On Sept. 19, Troy Buchanan’s football squad hosted Francis Howell Central for Homecoming.
Manning the back gate of the field, where the players and coaches enter and leave, is Det. Michael Dale Chasteen of the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office. In his second year on the athletic event detail, Chasteen has become a regular fixture at his post, though generally unseen by the fans who come to see the Trojans play - which is exactly how he likes it.
“I do enjoy coming out, going outside and watching the community enjoy a good game,” the Bloomington, Illinois native said. “The community needs us, and we’re happy to be here.”
A member of the Sheriff’s Office since December of 2013, Chasteen took an unusual route to his current position. After serving in the Illinois Army National Guard as a military police officer, the road to realizing his dream in law enforcement became bumpy.
“I was a college graduate, an Army veteran and a military policeman - and I couldn’t get a job in law enforcement in Illinois,” he said.
Through a family friend, Chasteen landed at the Lincoln County Jail as a corrections officer. Due to his military police experience, he only needed to pass the post-certification exam in lieu of academy training. Since then, Chasteen has been a road deputy, a detective and a sexual offender compliance officer before entering his current position as an acting lieutenant at the county jail.
Like many first responders in the area, public service is a family affair. Chasteen’s father served with the Bloomington Fire Department as a firefighter and an investigator for 27 years, and his grandfather was a volunteer firefighter in Danville, Illinois.
Though law enforcement turned out to be his path instead of firefighting, Chasteen said being a first responder is a family tradition he hopes to continue with pride.
“I’m extremely proud to be serving the community, no matter what community I’m in,” he said. “I hope I can live up to the legacy my father and grandfather set for me.”
Chasteen said his experience in corrections made the transition to deputy a relatively easy one - and believes more law enforcement officers should take the same route to begin their careers.
“I think it is crucial anyone involved in law enforcement start on the corrections side, because you learn how to deescalate situations,” he said. “You also have to learn how to multitask, because you’re dealing with 170 or so inmates at one time - and you have only four corrections officers, five if you’re lucky.”
Chasteen said the longer one stays in law enforcement, there will always be things no one can forsee, and he and his fellow first responders have to be prepared for that at all times. Last year, he and deputies had to evacuate students, players and fans from a basketball game when a tornado hit the area - and move them to the performing arts center across campus.
Whether its getting people to safety during a severe weather event, doing little things like giving a child a dollar for the vending machines or helping save the life of someone who has overdosed on narcotics, Chasteen said those things makes his career worthwhile.
“The most rewarding thing to me (about law enforcement) is engaging with the community,” he said. “I want to help change things, and law enforcement is one of the best possible ways to do that.”
Chasteen chose a road less traveled for a career in law enforcement, and the future, though unknown, is bright.
“If you had asked me 10 years ago where I would be, I would have never thought I’d be here (at the LCSO) because of the wonderful surprises my life has taken,” he said. “I hope in the next 10 years, I can continue serving the community.”