By Dermot Connolly
Changes were recently made at the top ranks of the Oak Lawn Fire Department, and they are also coming to the Police Department, with the retirement this week of Police Chief William “Randy” Palmer.
Palmer, an Oak Lawn resident who will be stepping down tomorrow, Friday, only announced his plans last week to retire from a 28-year career with the department. He will remain as interim acting village manager, a role he took on last November in addition to his duties as police chief.
On Tuesday, as interim acting village manager, Palmer issued a statement announcing that Division Chief of Patrol Daniel Vittorio has been appointed to replace him as chief of police. He will be the 12th chief to serve the village since the first one was appointed more than 100 years ago.
“Current events across the United States have increased focus on police departments and on the men and women who have chosen policing as a career,” said Palmer. “Division Chief Vittorio has pledged to adhere to our local ordinances and the U.S. Constitution with respect to individual rights and safety and the protection of all of our residents and visitors to this great community.”
Vittorio has been with the department since 1997. Prior to being chief of patrol, he served as division chief of administration, supervisor of the K9 Unit, and field training supervisor. He also been executive officer for the Region 4 South Mutual Aid Response Team and president of the South Suburban Emergency Response Team. He has a master’s degree in criminal justice from Governors State University and is a graduate of the Northwestern University School of Police Staff and Command.
Like Palmer, he is also a resident of Oak Lawn, where he lives with his wife and two children.
“Dan’s experience will serve the department well and a smooth transition is expected.,” said Palmer, who was also involved with the village board in the decision to terminate Michael Mavrogeorge as fire chief in May. The move was done as as part of a series of cost-saving personnel moves that village officials said they had to make due to budget constraints brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. He was replaced by his second-in-command, Deputy Chief Zackary Riddle, who was appointed to take over as chief at a village board meeting earlier this month. Both men were appointed to the top jobs with the fire department in June 2018.
Photo by Dermot Connolly
Former Oak Lawn Fire Chief Michael Mavrogeorge (at left) shakes hands with current Fire Chief Zackary Riddle when they were appointed in 2018 as chief and deputy chief, respectively.
Mavrogeorge has since been appointed chief of the Westchester Fire Department, and Palmer said this week that he wishes him “nothing but the best” in his new job.
Palmer and Mayor Sandra Bury both said the cost-savings will come from not filling the deputy chief position, and denied any personal feelings involved in the decision to promote Riddle and let Mavrogeorge go.
“ I can emphatically state that it was strictly financial. In the near future we are looking at reducing the amount of overtime currently being paid to fire personnel by hiring additional frontline firefighters. Eliminating a command position in the fire department allows us to have more “boots on the ground” over managers overseeing those personnel,” said Palmer.
As for his own decision to retire as police chief, Palmer said he turned 55 recently “and decided spending time with family is more important at this point in my life.”
“ Doing two jobs was stressful at times, but the main reason was to begin to slowly transition to spending time doing what I like to do with my time. I will remain as interim acting manager to help with the transition for both jobs or as long as the village requests me to stay on to help the Village I call home,” he added.
When asked about the accomplishments he is proudest of as police chief, he said the main ones were “getting video cameras into the schools, and some of the businesses in town, so officers can get real time situation updates during critical incidents.” The technology was demonstrated during a major training event held at the Oak Lawn Metra Station last year, and Palmer said the police feel it will help save lives if it is ever needed in a real situation.
“ It also helps some of the students and staff feel a bit safer while they are in school. The great thing about this program is that it required no funding from the village’s general budget, because “police seizure funds” got the program up and running.
Palmer also cited the increased use of social media used by police department personnel to share real-time information with the public through the OLPD Twitter page.
“ I have always tried to share the importance of ‘quality of life’ matters to our police officers, and how that ideology is more important than other enforcement activity at times,” said Palmer.