Illinois State Police Honor Former Director James Zagel

Illinois State Police (ISP) is saddened by the passing of former ISP Director and federal judge, James Zagel, at the age of 82.

A former prosecutor with the Cook County State’s Attorney and Illinois Attorney General, Judge Zagel served as Director of the Illinois State Police from 1980 to 1987, one of the longest tenures of any Director in ISP history. Judge Zagel’s impressive career spanned nearly 60 years, ending with his appointment to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois being nominated by President Ronald Reagan.

Zagel led the ISP through a period of modernization, rebranding the agency from the Department of Law Enforcement to the Department of State Police and is credited with establishing an enduring culture of ethical and professional law enforcement that continues today.

A brilliant lawyer, jurist and visionary, under Zagel’s watch, ISP was the first state police agency in the country to be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc. (CALEA) in 1986. CALEA accreditation is the seal of excellence in law enforcement and signals a commitment of a law enforcement agency to law enforcement best practices. To this day, the ISP continues to maintain CALEA accreditation.

Zagel was also instrumental in the creation of Illinois State Enforcement Agencies to Recover Children Unit (I-SEARCH). I-SEARCH brought together local law enforcement agencies within a region to collectively respond to the missing and exploited children in their respective geographical areas. I-SEARCH, which was created by the passage of the Intergovernmental Missing Child Recovery Act of 1984, officially began in 1985 and was groundbreaking by professionalizing law enforcement response to missing children, nearly 11 years before Amber Alerts were created.

On January 1, 2013, Illinois changed from the I-SEARCH program to the Illinois Missing Persons Clearinghouse to bring Illinois in line with all other states’ clearinghouse structures for missing persons. The Missing Persons Clearinghouse is managed by the Illinois State Police.

Under Director Zagel, ISP became the first forensic lab in the country accredited under the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors (ASCLD) Laboratory Accreditation Board (LAB), occurring in 1982.

During Zagel’s tenure, Governor Thompson and Mayor Harold Washington struck a deal for ISP to assume patrol of the Chicago expressways, and in 1985, the ISP took over patrolling Chicago-area Expressways and the Northern Illinois Toll roads.

“Director Zagel’s leadership left behind an enduring culture of ethical, professional, intelligent enforcement of the law,” said current Illinois State Police Director Brendan Kelly. “Every ISP director and everyone who serves in our agency aspires to meet his standards, whether they realize it or not, and that is a hell of a legacy.”

All Illinois State Police facilities are flying flags at half-staff in honor and remembrance of Zagel.

Zagel is survived by his wife of 44 years, Margaret Maxwell Zagel. Our thoughts and prayers are with former Director Zagel’s family.