A Greek-American policeman from the Chicago Police Department has been nominated as an Expert on Policing at the International Criminal Court at The Hague. Elias Voulgaris, a sixty-one year-old retired Commander and the founder of the Hellenic American Police Association, received his appointment on June 7th following a thirty-five year career at CPD.
The Greek diaspora has a long history of members working in law enforcement. Voulgaris is, however, the first Greek-American whom the International Criminal Court at Hague has honored in such a way.
Elias Voulgaris, a Greek-American police officer in Chicago
Voulgaris attended school in Chicago and worshipped with his family at the St. George Greek Orthodox Church. He received his Bachelor of Arts from Lewis University and a Master of Public Administration from the Illinois Institute of Technology. The retired Commander also attended the FBI National Academy.
The father of three began his police career in 1982 as a deputy sheriff for the Cook County Sheriff’s Office. In 1985, he became a patrolman for the CPD. In that role, he served as a beat officer for the 17th and 23rd Chicago districts. He was also a tactical unit officer as well as patrol specialist.
Voulgaris then moved on to field training, preparing new police officers for the field, a task he enjoyed tremendously.
Elias Voulgaris quickly rose through the ranks. In 1994, he became sergeant, serving as a sector and gang unit sergeant as well as sergeant to the Bureau of Administrative Services. This was followed in 1998 by another promotion to Lieutenant over Chicago’s 24th District.
It was a position requiring expertise in the field of narcotics and gang investigation. Most of his work focused on narcotics trafficking and street gang related crime. The Greek-American held the post for seven years before being appointed in 2005 by Captain Philip Cline to Commander Response Unit (TRU).
Commander at the CPD
In 2006, Voulgaris received an appointment as Commander in charge of the citywide Targeted Response Unit (TRU). His responsibility lay in targeting specific areas of crime throughout the Chicago metropolis. In 2008, he became captain and commanding officer of the Bureau of Patrol Administration responsible for forming, implementing, and supervising Chicago’s Violence Reduction Initiative (VRI)
In 2012, CPD Superintendent Garry McCarthy handed Voulgaris what would be his final and perhaps most arduous duty as Commander over the 19th District, known as Town Hall. There, he led the Evidence and Recovery Department.
Being in charge of the 19th District was what he considers his most challenging assignment, as it required great knowledge, experience, and expertise. First of all, this was because it covered various regions, including low-income housing, Wrigley Field, the LGBT section known as Boys Town, the entertainment district, Uptown, Lakeview, Lincoln Square, and Lincoln Park. Secondly, his appointment meant dealing with a wide array of people, businesses, and facilities.
In 2015, the CPD reassigned him to the position of Commander of the 17th District. The Greek-American was then asked to take over as Commander of the 17th District of Albany Park. He was subsequently loaned to the Chicago Branch of the Emergency Management and Communications.
There, Voulgaris performed a variety of tasks, including dealing with weather-related disasters and crises, such as acts of terrorism, active shootings, and special event management. In 2019, he then moved over to commanding officer of the Evidence and Property Section.
The end of an inspirational career
As evidenced, the Greek-American policeman held a number of influential and important positions throughout his career. He has also worked as a deputy of security and holds several licenses in the field of policing. In addition, he belonged to a variety of different law enforcement associations.
Voulgaris retired in 2019 from the Evidence and Recovered Property section of CPD. His final position was likewise a highly-esteemed one in which he was responsible for all the evidence seized by the Chicago Police Department. This included vast sums of money, firearms, narcotics, evidence, and property that the CPD had recovered.
Elias Voulgaris is now retired from the CPD. He retired with distinguishment and remains in close contact with the department.
The well-liked, much honored commander also remains active after his retirement. Currently, he serves as the director of security for GNP Realty Partners. He holds certificates in several fields of policing and belongs to a wide variety of law enforcement associations.
Founder of the Hellenic American Police Association
During his career with the CPD, Voulgaris met many other Greek-Americans who worked in law enforcement. Yet, unlike other ethnic groups, Greek-American officers did not have their own organization to represent them and their community.
In 1993, therefore, the now retired commander founded the Hellenic American Police Association (HAPA). It was the first of its kind in the U.S.A.
There are actually four such organizations representing Greeks and Cypriots in law enforcement. Others include St. Paul’s Society of the New York Police, the Metropolitan Police Service Greek & Cypriot Association of the London Metropolitan Police, and the Victorian Hellenic Police Association in Victoria, Australia.
Voulgaris went through a list of all the police officers in Greater Chicago to identify any with a Greek-sounding last name. He then contacted the ones he found to ask if they wanted to become members of the association. The organization quickly took off.
HAPA and the Hellenic Police Association around the world
There are now around six hundred active Greek-American and Cypriot police officers in the United States, many of whom are members of Voulgaris’ association. An estimated 160 of them, however, work at the Chicago Police Department.
This excludes those belonging to the Greek-American heroes of the Hellenic American Police Association in New York, however. New York City has its own organization to honor its members, such as NYPD Officer Anastasios Taskos killed in the line of duty.
Yet, representation as Greek-American policemen was not Voulgaris’ only purpose for creating the organization. In his own words: “We [also] wanted to keep traditions, values and culture and create a family.”
To do so, the HAPA conducts monthly meetings at the St. George Orthodox Church in Chicago. The Priest, Fr. Chrysanthos Kerkeres, also volunteers as the HAPA chaplain and a CPD chaplain. Additionally, HAPA sponsors different events to help the Greek-American community.
Greek-American Policeman at International Criminal Court, Hague
Elias Voulgaris has always had a desire to help others like those in the greater community in Chicago as well as his fellow Hellenes. That is what led him to found the Hellenic Police Association.
Voulgaris has had a wide range of responsibilities in the CPD and achieved very high and important positions as well. That knowledge and experience is also what convinced the Greek-American policeman to apply for a position as a police expert at the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague. He had discovered that they were seeking police officers who were experts in various fields.
Voulgaris thought it a long shot but, nonetheless, went ahead and applied. After a two-year wait, he finally received confirmation of his appointment this year.
Naturally, it is a position of great honor for the retired commander. Yet, he still remains humble, for, as he states, “I am very proud, but there are so many other Greeks and Cypriots in the law enforcement.”
Voulgaris on other Greek-American police officers
Despite his nomination, Elias Voulgaris has not forgotten the work of others.
“For instance,” he said “only a few people know that the head of the Connecticut Police Department Colonel Stavros Mellekas is not only Greek, but one of the highest in the police departments in America.”
“We also have a retired Deputy Chief, Steve Georgas, from the CPD who is renown all over the world as an expert in managing special events,” Voulgaris added.
“Steve managed the police response during the NATO Summit in Chicago, the NFL Draft held in Chicago, Chicago’s Marathon, to name a few,” Voulgaris said. “He is sought by police departments throughout the word for his expertise. There are so many providing a valued service in policing.”
Now that he is an Expert in Policing for the International Criminal Court at The Hague, Netherlands, Elias Voulgaris’ task will be slightly different from that at the CPD. Instead of monitoring street gang violence, narcotics trafficking, or terrorism, he will serve the court or defense as needed for trials held at The Hague. It is a five-year contract renewable at the end of each term.
“I am very proud of my career, Hellenic roots and family,” Voulgaris told Greek Reporter, and he should be, for, although there are other Greeks from the diaspora at the ICC, Voulgaris is the first US police officer to be nominated.