Larry Yott poses with a photo of him taken on the day he joined the Palos Heights Police Department on Feb. 28, 1973. Yott retired as the police chief on Saturday, March 4. Photo by Jeff Vorva

Larry Yott poses with a photo of him taken on the day he joined the Palos Heights Police Department on Feb. 28, 1973. Yott retired as the police chief on Saturday, March 4. Photo by Jeff Vorva

Retired chief Yott used tools to build a strong police force

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By Jeff Vorva

For the first time since Feb. 27, 1973, Larry Yott is not a member of the Palos Heights Police force.

Let that sink in for a moment.

Saturday, March 4, was his last official day as a Palos Heights cop and he retired as the force’s longtime chief. William Czajkowski took over on Sunday, March 5.

On Feb. 28, there was a party for Yott’s 50th year as a member of the force and he was asked to recall his first day on the job.

The 20-year-old was hired at first to be a dispatcher, but police work took a back seat to carpentry in his early days.

“There used to be a house behind the fire station, and it was a public library on the first floor and upstairs was the police station,” Yott said. “When the library left, the police department was taking over the whole building and one of the sergeants was doing the carpentry.

“When I got there, I struck up a conversation with him because I had worked with carpentry when I was a teen. He asked me if I had tools. I said, ‘yeah,’ and he said, ‘bring them tomorrow.’ So, I probably spent my first couple of weeks as a carpenter and not doing police work.”

But he made up for it. And he has used a different set of tools to help bolster the department.

Yott went from dispatcher to patrolman. He was promoted to investigator, sergeant, lieutenant, deputy chief and, in 2003, reached the top as the chief of police.  He replaced retiring chief Howard Roseen.

The force continued to grow under Yott’s watch and he always had to keep up with changes in police work.

It was a simpler time in 1973.

“I think the biggest change is the technology,” he said. “I mean, oh my goodness, when I came to work here and you wanted to check someone’s registration plates on their car, we looked though a book. Literally. We would flip through pages. Then it was a huge deal when they put it on microfiche.

“Now, inside a police car, it looks like a spaceship. You sit in there and go ‘whoa ho!’”

The role of a police officer has also changed over the decades.

“It’s much, much, much more difficult – did I say it was much more difficult? – today for these young guys because so much is expected of them,” Yott said. “They are supposed to know so much. People treat them like they are everything. People will call when they have a leaky pipe in their basement. It’s far more demanding than when I was a young police officer.”

Yott lived in Worth for a while and attended Stagg High School. He is a longtime resident of Tinley Park. He is married to his wife, Peggy, and had three children – Chris, Mike and Dave.

Mike is a deputy chief in Palos Heights.

Larry Yott said he will miss the interaction with the people of Palos Heights including the members of the city council, whom he said have always been supportive.

Czajkowski, who has 35 years of experience on the force, said the community will miss Yott.

“He’s been amazing to the city, the department and the residents of Palos Heights,” he said. “Because of Larry, this is what we have. Larry has formed this culture and he’s been amazing. We can’t thank him enough.”

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