Recently SOAR was able to spend a few minutes with Sergeant Christopher Schenk of the Chicago Police Department’s 18th district that services Streeterville. Sergeant Schenk is one busy and engaged police officer who does not sit still for very long!
Sergeant Chris Schenk has been a police officer for 21 years where he has worked at the Near North District Station–18th District. He is a native Chicagoan who grew up in Rogers Park. When asked why he chose to be a police officer, he had a quick response: “I wanted to help people and to be of service”. He feels that he has always been called to serve. In fact, he sees that a job of waiting tables is one of service—“there’s always an opportunity to view what I am doing as service—giving back.”
Sergeant Schenk’s duties at the 18th district, have included being on RBT Theft Team and for a time were on the Troubled Buildings details. He was promoted to the rank of Sergeant about 4 years ago. When we asked about his current responsibilities and duties, he was very excited to share what he does.
First, he recently coordinated the CAPS (Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy) teams for
6 districts in the city. He supervises the 18th district CAPS office. The CAPS meetings held in each city’s districts offers a unique opportunity for the community to interact with police officers working in those locations to problem-solve and work together for a safe neighborhood. Sergeant Schenk knows the value of the community coming together to develop trust and confidence in the officers assigned to serve their communities. Sergeant Schenk gets great satisfaction when “people come together, when partnerships are able to grow and when results are positive—that’s what it is all about!”
Sergeant Schenk was the Supervisor for A/3 Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), which encompasses 6 districts in the city. CERT, which was started in 2005, is a program that gives the public an opportunity to learn basic skills for disaster response and life-saving skills to benefit the communities in which they live. (OEMC is the parent organization). He has along with others, trained over 4,000 people in the city since the program’s inception. He believes partnering, teamwork and working together. There are about 300 active members operating in the city now and in pre-COVID times and they provide a wide range of activities that include: staffing a COVID -19 hotline, traffic and pedestrian control at festivals and other city events, being an ambassador for events and other activities related to disaster preparedness (you have probably seen these citizens in their gray shirts and yellow safety vests at various functions). Clearly, something Sergeant Schenk is proud to be a part of—and he is anxious to offer more trainings as soon as live trainings can safely be conducted in our post-COVID world.
We asked him what has been most moving to him in his career as a police officer. He recalled going to NYC days after the 9/11 incident to offer his services. While he was waiting in a long line of like-minded volunteers at the Javits Center, he met three engineers from Ohio who were also planning to volunteer. The engineers were turned away because NYC was only prepared to work with first responders (police, fire, EMTs, etc.) at that time. Sergeant Schenk was so impressed with their desire to help that he gave them the hotel room that he was provided with during his stay. He said he didn’t mind sleeping on the street if it meant helping others who also wanted to serve.
We asked about a favorite moment in his career. He remembers pulling a woman to safety from a bridge where she was attempting suicide. “Saving a life”, he said, “there is nothing better than that.”
What does a man like Sergeant Schenk do in his “spare time”? He laughed as he rattled off all the public service organizations including the Police Memorial Foundation where he has volunteered countless hours. He recognizes his duty and commitment to be a part of his community. He sees his commitment as a “24/7-365 day a year job”. There is never a time when he does not frame what he is doing as service. And at the end of a long day, he enjoys sitting on his back porch and relaxing….to get ready to serve again.