EL JEFE: How Victor Moreno Became East Moline’s Chief of Police -Hola Archives

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Victor Moreno makes critical decisions everyday as East Moline’s Chief of Police; but without much thought he made a decision just as critical in high school that paved the way for a prominent career in law enforcement.  He has worked his way up the ranks in the 19 years he’s been part of the force, and today he looks back at a friend’s request and talks about how he almost didn’t become part of this police force.

His decision was made when his friend Juan Rodriguez got accepted into Western Illinois University in Macomb.  It was during their high school gym class that Rodriguez came up to him and told him that he was going to attend WIU and asked him to come and be his roommate.  “That was the extent, ‘yeah, sure’,” is what Moreno replied to Rodriguez.   Afterwards Moreno visited his school counselor; he filled out the necessary paperwork and a few weeks later he was accepted to the school.

“I went into the law enforcement program because I really didn’t know what else I wanted to do.  My older sister was a law enforcement major at the time.  It seemed interesting but I wasn’t really sure policing was what I wanted to do,” Moreno said.   

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Moreno, 43, was born in Moline, and grew up in Silvis, where his father was born and raised.  His mother was born and raised in Davenport, Iowa.  As a child he didn’t get in trouble, but he admits he didn’t really excel academically in high school.

Today he tells kids that it is ok to not know what to do in life, but to at least know what you don’t want to become.

Even after he graduated from WUI, policing was not his first choice.  He wanted to work in private security and just about every other aspect other than policing.  He says that in the mid 80s, there were not a lot of jobs available and the one and only police department he applied for hired him. It was the East Moline Police Department.  At the time he worked at the Department of Corrections for the Illinois Youth Center in St. Charles.

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“I took a day to think about it,” he said. “I was living in Aurora; I liked it out there, I didn’t know if I wanted to come back and live here.” He made his choice and it has worked out well for him.

In May of 2004 he took over as Chief of Police, the first Hispanic to do so in East Moline.  He credits people like former East Moline Mayor Joe Moreno and State’s Attorney Jeff Terronez for opening a lot of doors for Hispanics in prominent positions. 

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Recently his department has been credited with a reduction of crime of 14.8 percent from 2006 to 2007.  “There is a little bit of luck and timing in it,” Moreno explains.  “Crime really does, it goes up, it goes down.”  He is quick to say that about 6 years ago they had a 20 percent increase but that it has gone down a little, and up a little. 

He believes that having his officers out on foot enforcing things like seatbelt violations and doing DUI details gives them a presence in the community and in turn have somewhat of an effect to deter crime.  He also says that their special operations unit has helped address specific problems to prevent crime before it happens. He also credits the younger officers on the force, “we have guys who are real go-getters all the time.”

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In 2007 he took part in program at the FBI’s National Academy in Quantico, Virginia, which he describes like being a semester at college.  For three months he took courses and took part in different functions and field trips that kept him away from his wife and two daughters.  Less than 1 percent of all law enforcement officers in the country ever get this opportunity, there he met some who had been waiting for up to 9 years to take part in this training.

Local Police and Immigration

Like many police organizations in Illinois, last year he supported the failed HB1100 which would allow undocumented individuals to obtain driver’s certificates so they may be properly identified in Illinois.  He says that he still would back a law that could give police the best true form of identification. 

Moreno says that ICE has been a good resource for them in the past, but does not want to get involved with enforcing immigration because of the resources needed to do that. 
“If local police are going to start enforcing immigration law, it is going to put a strain on our resources,” Moreno says.  “It is not as simple.  We have to learn that the due process for that.”

Moreno has adopted a proactive approach to his force to stop crime before it happens and says that he wants to continue to work with the community to help keep crime down.  He wants to let the people of his city know that by being involved in groups like neighborhood watch can help address problems in their area. 

“I don’t think there should be that barrier between the community and the police,” Moreno said.  “As the police, we are the community and the community is us.”

 

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