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I-Team: Citizen-soldier to oversee state troopers on Chicago 'surge teams'

The ABC7 I-Team has new information about the man Gov. Pat Quinn has appointed to oversee troopers on Chicago's "surge teams."
The ABC7 I-Team has new information about Michael Zerbonia, the man Gov. Pat Quinn has appointed as colonel in charge of state police operations to oversee troopers on Chicago's "surge teams."

For years during Chicago crime waves, city officials have cringed at suggestions the Illinois State Police or National Guard were needed. It is notable that the man who will oversee troopers in Chicago is both.

Zerbonia is what's known as a citizen-soldier. In his civilian life, he is a long-time state police official. In his military life, he is a brigadier general in the Illinois National Guard.

Afghanistan, November 2012: Zerbonia was in his soldier role with the Illinois National Guard, part of a military career spanning three decades and several continents.

In February, Zerbonia was promoted to brigadier general and currently commands land operations and soldier readiness for the Illinois Guard. He also has held down a day job, colonel with the Illinois State Police in charge of operations.

And Wednesday, Gov. Quinn tapped Zerbonia the state police colonel to lead Illinois troopers as they partner with Chicago police on "surge teams" in violence-strapped sections of the city.

Zerbonia, 49, was seen during annual National Guard training a few weeks ago at Fort Riley, Kansas, where he oversaw live fire exercises and demolition training.

Despite his deep and meritorious military resume, Illinois State Police officials are adamant that his role in Chicago is not a precursor to the National Guard here. A state police spokesperson Wednesday night said Zerbonia's "duties on this assignment are purely law enforcement specific."

He also wears other hats, as the head of the Illinois Guard Association. In two weeks, it will be the host city organization for the U.S. National Guard Association annual convention here in Chicago. By that time in late August, Zerbonia's state police contingent will be fully embedded with Chicago police in the newly formed special fugitive units.

Colonel Zerbonia spoke with Eyewitness News by phone Wednesday night at his home in downstate Chatham. He said once the marching orders for troopers are in place, he'll discuss what they'll be doing and how.

Additional information:
Illinois State Police
Chicago Police
Brig. General Michael Zerbonia bio
The National Guard Association of the US conference in Chicago
Related Topics:
news chicago police department pat quinn rahm emanuel I-Team
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