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Retired Sycamore deputy police chief welcomes successor

SYCAMORE – The past 30 years of former Sycamore Deputy Police Chief Darrell Johnson’s work are preserved in a five-inch binder of articles and reports dating back to 1986.

Johnson retired May 20 from the Sycamore Police Department, where he rose through the ranks before landing his final position as the department’s deputy chief. He finished out his career with a $99,686 salary from the city.

In his time, Johnson worked gruesome home invasions, investigated “traumatizing” armed robberies, and was a member of the county’s first organized major crime task force. Now, when he visits the building he had relatively unlimited access to for the past 30 years, he has to ask to be buzzed in.

“It’s weird waking up and not driving to the office and seeing the same faces I usually like seeing,” he said.

But Johnson’s face is one seemingly everyone in the community recognizes, and can’t help but stop and say hello to on their way through town, Sycamore Police Chief Glenn Theriault said.

“Darrell embodies to me the true spirit of community policing. It doesn’t take more than a walk around town with him to have everyone saying ‘hi’ to you ... ,” Theriault said at a June 6 Sycamore City Council meeting. “He gets to know everybody and polices from a community perspective.”

In Johnson’s stead, former Illinois State Police Lt. Col. Jim Winters has lent his hand in the investigation of a string of car burglaries. All the while, he stays busy getting to know his new partners and settling into the role of deputy chief.

“It’s been really good. It’s been a learning curve,” Winters said. “Policing, at the core of it, it’s pretty much the same, but there’s nuances within each community.”

Having worked under five different police chiefs, policing the community has come a long way, even within a town of 17,534 people, Johnson said. Gone are the days of being armed only with a notebook and police badge. Johnson’s career has allowed him to witness the implementation of an Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, the construction of an expanded and more technologically advanced station, and what is perhaps his proudest memory, serving as a member of a major crime task force.

“The comforting part of that is if something major happens in this county, other than calling the state police, which we do anyway, is that you have 25 to 30 experienced investigators to call instantly if a major case was to hit,” Johnson said.

Although he’s still unpacking filing folders into his desk drawer, Winters is no stranger to Sycamore. Upon leaving the Illinois State Police, Winters spent an impressively brief 12 hours in retirement before his first day as deputy chief.

“It’s nice being more involved in a community policing concept, instead of being scattered all over the place throughout the state,” Winters said. “I live around here, which makes it all that much nicer that I’m kind of working in the community that I have an interest in – because this is where my family lives, and my kids have already gone through the schools.”

In the meantime, Johnson will spend his retirement finishing odd jobs that have fallen by the wayside over the years and repaying his wife of 31 years, Beth Johnson.

“When the kids were little, I’d be on call, we’d drive two vehicles to every family event, and I’ve missed events and birthdays and parties, so I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your support.”

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