Southwest Side police district commander dies

Chicago Police Cmdr. John Kupczyk (Chicago Police Department Photo)

A Chicago Police Department Commander serving on the city's Southwest Side died of a heart attack Saturday night, according to a release from the department.

Cmdr. John Kupczyk was in charge of the large Chicago Lawn District, which covers such neighborhoods as Marquette Park, Gage Park and surrounds Midway Airport.

"Commander (John) Kupczyk proudly served the Chicago Police Department for 28 years, and he exemplified excellent leadership and the utmost professionalism while working each and every day to preserve the safety and well-being of the communities in which he served," Supt. Garry McCarthy said in a statement released by the department Saturday night.

Before being promoted to the rank of commander, Kupczyk was a captain in the Harrison police district on the West Side.

As a lieutenant, he helped coordinate a drug bust in 1999 that netted 114 gallons of gamma hydroxybutyrate, or GHB, a cheap and euphoric drug.

During an interview last month with the Tribune, McCarthy praised Kupczyk, noting that his Chicago Lawn District showed a significant improvement in its 2011 crime numbers, compared to 2010. The district in 2011 was down about 40 shootings from the previous year, according to McCarthy.

"That's outstanding," he said in the Dec. 28 interview about end-of-the-year crime statistics.

McCarthy that day said Kupczyk embraced the superintendent's CompStat strategy, which stresses the need for resources to be in the hands of district commanders with the expectation that they will be able to use them as effective crime-fighting tools within the neighborhoods they oversee.

"The (Chicago Lawn) District has done an outstanding job this year," McCarthy said during the interview. "You know, John Kupczyk is one of those guys who took to CompStat and is just knocking it out of the park."

McCarthy continued: "It's the biggest district...It's got the highest population and it has the most reported crime. So, here's an example where one district can make a difference in the citywide numbers."

"(Kupczyk's) down 39 (shootings) for the year. That's enormous."

Kupczyk's family released this statement through the police department's News Affairs office:

"On behalf of the family of Commander John Kupczyk, we wish to thank everyone for their condolences and prayers during this difficult time. John was a loving father, husband and brother. John was a proud member of the Chicago Police Department family and dedicated his career to serving the community he loved, as well as protecting the City of Chicago. He will be greatly missed. "

chicagobreaking@tribune.com