UPDATED: Tinley Park Police Chief Was "All Heart," Funeral Monday

Mike O'Connell has been on health leave for several weeks.

Tinley Park Police Chief Michael J. O'Connell died 8 a.m. Wednesday morning at Ingalls Memorial Hospital, Mayor Ed Zabrocki said.

The cause of death was complications due to heart surgery, Village Manager Scott Niehaus said. O'Connell was 60.

"We're not sure of all the details yet," Zabrocki said.

O'Connell has been on health leave for about a month, with Cmdr. Pat McCain filling in as acting chief. Formerly the police chief of Riverdale, O'Connell joined the Tinley department in 1995 as chief, Niehaus said. O'Connell started his nearly 40-year law enforcement career as a Riverdale patrol officer in 1972.

In 2005, O'Connell was named the Illinois State Crime Commission/Police Athletic League of Illinois "Police Chief of the Year."


"As you know, he was a big man and it was all heart," said Orland Park police Chief Timothy McCarthy, who knew O'Connell for 20 years. "The guy just went out of his way to help out everyone he could."

McCarthy and O'Connell were on the South Suburban Association Chiefs of Police, where O'Connell would often take the lead on charity projects to give back to Southland communities, McCarthy said.

"Mike was a true leader, not just as a chief but as a law enforcement official," McCarthy said. "It's going to be a tough few days for a lot of people to get through this, including myself."

"This is a devastating loss to his family, his many friends, the law enforcement profession and our entire community," Zabrocki said in a village press release. "Chief O'Connell led our police department with an enormous amount of knowledge and compassion. We will miss him immensely, as a chief and as a friend." 

A graduate of the FBI National Academy and Northwestern University School of Police Staff and Command, Chief O’Connell also held a master’s degree in criminal justice from Lewis University. He taught criminal justice for several years at South Suburban College.

"It wasn’t just Chief O'Connell's experience and knowledge that made him a great police chief," Trustee Brian Maher, chairman of the village board's Public Safety Committee, said in the village release. "He was always anxious to embrace new ideas and technology that would benefit our community, always working toward enhancing the quality of life for our residents. More importantly, he was an outstanding person who touched the lives of many."


A visitation is scheduled from 3 to 9 p.m. Sunday, May 15, at , 16600 S. Oak Park Ave., Tinley Park. A funeral Mass will take place at 10 a.m. Monday, May 16, at , 17500 84th Ave., Tinley Park.

The family has requested privacy during their time of grieving. In lieu of flowers, donations are appreciated to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, 262 Danny Thomas Place, Memphis, TN 38105. To donate by telephone, call 1-800-805-5856.

Chief O’Connell is survived by his wife, Barb, his daughter, Colleen; son, Michael, and daughter-in-law, Liz; daughter, Michelle (Anichini), and son-in-law, Paul; and four grandchildren.

This story will be updated as more information is made available.

Updated at 10:38 with Niehaus comments and award information.

Updated at 12 p.m. with McCarthy comments.

Updated at 12:14 p.m. with village comments and funeral information.

Lisa O'Flaherty May 11, 2011 at 06:12 PM
Our condolences to Barb, and all the O'Connell Family. He was a great neighbor and a true Irish gentleman. Ar dhéis Dé ar a anam..Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends. God bless, Padraig, Lisa and all O'Flaherty Family. Ireland
Deb Melchert May 11, 2011 at 06:18 PM
Lisa, for those of who aren't Irish, I had to look up Ar dhéis Dé ar a anam. Gaelic for "May his soul be at God's right side". I'm pretty sure Big Mike is sitting with the other "Big Man". I will miss his smile, his sense of humor and his graciousness. If you didn't know he was the Chief, you would never know by walking up and talking to him. He was as humble and easy going as they come.
Carol De May 11, 2011 at 07:16 PM
Not only was the Chief a great leader, he was a great person who cared about everything he touched. He was a real person and very loved by those that knew him. I will miss his bear hug and great smile. May he be at peace now, knowing his job was so well done. My deepest sympathy goes out to his family and the entire Police Department.
Lesley popelas May 12, 2011 at 02:53 AM
An old family friend My heart goes out to Barb and their family , such a tragic loss. I had known Michael since high school, his sister and I were best friends. All of our kids played together when they were young. Michael was such a kind gentle soul, always looking out for everyone. My favorite memory was Michael taking me to my junior prom after I had been stood up. We were just really good friends. We played football in our prom clothes in the school parking lot! We went to the Empire room to see Trini Lopez afterwards. Ironic that my son just got married there. He will be surely missed. A hug and kiss for you Dorothy!
Mark Valesano May 14, 2011 at 06:21 PM
Barb, O'Connell Family and Tinley PD Family, Please accept the sympathy of all of us here at the Iron County Sheriff's Office. We always looked forward to Mike's visits when he was in town and staying at his cabin here in Michigan. Although 6 hours seperated us, Mike was always quick to offer and lend support both professionally and personally as well. When I first met Mike it did not take long to figure out he was a special man. My life has been enriched knowing him and I can only hope someone may say the same of me one day. Christ's Peace be with all of you. Sheriff Mark Valesano Iron County Sheirff's Office Michigan


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