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Elgin Police Department names top officers and civilian for 2013

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Updated: March 26, 2014 6:17AM

ELGIN — Officers involved in solving the Lisa Koziol-Ellis murder case and several animal hoarding cases were among those receiving top honors as the Elgin Police Department observed its annual Awards Day on Monday. The honorees were chosen by a committee of police and community members chaired by Detective Heather Robinson.

Police Officer of the Year honors went to Detective Brian Gorcowski, who is the senior patrolman and acting sergeant in the Major Investigations Division (MID). Police Chief Jeff Swoboda said Gorcowski was the lead investigator on more than 90 cases last year, the most noteworthy being the March 2013 stabbing death of Koziol-Ellis in the Garden Quarter subdivision. A neighbor of the woman eventually was charged with committing the murder while burglarizing her townhouse.

“The community was deeply affected by such a loss of life, and Detective Gorcowski made it a personal goal to find the person who committed this heinous crime,” the committee wrote. “Those who worked with him in the Koziol investigation saw the level of commitment and perseverance Detective Gorcowski displayed in the case as it continued to build.”

The committee said Gorcowski also served on the Hanover Township Mental Health Board for seven years. He also donates time to the bike patrol maintenance program, serves as the arson investigator, is a crisis negotiator and is a voice stress analyzer.

Named Civilian of the Year was Animal Control Officer James Rog. “He speaks for those without a voice,” Swoboda said, as Rog investigates animal abuse cases such as three animal hoarding cases over the past two years, one of which also resulted in child-neglect charges against a family living in a house on Lavoie Avenue that was found strewn with dog waste.

But beyond his animal duties, the committee said, “James has been described as the department’s Swiss Army knife, often assisting in performing a variety of tasks for the police department. Whether it is serving as the court liaison officer, driving the armored vehicle, or serving as a Police Explorer adviser, James Rog’s constant drive to meet and exceed the department goals is truly worthy of recognition.”

Named Supervisor of the Year was Sgt. Philip Danner, who is in his 28th year in law enforcement.

“He knows that it is more important to be respected than liked” by those under him, Swoboda said. “Do the right thing, even if it hurts other police friends. Work hard, care about your people and comfort people in situations where they have to be comforted.”

“Since being promoted to the rank of sergeant in 2007, Phil Danner has been responsible for educating and leading the officers under his command by example,” the committee wrote.

Officer Steve Alcorn was honored as Rookie of the Year.

Having served as a community service officer for the Hoffman Estates Police Department prior to becoming a sworn officer in Elgin, the committee noted, “Alcorn immediately became involved in the Police Explorer Program in Elgin. Since joining the program, he attended a state conference where he served an important role in training, mentoring and leading the Explorers in career development. Officer Alcorn consistently leads by example; since joining the police department, he has become a certified evidence technician and joined the Tactical Response Team.”

“He comes to work with a positive outlook every day,” Swoboda said. “He understands that service is the first job at the Elgin Police Department.”

The committee also awarded numerous other honors, including one to someone outside the department. Juan Martinez, an employee of Elgin State Bank, was given the Distinguished Community Service Award for saving an aging bank customer from being scammed after he noticed that the customer was trying to transfer large amounts of money to a person in Nigeria.

A Distinguished Service Commendation and a Unit Citation were given to no fewer than 49 officers who worked on the Koziol-Ellis investigation. Robinson noted that Koziol-Ellis was “33 years old, beautiful, witty, talented and admired by her friends and family.” Robinson said the officers involved put in ”sleepless nights, meals on the run ... each and every officer involved with the case devoted so much to it and each would tell you they would do it again.” She said the investigators generated 3,000 pages of documents.

Other awards went to those who created a new “Career Offender Program” to keep an eye on habitual criminals, and to those who helped convert the 911 center to new digital equipment.

Fifteen investigators received awards for working especially hard when crime jumped between February and April 2013.

Speaking during the awards presentation, Kane County State’s Attorney Joseph McMahon credited the police department’s community involvement for helping reduce Elgin crime by more than half since the 1980s. McMahon said these include walk-and-talks through neighborhoods and the National Night Out activities.

“The fact that you go into their own neighborhood is (much better) than just saying, ‘Come down to the police department and tell us if something is wrong,’ ” the state’s attorney said.

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