After 29 years with his “second family,” the Forest Park Police Department, Lt. Steve Knack is focusing on his own family. On Aug. 3, Steve will end a career filled with accomplishment and unblemished by controversy. Shunning the spotlight, Steve is looking forward to a quiet retirement celebration with a few of his fellow officers.
The 51-year-old was drawn to police work from the first time he saw his father Richard Knack in action as a reserve Forest Park Police officer. Steve still has a picture of when he was only a week old and had his dad’s badge pinned to his diaper. One of Steve’s proudest moments was when his dad rode with him in his squad car.
Steve grew up at 1044 Thomas; a house built for his grandfather, and enjoyed a childhood centered around St. Bernardine’s. The late Lorraine Popelka taught him to swim at the pool and Steve played Little League baseball and Kiwanis football.
After graduating from Proviso East, Steve majored in criminal justice. In those days, the Forest Park PD had a cadet program for criminal justice majors. On Nov. 16, 1976, Steve was hired as a civilian police dispatcher. Four years later, he was sworn in as a patrolman.
Retired deputy chief Joe Byrnes remembers training Steve back in 1980. He recalled Steve as a quiet guy who asked good questions and stayed cool in stressful situations. When the training period ended, Byrnes told his fellow sergeants that Steve was a “keeper.”
By this time, Steve’s family had relocated to 1322 Elgin. One night, while on patrol, Officer Knack offered assistance to a young woman named Jody, who is now his wife of 25 years. They ended up with three beautiful daughters and three granddaughters.
In some ways, said Steve, his wife Jody is also retiring from the force. All the years he worked as a patrolman and detective, she served as a valuable sounding board and offered support. One of their favorite activities is taking road trips on their Harley. A dedicated “backseater,” Jody has perfected the art of reading paperbacks perched against Steve’s back, a startling sight to passing motorists.
Over the years, Steve watched a department that had been “stuck in the ’70s” become modernized and more in touch with residents. Community policing allows officers to get to know their neighbors and understand the cause of their problems, he said. At the same time, he’s glad the department dropped its residency requirement. He said they were losing too many good officers who didn’t want to live in Forest Park.
Steve himself moved to Aurora in 2002. Still, he considers himself a lifelong Forest Parker, with many friends in town. He’ll miss his colleagues, but looks forward to all the members of his second family someday retiring with honor.