Flossmoor Officers Show Off Fuzzy Faces at National Night Out

For the past three months, 10 Flossmoor police officers grew out their facial hair — normally a no-no — to raise money for Illinois Special Olympics, culminating in a “best beard” contest at National Night Out on Aug. 7.
 
  Sgt. Clint Wagner was
  proclaimed winner of the
  Flossmoor Police
  Department's Beard
  Olympics at the Aug. 7
  National Night Out event.

  (Provided photo)
 
Police officers must remain clean-shaven for their job, but Police Chief Michael Pulec let that rule slide for officers who wanted to donate $50 to Special Olympics for a chance to grow out their facial hair and win department bragging rights.
 
During National Night Out festivities at Flossmoor Village Hall, attendees could vote for their favorite coiffed cop by placing a dollar donation in one of 10 buckets, each adorned with a photo of a smiling officer. 
 
By the end of the night, Sergeant Clint Wagner won the contest, which raised more than $500 for Illinois Special Olympics.
 
Even with his compelling facial hair pitch of, “Salt and pepper, baby! It shows my age and wisdom,” Sergeant Brian Tencza didn’t win the beard contest. 
 
Tencza was still sporting his black and gray beard during National Night Out, which is an across-the-country network of events focused on strengthening the relationship between emergency service departments and their communities.
 
Tencza showed bulletproof vests, helmets and other tactical equipment to residents who got to check them out and try them on. As a coordinator for the South Suburban Emergency Response Team, Tencza offered a reminder that many officers at the Flossmoor Police Department also serve with other law enforcement agencies.
 
“We have many officers and personnel serving on units like the Major Crimes Taskforce, the Mobile Field Force and Suburban Major Accident Reconstruction Team,” Tencza said. “They’re not only involved, but they’re facilitating those agencies in leadership roles.”
 
These officers bring the training and leadership skills they gain back to their jobs at the Flossmoor Police Department. Of the 21 officers in the department, Tencza said 15 are SWAT-certified, adding that Chief Pulec encourages training “a tremendous amount.”
 
Pulec was busy during National Night Out grilling up complimentary hot dogs, which attendees grabbed up along with chips, water and juice. Another officer acted as deejay, playing upbeat tunes as kids bounced in the jumpy castle.
 
Patrolman Lisa Bapp was on the jumpy beat, supervising to make sure the kids were bouncing safely. Bapp has been a Flossmoor police officer for 11 years and teaches the DARE drug and alcohol awareness program to about 300 fifth-graders in Flossmoor School District 161 every year. 
 
She said getting to interact with residents and answer their questions is the most fulfilling part of National Night Out.
 
“It’s way more imperative these days, with the perception of police officers being down dramatically,” Bapp said. “I love talking to people and getting to know them in a setting outside of police business. Getting to know each other is extremely important. That’s why I’m encouraging people I talk to, ‘Hey, ask me any questions.’”
 
Flossmoor Fire Department had a fire engine on site for residents to explore and a police helicopter circled lazily overhead. 
 
E-COM 911 Dispatch Director Jeanine Krull and public education representative Trish McCorkle also talked to residents at the event. At their booth, Krull explained that E-COM 911 Dispatch is the emergency service for Flossmoor and eight other local agencies.
 
“We’re the voice behind the scenes,” Krull said. “We are the first, first responders.”
 
Their booth theme focused on bullying, because Krull said it’s such a pervasive problem and many of a child’s other issues could stem from being bullied. On the topic of kids, Krull said the most important thing to teach children in case of a home emergency is their home address.
 
If a child needs to call for emergency assistance, quickly telling the 911 operator their home address could save critical time, McCorkle said.
 
“It’s important to teach children that bad things do sometimes happen, so it’s good to be aware of your surroundings,” McCorkle said. 
 
“If an emergency happens, know how to call 911 and give your address. And if you misdial, please, stay on the line and just tell us. We want to make sure everyone is safe.”
 
Provided photos by Kimberly Mitchell and Todd Kamleiter.

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