Police mourn death of well-liked lieutenant
BY KAREN BERKOWITZ
Evanston Police Department members were shocked and grief-stricken this week over the
loss of Skokie resident Lt. Robert Heytow, who suffered a heart attack Friday afternoon
while joking with colleagues outside police headquarters.
Age 53 and a 31-year veteran of the Evanston police force, Lt. Heytow collapsed at
Lt. Heytow p.m. behind the police station at 1454 Elmwood Ave. Lt. Heytow and a
building custodian had gone outside and moved a garbage receptacle as part of a basement
He was kibitzing with one of the dispatchers who was having a cigarette and he
basically collapsed, said Cmdr. Charles Wernick, head of investigative and support
Were absolutely shocked, Wernick said. He was a wonderful,
wonderful man a caring and kind individual with a wonderful sense of humor, who
always went out of his way to help people.
Police colleagues from Evanston, Skokie and other communities including
Bloomington, Barrington, LaGrange and Oak Brook packed the Piser Chapel funeral
home in Skokie Tuesday to pay their respects to a man they loved and admired.
After the service, a procession including an array of police cars and motorcycles
traveled from Church Street and Gross Point Road to the Evanston police station, where a
brief memorial service was held. The procession headed back to Skokie and Memorial Park
Cemetery, where he was intered.
After serving in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War, Lt. Heytow joined the Evanston
Police Department in 1969 at the urging of his twin brother, Dick, an Evanston patrol
officer at the time. While brother Dick eventually would leave the department after
obtaining his law degree, Robert Heytow devoted himself to law enforcement.
Cmdr. Dennis Nilsson said Lt. Heytow provided valuable leadership to the department
through the personal example of dedication that he set for his colleagues.
Loved police work
His dedication, his commitment and his love of policing were apparent in
everything he did, Nilsson said. He wouldnt have been around 31 years if
he didnt love it.
As his supervisor, if you gave him something to do, it was done, it was done
completely and it was done right.
After working in patrol, Lt. Heytow assumed a foot-patrol assignment in the mid 1980s
at a time when many Evanston police officers were skeptical about community policing. He
pounded the pavement in an area around Chicago Avenue, from Main Street south to Howard
This was a natural for him in law enforcement, Nilsson said. He was a
real people person and he touched many lives in those beats.
While some contended that community policing was more public relations than law
enforcement giving people a perception of safety while having no impact on crime
Lt. Heytow defended the problem-solving approach during a 1992 interview with
Pioneer Press. He voiced a belief that perception and reality were interdependent.
If you perceive that its no longer safe to use the park or walk down the
street at night, you stop doing those things, Lt. Heytow had said in the interview.
Pretty soon, the undesirable elements take over and the area isnt safe any
longer. When you begin to see your neighborhood in a more favorable light, it becomes a
much safer place. Perception is the key to real change.
Lt. Heytow was promoted to sergeant in the late 1980s and elevated to the rank of
lieutenant in 1996. Due in part to his versatility and understanding of technology, he
would become a valuable jack of all trades within the administration.
Most recently, he oversaw the records and property bureaus and the 911 communications
Lt. Heytow served for 16 years on the Evanston Police Pension Board and was a member of
a state police pension association founded by his colleague, Sgt. Timothy Schoolmaster.
While serving on the Pension Board, Lt. Heytow completed the necessary course work to
become a certified financial planner. More recently, he obtained a degree in public
administration from Lewis University.
Schoolmaster said he always was amazed by Heytows breadth of interests.
A motorcycle enthusiast, Lt. Heytow was a member of the Illinois chapter of the Blue
Knights, a nationwide motorcycle club for police officers.
He held a private pilots license and once served as a flight instructor. Heytow
also was a ham radio operator.
I always kidded him that if he decided he wanted to be a brain surgeon, two years
later he would be one, Schoolmaster said.
He was not an in-your-face kind of guy, but he had wisdom, Schoolmaster
said. He was a mentor to me, and a good friend.
Schoolmaster, who is completing a 10-week course at Northwestern University, was riding
a bicycle in Glencoe Friday afternoon when he received a page and rushed to Evanston
Hospital, where a number of colleagues had gathered.
Lt. Heytow is survived by his wife, Karen, daughter Amy Katherine and his mother,
The family has asked that memorial contributions be made to the donors charity of