Elgin police sergeant shows Korean cops how to do covert surveillance
By Janelle Walker For Sun-Times Media September 22, 2013 3:28PM
Elgin Police sergeant Jim lullo, center, spent a week Seoul, South Korea, training officers from that and other countries about how to conduct covert surveillance operations. | Submitted
Updated: October 24, 2013 6:11AM
ELGIN — As a sergeant in the Special Investigations Unit and supervisor of the Gang Crime Unit in the Elgin Police Department, Jim Lullo spends a lot of time training other officers and teaching residents about gangs.
That expertise in training helped lead Lullo to Seoul, South Korea, where he spent a week training officers from that and other countries about how to conduct covert surveillance operations.
For seven days this month, Lullo found himself, his class and interpreters on streets in Ansan, South Korea, practicing with other officers acting as suspects on how to do their jobs more effectively, Lullo said this week.
Lullo, 49, has been with the Elgin Police Department for 21 years, the last three in the gang unit. Before that, he spent three or four years in the drug unit — two areas that go hand-in-hand for investigations, Lullo said.
He was invited to teach in Korea through the International Tactical Training Association, an organization that trains officers throughout the U.S. and the world.
Years of speaking locally about drugs and gangs — teaching residents and parents what to look for in their neighborhoods and families — helped prepare him for teaching in Korea.
“We train new officers all of the time — in our in-house academy, with the gang crimes unit — and we teach outside as well,” Lullo said.
“In Elgin, I have trained teachers, community leaders, have been involved with various events at the (Gail Borden Public) library on gang and graffiti identification and its impact on various communities,” Lullo added.
He also represents the police department on the Elgin Gang and Drug Task Force and does presentations and panel discussions for Centro de Informacion and other organizations in the community.
Specifically, the international training program asked him to speak and conduct training on physical surveillance as it relates to major-case crimes “and the use of technical equipment such as trackers, overhear devices, cameras and covert items,” Lullo said.
Without giving away too much of how Elgin police use surveillance to make cases, he said, those technologies help officers track criminals and build cases against them for court.
“We covertly blend in so we don’t give ourselves away. Through training, we talked about how do you covertly follow while blending in and merging the physical side of it,” Lullo said.
At the same time, he taught about the technical aspect of using officers and technology to manage the case and the investigations, Lullo said.
Kenya and Laos, too
Originally, there were supposed to be about a dozen officers — many from the Korean National Police but also officers from Kenya and Laos — in the class. Because they were doing actual practical work on the street, he found those classes expanding to up to 20 officers arriving for the classes.
“I had to up my game,” Lullo said.
In an area of a city completely foreign to him, he and an interpreter using radios coordinated officers. “We taught them different phases of covert foot surveillance … the back-street alleys and the marketplace,” Lullo said.
They didn’t attract much attention from locals, he added, except for one woman who stopped to talk to his interpreter. That woman’s daughter actually lives in Chicago, and the two ended up talking for a few minutes, Lullo said.
A few of the local officers noticed what they were doing as well, as an American speaking on a handheld radio tends to stick out, Lullo said.
Training visits such as this help bring Elgin to a worldwide audiences, Lullo added. He talked to some of his students about some of the other Elgin policing programs, such as the Resident Officer Program of Elgin (ROPE), whose officers live in the neighborhoods they patrol to help reduce crime.
He also received information about other community-based policing strategies that can be used here, Lullo said. It also reinforced his sense of community.
“Korean police officers are very dedicated to country and community, and reinforced how I consider Elgin my community,” Lullo said. “We are stronger when we work together.”