Superintendent-DiLeonardi

Superintendent (RET) Joseph DiLeonardi at rest…

On 02 February 2017 – the band participated in the honors funeral services for retired Chicago Police Department Superintendent Joseph DiLeonardi.  From the Chicago Tribune:

DiLeonardi was known for honesty and integrity as well as a great deal of panache in his 44-year career in Chicago law enforcement.

Known as “Joe D,” DiLeonardi was Chicago’s acting police superintendent for a time under Mayor Jane Byrne and later served as the U.S. marshal for the federal court in Chicago. For many years he was the colorful commander of the citywide homicide unit.

Joe was terrific,” said retired police Sgt. Jimmy Georgalas, 94, who worked with DiLeonardi in the homicide unit. “He was very well respected and just an honest guy.”

DiLeonardi, 84, died of congestive heart failure Sunday at his home, said his wife of more than 50 years, Carol. He was a resident of Park Ridge for about 20 years after living many decades in the city.

Born in Chicago, DiLeonardi grew up in the Belmont Cragin neighborhood on the Northwest Side and graduated from Steinmetz High School. After attending Wright Junior College for a semester, DiLeonardi served stateside in the Army during the Korean War.

He returned to Wright and later attended classes at the University of Illinois’ Navy Pier campus before earning an undergraduate degree from Chicago State University.

DiLeonardi joined the Chicago Police Department in 1955, part of a graduating class that included future Chicago police Superintendent LeRoy Martin. In 1958, DiLeonardi became an investigator, then rose through the ranks, becoming head of North Side gang crimes before being tapped to oversee the department’s entire gang crime unit in 1974.

Several months later, DiLeonardi was named the city’s new homicide commander. By the late 1970s, DiLeonardi was promoted to become deputy superintendent in charge of the bureau of investigative services, overseeing all detectives, the youth division and the crime laboratory.

The number of homicides in that era was significantly higher than it is now. In 1978, the city’s homicide toll dipped below 800 — the lowest total then in six years. “One factor is the large number of firearms that police have taken off the street,” DiLeonardi told the Tribune in 1979.

DiLeonardi spent the largest chunk of his career — 21 years — in the homicide unit, and he once compared his work to the familiarity that a golf pro has with the many courses he has played.

“A good homicide detective remembers murder case details like the pro remembers every golf course hole and fairway he’s ever played,” he told the Tribune in 1991. “For me, there is no greater satisfaction than solving a murder.”

DiLeonardi often said one of his proudest cases was his work in the murder of Peter Saisi in 1958. Over the objections of his superiors, DiLeonardi worked to prove that a prime suspect was not the killer. That paved the way for the convictions of Saisi’s wife and her lover.

In 1979, then-Mayor Jane Byrne named DiLeonardi acting superintendent of police. DiLeonardi quickly began making changes to the department, some of which infuriated Byrne. The mayor also was reported to be frustrated with DiLeonardi’s ability to grab headlines.

DiLeonardi was acting superintendent during Pope John Paul II’s visit to Chicago in October 1979. Other achievements he was proud of during his tenure as acting superintendent included promoting minorities into high levels within the Police Department and working to cleanse the department of political interference from the mob-plagued 1st Ward.

After just five months in the job, DiLeonardi asked not to be considered for the top job on a permanent basis. While DiLeonardi initially stated that the decision was rooted in family reasons, in April 1980, he told the Tribune that two of Byrne’s top aides demanded the ouster of the department’s most prominent fighter of organized crime, and blamed influence from the mobbed-up 1st Ward organization. DiLeonardi’s successor, Richard Brzeczek, denied the allegations.

DiLeonardi became deputy superintendent overseeing the Bureau of Investigative Services. Brzeczek soon demoted him to watch commander and then reassigned him to serve as commanding office of the police detail at O’Hare International Airport.

Brzeczek then demoted DiLeonardi further in 1981 to be a midnight shift watch commander in a high-crime district on the West Side. By 1985, DiLeonardi’s career was revived when a subsequent police superintendent, Fred Rice, named him commander of the Belmont District on the North Side.

In 1987, he was promoted to assistant deputy superintendent, and the following year he became deputy superintendent for the Bureau of Community Services.

After retiring from the force in 1991, DiLeonardi worked for several years as the top investigator for Cook County Sheriff Michael Sheahan. He then was chosen by President Bill Clinton to be the U.S. marshal for the Northern District of Illinois, serving from 1994 until 1999.

DiLeonardi was said to be the inspiration for “Kojak,” the nattily attired TV detective played by Telly Savalas. DiLeonardi once dismissed any comparisons between TV’s depiction of detectives and the actual work.

“There are no heroes like you see up there on TV,” DiLeonardi told the Tribune in 1980. “What you don’t see on TV are the frustrations, the overtime that a homicide detective puts in and what it does to his family life. Television doesn’t show the horror of what happens to the victims and the compassion that the detective has to give to the family. It doesn’t show the hours of paperwork. But that’s what real police work is all about.”

DiLeonardi also was a frequent foe of the National Rifle Association. In 1988, he criticized the group for producing a coloring book designed to promote gun safety to elementary schoolchildren, calling it “appalling and sickening.”

An avid runner, DiLeonardi completed 34 marathons in his life, the last one at the age of 75, his wife said.

DiLeonardi is also survived by a son, Joseph Jr.; two grandchildren; two brothers, Arthur and George; and two sisters, Gloria Malnak and Joyce Cox-Cunningham.

A visitation will be held from 3 to 9 p.m. Wednesday at Cumberland Chapels, 8300 W. Lawrence Ave. in Norridge and from 9 to 10 a.m. Thursday at Holy Name Cathedral, 735 N. State St. in Chicago. A funeral Mass will follow.

 


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