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For completing an “unprecedented” number of child sexual abuse cases over the past year, a Round Lake Park Police officer was named the inaugural recipient of the new “Above and Beyond Award” from the Round Lake Area Exchange Club.
Officer Christopher Valle was nominated by Round Lake Park Police Chief George Filenko for “his unprecedented investigation, arrest and intervention of over 16 child abuse cases” during the past year
Filenko said that while Valle is a relatively new officer, having joined the department a little over two years ago, he has proven himself a very proficient investigator, especially in child sex abuse cases.
“Some officers just seem to have this instinctive ability to handle certain kind of cases,” Filenko said. “It’s great to have a young officer who can put together solid cases and follow through with the children or victims involved to make sure they are not revictimized.
Filenko said attention to details and follow-through is especially important in child abuse cases, because if something is missed, cases can slip through the cracks, and an allegation is unsubstantiated, “it could ruin someone’s life.”
“This is very important,” Filenko said, adding that Valle is solid at putting cases together and not missing any components.
“He’s found his niche, I think,” Filenko said, adding that he feels Valle’s arrival came at the right time.
Filenko said that “for whatever reason or reasons, we’ve had an increase or string of these cases for the past few years.”
He added that he is unsure of the exact cause, but believes part of it could be attributed to more cases of abuse being reported due to an increase in public education, including Lake County’s annual Blue Kids campaign to highlight child abuse and April’s designation as National Child Abuse Prevention Month.
Teachers have also become more knowledgeable as far as recognizing and reporting signs of potential sexual or physical abuse of children, the chief said.
The award has special meaning coming from the Exchange Club, Filenko said, because for the past 40 years, the club’s national project has been to promote prevention, awareness, intervention and education concerning child sexual abuse.
Valle received the award at an April 5 banquet at the Round Lake Beach Civic Center.
Valle said in an interview this week that he was both surprised and pleased to find out he was the first recipient of the award from the Exchange Club.
He added that while the cases can be hard to work, he is able to remain focused on the investigations, and part of the reward is helping to ensure that in cases where children are being sexually assaulted or otherwise abused, the situation is permanently halted.
Valle said at this early point in his career, he hopes to continue being able to specialize in cases involving abused children.
“I feel like it’s something I’m intended to do,” Valle said. “It’s not for everyone I guess.”
“Officer Valle’s dedication and compassion and relentless pursuit of justice for victims and families is representative of him is as an individual and police officer,” Filenko said.
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