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Chicago homicide detective talks occupational pressures

Dave+Minelli%2C+a+15-year+veteran+Chicago+police+officer%2C+speaks+at+the+Evanston+Ethical+Humanist+Society+Sunday.+Minelli+discussed+his+experiences+as+a+violent+crimes+investigator+on+the+South+Side.
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Chicago homicide detective talks occupational pressures

Dave Minelli, a 15-year veteran Chicago police officer, speaks at the Evanston Ethical Humanist Society Sunday. Minelli discussed his experiences as a violent crimes investigator on the South Side.

Dave Minelli, a 15-year veteran Chicago police officer, speaks at the Evanston Ethical Humanist Society Sunday. Minelli discussed his experiences as a violent crimes investigator on the South Side.

Suyeon Son/The Daily Northwestern

Dave Minelli, a 15-year veteran Chicago police officer, speaks at the Evanston Ethical Humanist Society Sunday. Minelli discussed his experiences as a violent crimes investigator on the South Side.

Suyeon Son/The Daily Northwestern

Suyeon Son/The Daily Northwestern

Dave Minelli, a 15-year veteran Chicago police officer, speaks at the Evanston Ethical Humanist Society Sunday. Minelli discussed his experiences as a violent crimes investigator on the South Side.

Suyeon Son, Reporter

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SKOKIE — South Side Chicago homicide detective David Minelli visited Skokie on Sunday to talk about the lives of police officers and how the pressures of their job can affect them.

Minelli addressed a group of about 50 people at the Ethical Humanist Society of Chicago office, 7574 N. Lincoln Ave., as part of the organization’s Sunday morning world-of-working programs, during which the society presents a glimpse of the lives of professionals.

“Probably everyone in this room, at one time or another, has had a small interaction with a police officer,” Minelli said, acknowledging common civilian attitudes toward police. “You leave with a negative experience, again, myself included, where they probably gave you a ticket and probably cost you a little of money. If you didn’t get a ticket, you probably got a lecture from the officer. It’s not the best PR program.”

Matt Cole, former president of the Ethical Humanist Society of Chicago, moderated the speech. He said he invited Minelli to speak after meeting his wife, Jen Minelli, who taught with Cole at Parkview School in Morton Grove.

“We believe that an educated public is an ethical public,” Cole said.

Minelli joined the Chicago Police Department in 1997 and became a detective in 2000. Before he became an officer, he worked in construction and drove tow trucks and forklifts in warehouses.

“The common denominator in all these jobs, for me anyways, was that I could only be so good at them,” he said. “I don’t think anyone thinks that you can be too good of an officer.”

However, he said he struggled internally with reconciling his desire to help people with his dedication to his family.

He recalled one instance when he pointed his gun at someone running at him with a pickaxe. Because of the type of weapon he was using, any shot that he fired would have been considered a deliberate action, he said. As the man came within only feet of him, Minelli made a split second decision to cast the gun aside to avoid fatally shooting the man and instead disarm him by tackling.

“I honestly don’t know why I did it,” he said. ”I wasn’t trying to be heroic. But I’ve often thought back to the moment. Should I have shot him? What if it had ended badly? Was that a fair risk to give to my wife? Should I have shot him? To my small child, should I have shot this guy? To my second-born, who wasn’t even conceived yet?”

Minelli grew emotional as he spoke of how much of his career he owed to his family, with whom he often remained in contact with mere phone calls and text messages.

“I missed school functions, plays, church services, football games, most holidays and weekends,” he said, recounting long days and shifts with less than two hours of sleep. “None of this is remotely possible for me without the love and understanding of (my family).”

The sentiments of the speech resonated with Shawn Phillips, 31, of Niles, who is enrolled in the Citizen’s Police Academy. Phillips has three children and a wife and said he found himself wondering how his potential future as a police officer might affect his family.

“It’s rough,” Phillips said. “You really have to think about it. It’s a hard balance, and I keep bouncing back and forth (on a decision).”

Minelli’s 15-year-old son, John Minelli, said he took the circumstances of his father’s occupation with a grain of salt.

“Growing up, it was really hard,” he said. “But you come to kind of understand.”

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