Sworn in as Sheriff of Cook County in December of 2006, Tom Dart has a diverse and accomplished background in government and law enforcement. He has frequently been mentioned as a rising star in Illinois politics, and the Chicago Tribune recently referred to him as a “savvy and energetic political force with a reformist’s bent, (who has) led efforts to bring about long-needed criminal and juvenile justice reforms.”
Dart began his career in public service as an Assistant Cook County State’s Attorney, where he prosecuted hundreds of felony crimes during his five years with the office. As part of his duties he was assigned to prosecute crimes in the South Suburbs, where he helped initiate a massive investigation of corruption in the town of Ford Height’s Police Department, leading to the indictment of the chief and several of the towns police officers. Coincidentally in 2008, Sheriff Dart’s took over police protection in Ford Heights because of ongoing problems with the town’s police department.
By 1991, Dart had moved to the Illinois General Assembly when he wasSheriff Thomas J. Dart appointed to fill a vacancy in the State Senate. The next year, he ran for elected office for the first time and won a seat in the Illinois House, representing a diverse district on Chicago’s South Side that included communities like Roseland, Pullman, Morgan Park, Mount Greenwood, Calumet Park, and portions of Blue Island.
In Springfield, Dart quickly developed a reputation as a reform minded legislator who was willing to take on the state bureaucracy. He served as chief sponsor of more than a dozen new child welfare laws that helped restructure the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. And, as an indication of things to come, Dart turned his attention to matters related to law enforcement. As Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, he sponsored Mayor Daley’s Safe Neighborhood Act and authored several state laws designed to crackdown on child sex offenders, including a statute that targeted child predators who use the Internet to lure young victims. He also wrote the Sexually Violent Predators Commitment Act, a groundbreaking law that enable judges to deny freedom to sexual predators and detain them in state mental health facilities if they were deemed likely to commit new sex crimes after being released from prison.
Cops n BobbersAs Co-Chairman of the House Prison Oversight Committee, he held a series of bi-partisan, investigative hearings that revealed Chicago street gangs had established undo influence over the administration of several state prisons. The hearings inspired a number of policy changes at the Illinois Department of Corrections and helped develop new management accountability standards for state detention facilities.
Dart received dozens of honors for his work in the legislature, including the Illinois State Bar Association’s President’s Commendation and “Legislator of the Year Awards” from several groups, including the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, the Illinois State Crime Commission, and Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Chicago Sun Times columnist Steve Neal referred to Dart as an “impact player” during his decade of service in the Illinois House.
Dart left the legislature in 2003 after an unsuccessful campaign for Illinois State Treasurer and was appointed to serve as Chief of Staff Cook County Sheriff Michael Sheahan. In 2006 Dart was elected to a four-year term as the new Sheriff of Cook County after Sheahan retired.
As Sheriff, Dart has enacted a variety of new policy initiatives. Among the many changes are an institution of psychological testing for entry level recruits, installing new technology in the Cook County Jail and court facilities throughout Cook County, and the creation of a weapons free committee to target the widespread use of homemade knives and shanks in the jail.
Under Dart’s directive, the Sheriff’s Police have initiated a variety of stings, crackdowns, and investigations of criminal activity. He has been in the forefront in breaking up dog fighting rings and presided over the arrests of prostitution rings that use the internet as their advertising arm.
Dart holds a J.D. from Loyola University and a Bachelor’s Degree in History and General Social Studies from Providence College. He and his wife Patricia reside in Chicago and are the proud parents of four children.
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Thomas J. Dart