In many ways, it would have been surprising if Brian Greenenwald hadn’t ended up as a Riverside police officer. Growing up in LaGrange Park, he wanted to be a police officer as long as he can remember.
“I was chasing sirens as soon as I could ride a bike, chasing ambulances and police cars down the street,” said Greenenwald, who on Saturday was honored as the Riverside Police Department Officer of the Year.
While a student at Lyons Township High School, Greenenwald joined the Riverside Police Explorers, where he accompanied officers on ride-alongs and participated in community events and the annual national Explorers conference.
Deputy Chief Robert Gordon was Greenenwald’s mentor in the program, and he rode along with officers such as Leo Kotor and Jeff Simpson, who are now his colleagues on the force.
In 2007, two Riverside officers resigned unexpectedly to take positions with other agencies. During that summer, Greenenwald completed a police internship in Riverside. By October, he was in the police academy training to become a Riverside officer.
“I enjoy helping the community,” he said. “I love Riverside; it’s a wonderful community. I’m just making sure it’s safe for others.”
Greenenwald, who has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Illinois State University and is working on his master’s at Lewis University, “is an outstanding officer,” according to Police Chief Thomas Weitzel. “He’s an extremely aggressive officer, but in a professional manner. I’ve never received a citizen complaint about Brian.”
Greenenwald comes across as earnest, a gentleman. But he volunteered to permanently work the midnight shift, in part because of the unpredictable nature of the shift.
“He comes across that way, but when he has to handle a disturbance, he’s always able to handle himself,” Weitzel said. “He’s a well-rounded officer.”
He has become a one-man drunk driving patrol force, easily topping the department in arrests for DUI in recent years. In 2010, he was responsible for making 33 of the 77 DUI arrests made by Riverside police.
In fact, he enjoys DUI enforcement so much that Greenenwald admits when his days off coincide with a weekend, he’s disappointed.
“That’s when the drunks are out,” Greenenwald said.
But his most satisfying arrest was probably catching a former Riverside Lawn resident breaking into cars in the early morning hours of Jan. 28, 2009. Greenenwald was able to connect the man with 12 incidents by tracing his footprints in the snow.
“I just saw a flash of movement out of the corner of my eye,” Greenenwald recalled. “I saw him lying next to a car. He said he fell down.”
When he’s not on duty, Greenenwald spends a good deal of time volunteering. Now that he’s on the force, Greenenwald is the department’s advisor to the Police Explorers and accompanied the group to the annual convention in Atlanta last summer.
In addition, he is the department’s liaison to the Riverside Safe Environment Commission and is in charge of the evidence room.
“His day goes way beyond an eight-hour day,” said Weitzel.
Greenenwald is engaged to his college sweetheart, Allyson Hocking, a music therapist in a suburban school district. Both Hocking and Greenenwald share a love of music. He was in the marching band at both LTHS and at Illinois State University, playing the saxophone.
In fact, he started as a music education major at Illinois State before switching after spending the summer following his freshman year as an intern with the Brookfield Police Department. The couple plans to wed in October.
“It’s been a good year for me,” Greenenwald said.