The Morris Police Department has a new second in command.
Sgt. John Severson is now the department’s second deputy chief, said Chief Brent Dite. Severson joins Deputy Chief Harvey Van Cleave as the department’s second in command. The positions are equal, each making about $86,000 a year, according to the city’s budget.
“For the position of deputy chief there is a number of qualities you have to have and John possesses all of them,” Dite said. “He has done pretty much every position there is here at the police department.”
Severson began with the Morris Police Department in 1991 as a part-time police officer. In 1993, he was employed as a telecommunicator in the Morris Police 911 Dispatch Center. By 1995, he accepted a position as a full-time patrol officer with Morris and subsequently graduated from the Police Training Institute at the University of Illinois in Champaign.
In 2001, Severson was promoted to corporal and, in 2005, he was promoted again, this time to sergeant. He remained sergeant until Tuesday, when he became deputy chief.
“When you first start out, all you want to do is run around locking up bad guys and helping people,” said Severson. “You’re very short-viewed, at least I was. As you progress in your career, your visions start to open up.”
And this is when he started wanting to progress in the department, aiming for a leadership position one day, he said.
The Morris Police Department has not had more than one deputy chief since about 2006.
In 2001, the city council created an ordinance for two deputy chief positions. From 2001 to 2006, the structure was one chief of police and two deputy chiefs, said Dite. During that time, Dite served as one of the deputy chiefs, among others.
“Primarily due to economical reasons, funding for one deputy chief positions was removed from the budget,” said Dite. “During the last budget process, I requested both positions be put in.”
Dite said the structure of the department is more effective with two deputy chiefs. A number of duties get filtered down to the deputy chief, and having two is more efficient in getting these priorities completed.
Severson is currently getting adjusted to his new position. But once accustomed, it is his goal to make sure Morris has the best patrol division in the county.
“I want to set the bar,” he said. “I want every agency to look at us and say, ‘Those guys know what they are doing. They are driven, and they are happy.’
“He added that he does not expect perfection, because that is not something he can give himself, but he expects his officers to do their best.
Severson has received numerous awards, which were recognized by the American Police Hall of Fame, as well as by the Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists. He was a D.A.R.E. officer for many years, as well as being a Child Passenger Safety Seat Technician, Breath Analysis Operator, Field Training Officer, certified Lead Homicide Investigator, and a member of the Will/Grundy Major Crimes Task Force.
In addition, he was also awarded Morris Police Department “Officer of the Year” for 2000 and 2002. Severson spent the majority of his time at the police department in the patrol division. However, he was assigned as a detective various times from 1997-2002.