The late Lt. Joseph Gliniewicz, who was posthumously awarded his department’s medal of honor and extolled as a “hero” and “mentor to the police officers of tomorrow,” was a morale-killing bully, habitual drunk, adulterer, and had a nasty habit of sexually harassing fellow employees of the Fox Lake (Illinois) Police Department, according to personnel records exhumed by the Chicago Tribune. Six years ago his fellow officers pleaded with the mayor to intervene when the police chief refused to fire Gliniewicz, or at least hold him accountable for his behavior.
Gliniewicz’s self-destructive behavior was widely known by his colleagues long before his September 6 suicide, which was a product of desperation over fear that his embezzlement from the local Police Explorers unit. In his crowning act of self-aggrandizing cynicism, the uniformed crime lord staged his death in a fashion that he knew would resonate with the state-aligned media’s prevailing “war on police” narrative.
In the aftermath of Gliniewicz’s death, the town of Fox Lake, Illinois and the surrounding area were put under martial law. At least four schools were closed down; roadblocks and checkpoints were erected; snipers were deployed, and strike teams prowled through the city with utter indifference to property rights and due process. Door-to-door searches were carried out within a two-mile perimeter near the location where Gliniewicz was supposedly killed by three assailants. Helicopters and canine units were dispatched. Officials from several federal agencies – including the FBI, US Marshals Service, and the ATF – were enlisted in the effort. Local and national media, dutifully reciting official talking points, described the officer’s death as an assassination carried out by dangerous fugitives who remained at large.
The public was told that the 30-year veteran officer known as “G.I. Joe” was a clean-cut paladin of public order. Yet the local officers participating in the search for his supposed killers, and their supervisors, knew that Gliniewicz had long been a corrupt liability to the department that employed him.
“On many occasions various members of the department have approached [Then- Police Chief Michael] Behan with information and complaints about Lt. Gliniewicz,” wrote several members of the department in a 2009 letter to the Mayor of Fox Lakes. “To date members of the police department have been disappointed time and time again with Chief Behan’s lack of action.”
Among the complaints listed in the letter were repeated suspensions for “an inappropriate sexual relationship with a subordinate”; “damaging part of the records management program”; “sexual harassment and making threats to a dispatcher”; and unauthorized removal of “police reports from the police department….” Department personnel reported seeing him in bars during duty hours, and had been informed by bouncers that he had been “escorted from the establishment in a highly intoxicated condition.” He also reportedly refused to pay a bar tab “in excess of $300.” Some of his colleagues had seen him with females other than his wife in circumstances that suggested ongoing extra-marital affairs.
The Chicago Tribune reports that the dispatcher who had been harassed by Gliniewicz wrote a letter in 2003 accusing him of threatening to put “bullets in her chest” and discard her body in a nearby lake. Two days later, she wrote another letter to the chief saying that the officer had intimidated her by bringing a gun into her workspace. More recently, Gliniewicz had been suspected of planning a contract hit on a county supervisor investigating his financial improprieties.
Gliniewicz became a police officer in 1984 following a stint in the Army – and his problems with alcohol became apparent immediately. One report in his personnel file from May 1988 describes him “passed out” in the driver’s seat of his truck by the side of a local road. At the time, the engine was running and his foot was on the gas. When he woke up the following day, he had no memory of what had happened and reported that his truck had been stolen. The Lake County Sheriff’s Office observed that this was “not the first time that something like this had happened.”
Less than a week after Gliniewicz’s staged suicide, his memory was honored in the familiar Soviet-style ritual of official mourning, complete with serried rows of uniformed police officers from around the country and other trappings of a military funeral. The ceremony at Antioch Community High School included a performance of country artist Jo Dee Messina’s ballad “Heaven Was Needing a Hero.” He was praised as a “family man, a friend, a hard worker, and a youth mentor,” as well as a “dad to about 1,000 others” through the Fox Lake Explorers Post 300,” the program from which he was embezzling. One eulogist referred to him as “a mentor to the police officers of tomorrow” — an ominous description, in light of what the public is now learning.
“When we were growing up, we always knew he was a hero, but now the whole nation knows him as a hero,” declared his grieving brother Michael, who was understandably bereaved and in no way implicated in the officer’s crimes. At the time of his death, Gliniewicz was known to be anything but a hero by many of the people who played an indispensable role in his final act of self-serving deception. As he pulled the trigger, Gliniewicz may well have felt a certain grim satisfaction in the knowledge that the institutional priorities of the department that employed him would require it to become a party to his deceit.