Dan Murchek wears two career hats, one as Deputy Chief for Lake County Sheriff John Buncich and the other as President of the Northwest Indiana Federation of Labor.
The challenges of each job would be daunting for most people but Murchek balances them well, bringing his enthusiasm and leadership skills to both.
“His ability to successfully wear many hats is very impressive to me,” Judy Lennon, Administrator for the Northwest Indiana Federation of Labor, says. “I have seen him take on many tasks and roles, including when he stepped up to be the President of the Federation of Labor. The organization was in a very difficult situation and Dan was asked to fill a challenging position.
"Dan not only did the right thing at that moment, he continues to serve the 62 affiliated local unions and 42,000 members of the Northwest Indiana Federation of Labor, while also being the president of his Local union and being the chief deputy of the Lake County Police. His vision, dedication, work ethic, and ability to see things from many perspectives truly impresses me.”
Lennon describes Murchek as “a true Region person.”
“He is an example of the best this area has to offer,” Lennon says. “He will be the first to admit that he did not take the traditional route growing up, but he overcame adversity, in part, by not giving up or shying away from a challenge. He took opportunities afforded to him and was successful through his dedication and hard work. I don't think he has ever forgotten that people helped him out and he is always willing to reach out and help others.”
The Lake County Sheriff’s Department has both a union and Fraternal Order of Police chapter. “We are the only unionized police department in the state of Indiana,” Murchek says. “Because it is affiliated with AFL-CIO I became heavily involved. I am president of our local Police Union 72. That got me involved with the unions.”
Prior to becoming a police officer, after high school Murchek worked briefly in the steel mill, and then he became a Teamsters’ Union member while delivering furniture for the now defunct Goldblatts.
“Those jobs were eliminated, which led me to my career in law enforcement,” Murchek says. “It seemed like a very good career, a stable career not really having to worry about layoffs.”
Murchek started his law enforcement career in Porter County at the Hebron Police Department but actually worked undercover at Portage High School. Next he served nine years at the Dyer Police Department before joining the Lake Sheriff’s Department.
“I wanted to have an opportunity to have different experiences on a larger department, which I have had the opportunity to do,” Murchek, who has the permanent rank of sergeant, says.
He has worked in many divisions including patrol, the Gang Crimes Task Force, and civil division but his favorite was being a K-9 unit officer. In 1997 Murchek’s K-9 partner, Ajax, saved his life by taking a bullet for him.
Murchek became active in the local FOP and unions to fight for better wages, hours and benefits for police officers.“That kind of led me into the Federation of Labor position,” Murchek says.
Murchek was elected this year to another three year term as president. “I have always stayed very involved in our contract bargaining,” Murchek says. “I just believe that public sector employees, especially police officers, firefighters and teachers should make a fair, decent salary so they don’t have to work a bunch of side jobs. That is what really got me involved with the union over the last 15 years, making sure employees have a voice. The strong middle class makes for a strong economy especially here locally.”
Murchek says Northwest Indiana is blessed with jobs in the steel mills, refinery and manufacturing sector that have all had their ups and downs over the years.
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“What we believe in labor is we want our partners, the business owners, to do well but we want them to remember that their employees work very hard for them and when things are doing well employees should be treated well,” Murchek says. “Unions have made concessions in difficult times to help their employers out trying to minimize the damage and layoffs but when things turn around and get back we like to get those back.”
At the sheriff’s department, Murchek works with Buncich and Chief Tim Downs, side-by-side helping run the department’s day-to-day operations.
“We do a lot of trouble-shooting and problem-solving,” Murchek says. “Law enforcement is a very fluid profession and you have to make the adjustments and then you need to be very sensitive to everyone’s needs and have a proactive approach. One of the most important things is to make sure everyone is treated fairly, decently and with respect.”
Most satisfying in law enforcement, Murchek says, is taking something that was unjust and making it just and making it right.
“It is being able to help people out when they are in a difficult situation, offering that assistance where you can help them make a difference and do the right thing,” Murchek says.
Murchek’s accolades include Officer of the Year, Supervisor of the Year and several Lifesaving Awards, one for pulling a young man out of a burning building.
Buncich says he is impressed by Murchek’s enthusiasm for law enforcement.“He accomplished a lot by rising through the ranks so quickly, which is characteristic of his leadership abilities both in law enforcement and his union affiliations,” Buncich says.
Murchek credits his late mother for motivating him and keeping him on track.“She raised me and my brother as a single mom and worked full time and was able to keep us on track and provide for us,” Murchek says.
Murchek’s goals are to keep building a strong labor market here in Northwest Indiana, “making sure our friends in labor work together with us.” He says he is definitely considering running for sheriff next election.
Murchek also serves on the boards of the Lake Area United Way and Indiana Work One.
BREAK OUT BOX
Dan Murchek’s life was saved by his K-9 partner, Ajax, who took a bullet for him.
There are 42,000 members of the Northwest Indiana Federation of Labor in 62 affiliated local unions. The Lake County Sheriff's Department is the only unionized police department in the State of Indiana.
Murchek once pulled a young man from a burning building.