New leader joins West Loop and Near West Side police station, but shakeup looms
A fresh command
08/01/2012 10:00 PM
When Ron Pontecore was growing up on the South Side, he watched his dad, a Chicago firefighter, go to work every day, like clockwork.
He’d head off every day dutifully from their homes in Brighton Park and later, Gage Park, to the fire station at 24th and Whipple streets. Finally, at age 63, his dad hit the mandatory retirement age and had to leave the department.
“I laughed at my dad when he retired,” Pontecore said, laughing as he walked down Cermak Road last week during Pilsen’s Fiesta Del Sol. “I said, ‘They’re going to drag you out of there kicking and screaming.’”
But Pontecore understood his father’s call to duty. As a captain in the Chicago police department, he’s been committed to the job since joining the force 21 years ago.
Earlier this year, Pontecore was named the acting commander of the police department’s 12th District, replacing retiring Commander Dennis Keane as the leader of police working from the Near West Side police station.
Pontecore took over a branch of the police department that’s in flux, preparing to depart its more than 60-year-old station at Monroe Street and Racine Avenue in the West Loop for new digs at Blue Island Avenue, Racine and 14th.
Adding another wrinkle, when they move into the new station this fall, they’ll merge with another police district — the 13th, which currently covers most of West Town. That means the two districts’ leadership will be merged as well, and how that’ll play out hasn’t been determined — and if it has, no one’s said anything about it.
Pontecore admits it’s a time of much change in the 12th District. He hasn’t been with the station that long; He joined the 12th District earlier this year as executive officer, second in the district’s chain of command, shortly before Keane left in February.
Pontecore had known Keane beforehand, as they’d both worked out of the same police station at Grand and Central avenues, where Pontecore had been an officer in the 25th District and Keane had been a detective at Area 5. They’d also made lieutenant in the same class.
When Keane announced he was leaving, it was a slight surprise, but rumors had been flying around that the commander would be retiring. But Keane left behind a solid ship, Pontecore said, and it was easy to take the wheel.
“I got lucky falling in behind Dennis,” Pontecore said. “The officers work well together. They’re a real strong, cohesive unit. This is very tight district where everybody sticks together.”
They’ve had some problems flare up lately, particularly in the area around the former ABLA homes. But they’re showing their faces more often over there, hoping it’ll help.
“We’re trying to assist the officers on that beat,” he said. “We’re doing missions over there in order to make our presence felt.”
Having a brand new, double-sized police station move in smack in the middle of the area should help things too, Pontecore said.
“Oh, absolutely,” he said. “It’s kind of hard to act a fool out there when you’ve got a police car rolling by every two minutes or every two seconds.”
Pontecore said he’s always had higher aspirations in the police force, and he’s happy to be moving up in the 12th. Eventually, his goal is to become a street deputy: a member of the police leadership who rolls out into the streets to run the show when major incidents occur.
“When I came on, I didn’t see myself in a beat car going from call to call,” he said. “I like being the police. This is one of those jobs where you get out what you put into it.”
When the 12th and 13th districts combine this fall, he doesn’t know what’ll happen. Though 13th District Commander Frank Gross is already a full-fledged commander as opposed to his “acting” title, Pontecore said he wants to become commander somewhere, someday. It’s a prerequisite to being a street deputy, he said.
“If it happens here, that’s great. If it’s anywhere else, that’d be great too,” Pontecore said. “I have no idea. I honestly don’t know. I sit here with bated breath waiting for the next move or the next opportunity in front of me. But I’d like to stay here.”