Michael F. Sheahan served as the Sheriff of Cook County from 1990 to 2006. He also served as a Chicago alderman, representing the 19th Ward on the city's Southwest Side.
Alderman One of nine children, Sheahan was raised on the far South Side of Chicago. His father was a career Chicago Police officer and his mother was a grade school teacher. He attended parochial grade school and graduated from Mendel High School before going on to St. Joseph's College, graduating in 1967 with a bachelor's degree in history. After graduation he went on to teach English and history at the high school level, while also coaching varsity sports.
In 1971, Sheahan joined the Chicago Police Department, working first in the Patrol Division and later in the Youth Division. After eight years of police work, Sheahan launched a successful bid for Alderman of Chicago's 19th Ward. While in the City Council, Sheahan continued to work for public safety. He drafted an ordinance that outlawed the sale of drug paraphernalia and authored legislation that increased the penalties for crimes against the elderly. In 1983, Sheahan was elevated to the Chairmanship of the Committee on Police, Fire, and Municipal Institutions.
Cook County Sheriff Sheahan was elected as Sheriff of Cook County in 1990 by a wide margin with a mandate to reform an office that for years had been tainted by scandal and political corruption. Upon taking office, Sheahan eliminated "ghost-payrollers" and collected more than 2,000 badges that had been handed out as political perks by previous administrations. He also established an Inspector General's Office to investigate misconduct in the Office and implemented the department's first-ever mandatory drug testing program for all sworn personnel and command staff.
During his tenure, Shehan oversaw a number of new projects and reforms. He worked to improve police protection in the suburbs by decentralizing the Sheriff's Police Department, opening four new police stations were opened and increasing the number of patrolling officers by 46 percent. From 2003 to 2006, Sheahan doubled the size of the Sheriff's Gang Unit, drastically increasing arrests for vice and gambling crimes and establishing the department's first-ever Canine Unit. He has also directed "sweep" operations targeting fugitives wanted for various crimes such as DUI offenders, dead beat dads, felony fugitives illegally collecting food stamp benefits, domestic violence offenders and gang members. In 1997, the Sheriff's Police Department was the first agency in Cook County to establish a Child Exploitation Task Force, a unit dedicated to investigating child sexual abuse with a particular emphasis on such crimes on the Internet.
Other efforts of his include expanding 911 emergency access to all of Cook County and attempting to improve and professionalize operations and security at Cook County Jail. He also directed a drastic reduction in I-Bonds, or personal recognizance bonds, issued at Cook County Jail, ensuring that fewer offenders are being released without some form of supervision.