Forest Park Chief of Police Ken Gross selected Chris Chin to serve as his top deputy, and both men were celebrated during a swearing-in ceremony at Forest Park Village Hall on Friday, Nov. 12.
Dozens of friends, family, and current and former law enforcement officials attended the ceremony in the basement of village hall, including around 20 active Forest Park police officers in full uniform.
Gross’ hiring was made official Monday, Nov. 8 when the village council unanimously approved his appointment by Mayor Rory Hoskins. Gross was emotional, Friday, talking about his journey to becoming police chief, explaining that he had been working in marketing when he lost his job around the turn of the century and began looking for a new path.
“March 27, 2000 is when I stood here and took the oath of office,” Gross said at the ceremony. “Then April 3, 2000 is when I went to the police academy. … I look back and I think, like, ‘How did I get here?’”
Gross’ appointment was cheered by those in attendance, including his former boss, now-retired Police Chief Tom Aftanas, who praised the work of both Gross and Chin, a lieutenant before being promoted to deputy chief.
“Everybody here does an excellent job and I always said they made me look good,” Aftanas said. “They’re going to continue to make you two guys look good and the department is in great hands.”
In an interview after the ceremony, Mayor Rory Hoskins, who opted not to conduct an external search when Aftanas retired earlier this year, said he had no reason to look beyond the bounds of Forest Park, based on the work he’s seen from the department since he took office.
“I have a lot of confidence in this police department,” Hoskins said. “And if it’s not a department where I see glaring issues, glaring problems, there’s nothing to disrupt right now. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.”
The 42-year-old Chin, who, like Gross, started in a different field before his law enforcement career began in 2008, is believed to be the first Asian-American in a leadership position in the department’s history. Chin’s father was born in China and his mother is a first-generation Chinese American. Both were in attendance Friday.
Chin downplayed the significance of his appointment but said he is someone who has always valued bringing as many perspectives into big decisions as possible.
“I’m in the police department and I add to the diversity of the department, but now I’m in a leadership role. Is it significant? I guess, based on what everyone tells me, but to me it’s a job. My responsibility is to do the best I can, take care of everyone around me, and I assume that’s one of the reasons I am where I am,” he said in an interview.
“You don’t want a bunch of people around you that are going to tell you what you want to hear,” he added. “I don’t have the answers, but I always know who to ask. That is important. Can I add that from my background? Yeah, I think so, but it’s not just purely a cultural thing.”
Chin worked as a veterinary technician after attending college and planned for a while to study to become a veterinarian before growing disillusioned with that path. He consulted with family and ended up landing a job as a cop in Forest Park.
“It was less a career and it sounds kind of hokey, but the whole helping others,” Chin said in explaining the decision. “It’s less about fighting crime. You think more about the victims than you do the offenders.”
Chin has risen quickly through the ranks at the FPPD, where he has been in charge of the department’s training division and supervised the rollout of the body cameras, which have been fully integrated throughout the department as of Nov. 1.
Shortly after joining the police department, Chin was invited to join the Northern Illinois Police Alarm System (NIPAS), a collaboration of suburban departments, and chosen to head up the Mobile Field Force’s bike unit in charge of crowd control.
He is a graduate of Loyola University Chicago. After switching careers to law enforcement, he furthered his education through the Northwestern University School of Police Staff and Command, then earned a master’s degree in public safety administration at Lewis University.
Gross, who served as deputy chief under Aftanas before he was promoted, was already laying the groundwork for Chin’s next move at Friday’s ceremony.
“I think Chris is going to do a wonderful job,” Gross said. “He is the right man for the job and he’s going to do great things once I leave.”