Organized crime, the Mafia, or the Outfit as it is known in Chicago, is surrounded by a false glamour that elevates mobsters to the level of swashbuckling folk heroes whose ready violence and savage murders are too often excused in the public mind as acceptable because they only hurt each other. Similarly, illegal gambling, the bread-and-butter racket inevitably combined with loan-sharking and extortion, is widely tolerated because it is perceived to be a victimless crime.
Donald H. Herion, a US Army veteran during the Korean War, who grew up in a neighborhood where there was a bookmaker on every corner, sometimes two or three, learned just how wrong all that was when he returned home from the Army and joined the Chicago Police Department. He wasn’t sure that he was doing the right thing at the time because he really never liked cops, but if he didn’t like it, he could always quit he thought.
After six years learning the ropes in the patrol division collaring burglars and stick up men, chasing daredevil drivers, calming adversaries in domestic disputes, and riding herd on drunks and dope dealers, he was promoted to plainclothes as a vice cop investigating illegal gambling, narcotics, prostitution and gang bangers.
He quickly learned that chasing bookmakers and busting up wire-rooms was a fight against organized crime. Illegal gambling was organized crime’s biggest money maker, the Golden Calf that financed most of its other illicit activities ranging from stock and bankruptcy swindles to the narcotics trade.
Herion and his partner were transferred to the Vice Control Section of the Organized Crime Division at police headquarters at 1121 S. State Street. He now had jurisdiction to make raids anywhere in the City of Chicago instead of only in his district.
He was promoted to detective, then sergeant, he rubbed shoulders with degenerate gamblers, bookmakers, prostitutes and stone-cold killers, while witnessing first-hand how gambling destroys lives. He broke up more than 4,000 gambling operations, arrested hundreds of mob controlled bookmakers and other racketeers. He reached mandatory retirement age on 8-27-1992 and retired after 38 years.
The Sheriff of Cook County asked Herion if he would consider going to work for him as he needed someone to set up a vice detection unit that could effect gambling raids in the county. Herion was told that he could hand pick his own men as he would be in charge of the unit as a Director of operations. Of course Herion accepted the job picked his own men that he could trust and made numerous raids throughout Cook County and sometimes neighboring counties.
In law enforcement of course all good things must come to an end. On June 6, 1996, Herion was officially notified that the use of electronic tracking devices should only be used when there has been prior judicial approval. It was the opinion of Brian K. Flaherty Esq. from the office of Legal and Labor Affairs of Cook County that prior approval is only needed when the Sheriff’s police are attaching the device “WITHOUT THE CONSENT OF THE INDIVIDUAL THEY ARE TRACKING.” Herion decided that getting the bad guy’s consent to put a tracking device on his vehicle as well as other stipulations was not such a good idea. Checking with other police departments as what their procedures were in using TELETRAC, they all informed Herion that judicial approval was not needed, and to ask the subject they were tailing for his permission made no sense at all. Herion turned in the TELETRAC units he was using to the Sheriff’s office in Maywood, Illinois.
Herion lasted eight years with the Sheriff’s office and decided to call it a day and retire again in 2000. 40 years of fighting the Chicago Outfit was now over for him.