Harlow wins Glencoe’s Arrest of the Year
Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
Lots of police departments have a Police Officer of the Year award. Not Glencoe.
Maybe it takes a town like the little lakefront burg of about 8,000 — where every cop is tough enough to double in brass as a firefighter — to come up with the alternative embraced a dozen years ago: Arrest of the Year.
“We thought it was a good idea instead of Officer of the Year, which can kind of be a popularity contest,” said Lt. Hiroshi Witt, who administers the polling of officers — but no bosses — for the annual contest. “And I hate to say it, but even a blind squirrel gets a nice nut once in a while. If you get a great pinch, you’re eligible. It’s an incentive for people to go look for stuff.”
Det. Jonathan Harlow is no blind squirrel. An officer only eight years, he’s won once before. He shared the 2004 award with Det. Floyd Mohr, when they nabbed a trio of drug abusers who turned on their buddies to steal their drugs and money.
Harlow was promoted to detective this month, but he was a patrol officer/firefighter in August, 2010 when the Arrest of the Year case presented itself.
“We had a guy walk into the station to say that Carmax ripped him off,” he remembered. “The whole story didn’t sound right. He said he sold them a Chevrolet Silverado, and when he went to go cash the check, they put a hold on the check.
“I was on fire shift when it actually happened, so I hopped in the engine and went out to Carmax.”
Here’s the scam: “They make payments for a year, then file a maritime title release ... which is completely fake. It’s something the Coast Guard uses, a very, very official looking document that you can buy over the internet.
“They’d send it in to the Secretary of State, and a new title would be issued.”
It turned out that the guy complaining about Carmax not paying him had actually tried to sell the Glencoe dealer the same truck the dealer had sold him about a year earlier, which fueled Harlow’s perception that something wasn’t quite kosher.
So he called up the complainer, and suggested that everything could turn out peachy if he just came into the police station with all of his documentation.
“And when he got there, there were people from KCAT (Kane-Cook Auto Theft Task Force), CPD (Chicago Police), the U.S. Attorney,” Harlow said. Harlow begged that the suspect’s name, current whereabouts and legal status not be revealed, since the case has gone international, and now involves stolen and retitled cars shipped overseas. But the man involved was a Glenview resident who turned 59 this week.
Harlow, 31, says he’s in the “family business,” but not so much because he’s the son of Paul Harlow, who moved on from Glencoe public safety director — police and fire chief — to village manager in 2000.
“I said I’d never work for my dad, said I never wanted to be a cop,” he said. My grandfather was (Chicago Fire Department) for 32 years, and the fire side was always my passion.”
He signed on as an emergency dispatcher in Lake Forest at the age of 18, “and actually got a department commendation, which pretty much involved being in the right place at the right time,” he said of his radioed instructions that caught a suburban felon.
“When my dad stepped back from the department, I decided to see what panned out, and take the test. Glencoe has been absolutely fantastic, and has afforded me many experiences I’ll never forget. I was lucky enough to be deployed (in the Illinois rescue mission) to Lousiana after Katrina, and those were 16 days I’ll never forget.”
He worked both as a firefighter and police officer in devastated Slidell, Louisiana, northeast of New Orleans.
The Arrest of the Year plaque is never handed out by the village president at a board meeting, because it’s unofficial, a creature of the Glencoe lodge of the Federation of Police. The public safety chief presents it at a roll call, with little fanfare.
“The thing that makes it such a great award to receive is that it’s voted on by your peers,” said Michael Volling, who just moved up to the chief’s chair about 18 months ago.
“We’re proud of the job [Harlow] did. He’s a good guy to work with. Everybody enjoys working shifts with him.”
Peer voting often means the award doesn’t recognize the most dramatic arrests possible, but those that other cops know are difficult. Witt and Andrew Taira won the first award, mainly, Witt said, because of the rarity of catching burglars in the act.
They were on a multi-town team tailing a burglary crew when they grabbed two sneak-thieves leaving a Skokie house with full pillowcases in their hands.
“No cops ‘n’ robbers stuff,” Witt said. “We walked up and said, ‘Uh, we’re the police,’ and they said ‘OK.’”
In addition to Harlow’s late grandfather Martin Harlow, who retired as a Chicago Fire Department captain, Harlow’s “family business” includes Chicago Police Sgt. Matthew Kennedy, a cousin; uncle Patrick Kennedy, a retired Chicago police officer; another uncle, Des Plaines Police investigations Commander Nick Treantafeles, and Treantafeles’s son Demetrios, now in the Tulsa Police academy.
Harlow said his sister Lauren Walker, an assistant state’s attorney in Lake County has been warned by the family never to consider quitting to move over to the defense table.
“We’ve been threatening that if she ever goes over to the Dark Side, she’s done,” Harlow said.