Sgt. Daniel Kreassig is not one of those guys who started dreaming in boyhood of growing up to become a police officer.
“I wanted to be a high school teacher and coach football,” he said, reflecting recently on his 27th year with the McHenry Police Department. “I was privileged, though, to be the department’s first high school resource officer.”
By all accounts, the privilege went both ways. Kreassig still hears from students he encountered during his years as the resource officer at McHenry High School East and West campuses between 1995 and 2002.
Kreassig also served as a firefighter and emergency medical technician from 1997 to 2002.
Throughout his long career with the McHenry Police Department, Kreassig has had numerous positions, Chief John Jones said. Along with school resource officer, these have included patrolman, investigator, field training officer, DARE officer, supervisor of the K-9 unit and now, as one of the department’s seven sergeants, a shift supervisor.
“He’s a guy who’s been here since 1989,” Jones said. “But there’s no lacking of enthusiasm in him. He still finds the job exciting, he’s still dedicated to the citizens of McHenry and the police department, and he’s a terrific example of a police officer.”
Jones said the work Kreassig performed during his tenure as school resource officer has left a lasting legacy.
“He has people coming up to him who are adults now who he definitely influenced when he was a school resource officer,” Jones said. “They were headed on a negative path and after interacting with him, they headed down a much better path.”
After a hiatus, McHenry recently reinstated the school resource officer program. Kreassig’s example still stands as a model, Jones said.
As a patrol sergeant, Kreassig said he strives to keep everyone motivated, in part by starting each shift with an inspirational message.
During Kreassig’s years as a police officer, the public’s respect level for the profession has waxed and waned. Recently, everything from the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, to the ongoing investigations into alleged misconduct within the Chicago Police Department and the Lt. Joe Gliniewicz scandal in Fox Lake has made things more challenging.
“After 9/11, you walked proud,” Kreassig said. “But then, with recent developments … we have to make sure that people don’t perceive us to be like that. We all know everyone’s filming us every day at traffic stops. I try to encourage our officers to catch that excellence, stay positive and show that you’re one of McHenry’s finest.”
Sometimes, the little things can turn the tide, Kreassig said. He recalled a day last summer when someone on Main Street reported that ducklings had fallen through a sewer grate. Without a more pressing concern at the time, Kreassig responded.
About a dozen people had gathered in front of a pet grooming business, from which Kreassig borrowed a fish net.
“I duct-taped the fish net to my lock-out tool,” he said. “Somebody got a bucket. [Rescuing the ducklings] kind of brought everyone together. I was amazed at how appreciative they were that I spent the time doing something like that.”
Among achievements of which Kreassig is most proud is an adopt-a-school program started two years ago with McHenry Elementary District 15. Day shift officers are assigned to a particular school. Each visits his or her assigned school weekly.
“Since the officer comes into the school regularly, the kids are accustomed to seeing an officer in the school,” Kreassig said. “It’s good to start children when they’re young to see police as public servants, as someone who’s there to help.”
McHenry Mayor Sue Low said she’s witnessed firsthand the positive reaction the program has engendered from young students.
“[Sgt. Kreassig] does his job with professionalism and continually looks for better and new ways,” she said. “I really admire that.”
A resident of Johnsburg, Kreassig is near retirement eligibility, but said he anticipates staying with the department at least another year. The officer already knows, though, how he wants to be remembered.
“I hope I made a difference and that people will say, ‘Hey, he cared about his community and did his best to do the right thing,’ ” Kreassig said.
His wife, Laura Kreassig, said she has no doubt he’ll get his wish.
“He puts people’s interests first. He truly cares about their situation,” she said. “And he tries to stress that with the younger officers, too. He’ll tell them, ‘People you run into who have problems, they’re people, too, and they need to be treated with respect.’”