By Randy Pierce
Upon hearing Nick Gailius speak about the officers who work with him and his feelings about serving the community, coupled with the innovative outreach programs he and his team have implemented, it is not a surprise nor is it difficult to believe that anyone other than him could have been chosen by the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police for its highest honor this year.
That organization announced on Tuesday, March 14, that Gailius was named as its Illinois Chief of the Year for 2017, an award that will be presented to the Fairview Heights chief of police on April 21 during the IACP annual banquet to be held in Oak Brook in suburban Cook County near Chicago.
Information from IACP Executive Director Ed Wojcicki stated that Gailius was selected by the association’s board of directors from “a very strong pool of nominees” from different parts of the state. The IACP has nearly 1300 members representing over 450 police agencies in Illinois.
“It is incredible how highly regarded Chief Gailius is among his peers in the Metro East and how admiration for his leadership has spread throughout southern Illinois and among his peers in Illinois,” Wojcicki said.
Having served as Fairview Heights Police Chief since 2010, Gailius has been involved with the police department here in the town he grew up in since he was a part of its explorer unit at the age of 14. He has worked there as a dispatcher, patrolman, undercover officer, detective, sergeant, Emergency Services and Disaster Agency coordinator, lieutenant and assistant chief before moving into his current position.
The son of the late Toddy and Bernice Gailius of Fairview Heights, he considers the police department he is part of very much of a family unit as he commented during a recent promotion and swearing-in ceremony where he addressed everyone present.
“Being a public servant in this community has been the greatest thing I have experienced in my life, next to my wife and kids,” Gailius said at that time. “I’ve been here since 1986 and this is the best police department in the area.”
Never one to give himself the credit he has earned and deserves, Gailius added, “When I go to different conferences elsewhere and I hear what they are doing, it’s usually stuff that we’re already doing and it’s absolutely wonderful. It’s because of the men and women of our department that those things can be done.”
“Once you put on the uniform of the Fairview Heights Police officer, you become a leader, you’re a leader in the community and you’re also a servant.”
He further credits and acknowledges the support of the local elected officials who “understand the importance of public safety to our community.”
When Wojcicki announced Gailius, a past president of the Southern Illinois Police Chiefs Association, as the recipient of the award at the Illinois Criminal Justice Summit in Mount Vernon, the 300 attendees responded with a standing ovation.
Very involved in regional law enforcement initiatives and the IACP’s legislative advocacy efforts, Gailius is chairman of a board that advises those involved in regional police training programs plus he belongs to both the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation National Academy Associates.
On a more regional level, he serves on the boards of directors of both the Greater St. Louis Area Major Case Squad and the Southwestern Illinois Law Enforcement Commission. With all of this filling his very busy life, Gailius is an active member of the Fairview Heights Rotary Club of which he is a past president.
Gailius’ leadership achievements as recognized by the Illinois chiefs’ group have included mobilizing efforts in the Metro East in the late summer and fall of 2014 to prevent violent civil disruptions similar to what had occurred in St. Louis area and elsewhere during the aftermath of a widely-publicized shooting incident involving a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. As leader of a unified regional command center set up in connection with this matter, Gailius pulled together local, state and federal agencies in a collaborative and successful attempt to minimize vandalism, demonstrations and crime like what took place in many cities in the United States following the Ferguson situation.
“It is unbelievable,” Wojcicki commented, “how many times the words ‘Fairview Heights,’ ‘Fairview Heights PD’ and ‘Fairview Heights chief’ are mentioned in the action report written by the United States Attorney for Southern Illinois after the Ferguson situation finally settled down.”
“It is clear that Gailius and his department and community provided very important leadership during a most trying time for law enforcement.”
Gailius has additionally hosted several training programs in Fairview Heights for the state association including most recently those dedicated to such critical topics as body cameras and the use of force.
The Fairview Heights chief’s projects, programs and activities at the local level, through the department he leads, have touched many from all segments of the population, creating a law enforcement impact that is much more than simply punitive in nature but instead one that serves to educate, encourage harmony and peace and provide a positive example for all.
Among the myriad of examples of this prolific role played by the local department are the city’s first-ever police volunteers’ unit, a group of citizens who provide assistance with routine chores and thusly allow the paid staff to devote their time to more pressing matters.
Gailius’ department has also shown a considerable amount of devotion to the young people in the community as exemplified by a youth initiative mentoring program, the creation of the Metro-East Cadets of Policing to encourage careers in law enforcement, the implementation of school resource officers and the continuance of the summer youth academy and Drug Abuse Resistance and Education programs.
Education about law enforcement is provided by the Fairview Heights Police Department through its annual citizens’ academy and a similar program designed specifically for older persons.
Communications are stressed in police programs in Fairview Heights such as the one involving neighborhood enforcement officers while the Targeting Residential and Area Concerns through Enforcement and Responsiveness unit focuses on what are considered “hot spots” that warrant additional attention in terms of crime or the potential for crime to occur.
Gailius further has been a significant component in the bringing together of many individuals in the community in an effort to strengthen relationships among minority groups and the Fairview Heights Police.
A graduate from Western Illinois University in Macomb with a bachelor’s degree and also a masters of business administration degree from Lindenwood University, Gailius is also a graduate of both the FBI National Academy and Southern Illinois Police Institute.
Other awards won by Gailius in the past include one called “Olympian Lifetime Leadership in Law Enforcement” from the Southern Illinois Law Enforcement Commission and another from the Southern District of Illinois United States Attorney in recognition of leadership in his field of endeavor.
Named the Fairview Heights Police Department Patrolman of the Year in both 1989 and 1990, Gailius and his wife of 28 years, Karen, have two children Anna and Nicholas.