.m., at Ceila Gregg Memorial A.M.E. Church, 520 Sibley Blvd. Gilmore said he wants to hear from as many residents as possible Thursday and added that he plans to hold more town hall meetings in the future “I think I am in the best position to bridge the racial gap that exist in Calumet City,” Gilmore said.

“We will attack crime in Calumet City vigorously. I can promise you that.” Calumet City currently has 92 police officers and Gilmore said he does not plan to make any immediate personnel changes. The police department has a $7.5 million budget and will pay Gilmore $122,842 a year. Former Chicago police Superintendent Terry Hillard had a hand in helping to bring Gilmore, a former U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency agent, to Calumet City.

The headhunter agency Hilliard leads conducted a yearlong search before selecting Gilmore. During his heydays as a Chicago patrolman in the Gresham community on the South Side, Gilmore’s partner was Dana Starks, who retired this year as the interim Chicago police superintendent. “One motivating factor for me accepting this job was being able to come home,” Gilmore said.

“I grew up on the South Side in the Woodlawn community before moving to the Pullman neighborhood, where my mother still lives.” Gilmore retired from the DEA in March, after 20 years there. He served the agency as a deputy chief inspector. The Harlan high school graduateûclass of 1972ûattended Bradley University in Peoria where he recieved his bachelor’s degree in radio and television and speech communication in 1977. Calumet City was once a middleclass white suburb but is now 53 percent Black, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

“As an African American I know how to speak to African Americans. But I do not want to be perceived as the Black police chief because I am here for all residents of Calumet City, not just Blacks,” Gilmore said. Some residents welcome a change in the police department. They say a change is needed if Calumet City will ever restore its reputation as an ideal suburb for families. “I have lived in Calumet City for nine years and have seen this town change for the worse,” said Renita Sanders, 38.

“There use to be a time when it was quiet and peaceful out here but now all you hear is a lot of loud music blasting from cars driven by ghetto folks.” Residents living in nearby suburbs frequent Calumet City a lotûpartly to shop, said Vanessa Parks, 43, who lives in the town. The town is home to the River Oaks shopping mall.

“Not all south suburbs have the economic development we enjoy in Calumet City so people come here to shop,” Parks said. “Not that there’s anything wrong with that but when they cause problems while here, that’s when it’s time to look at solutions and a change at the police department represents solutions.”

Married with two daughters, ages 17 and 26, Gilmore’s short term goal is to make the Calumet City Police Department the best police department in the country. “Yeah, I know that’s aiming high but I don’t know any other way to shoot but high,” he said.

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