At the June meeting of the St. Elmo City Board, interim police chief Brock Rich was elevated to the permanent post, taking charge of a police department of which he’s been a part since November 2013.
Rich said he has seen progress in the department since that time and wants make sure it continues.
Originally from Charleston, Rich worked in the auto body industry for a few years before making the transition to law enforcement. He had always been interested in a career as a police officer and so began gaining experience in emergency services through volunteer firefighting service and work as an EMT. Through a neighbor, he was able to join Mattoon Police Department’s auxiliary, a role in which he served for two years.
He received an offer from St. Elmo to work as a part-time officer in November 2013 and was enrolled in the police academy at Southwestern Illinois College. He moved to St. Elmo in July 2014 and gained full-time status in September 2014.
After the recent departure of Chief Mike Riley, Rich was asked about his interest in the head role. Citing his desire to see the progress of the past three years continued, he applied and was offered the job.
Rich said that improvements to the evidence room and the development of an interrogation room have been very positive for the force. Man power has also been vital, as coverage has expanded. When he started, an officer on duty every day was not guaranteed. Not only is St. Elmo now served by more officers, but the equipment those officers have at their disposal has improved, as well. From radar to LIDAR, to computer software, and bodycams, the St. Elmo Police Department has improved resources with which to work. He also noted that the fleet of squad cars has been, and continues to be, updated.
“We’re lucky that the board and mayor want to move in the right direction,” Rich said.
Along with his duties as a patrolling officer, Rich has seen an increase in his paperwork as a result of his new responsibilities. He must keep the department in compliance with all State of Illinois regulations, which mandate several reports.
As for his vision for the department, Rich said he will work to keep officers ahead of mandated training.
“A well-trained officer is a better officer at the end of the day,” he commented.
Rich would also like to see the department build better relationships in the school, which he thinks will improve officer-community relations on the whole.
The department office must also be rehabilitated, with Rich seeking United States Department of Agriculture grants for as many projects as possible. Grants have been used to purchase the department’s Chevy Tahoe and the bodycams worn by officers.
Rich said that with family about an hour away to two directions, St. Elmo makes a lot of sense as a home base for his wife and two-and-a-half-month-old daughter, and he enjoys the small town environment.