Where did you grow up and go to school?
I was born in Melrose Park. My family and I moved to Cicero for a while. Then, my family moved back to Melrose Park.
When did you know you wanted to be a police officer?
My whole life I wanted to be a police officer. I was destined to be a police officer. Ever since I was a kid, I was infatuated with being a cop. I really liked that police officers worked at night, because I like being up at night. I always had an interest in police work, music, and the paranormal.
Tell me about your career as a police officer.
From February 1985 to December 1987, I was a community service police officer and dispatcher for Hinsdale Police Department. Then, I worked for the town of Maywood. I became a part-time police officer, but I worked 48 hours a week for about two years. In 1989, I went to Stone Park. I worked as a Stone Park police officer from 1989 to 2016. The last five and a half years I’ve been a sergeant with the DuPage County Forest Preserve Police Department.
How did you become interested in investigating the paranormal?
I used to work security for a bar called Noa Noa while I was off duty. I became friends with a guy who also worked there named Juan. Juan felt a paranormal presence at the bar late at night. The rest of the staff laughed at him, but I took his concerns seriously. I told him I would investigate with my night vision camera.
To my shock and amazement, I ended up filming a 3D figure of a woman. I brought the image back to the police department and showed the video to the other police officers. We couldn’t believe it.
I went back to the bar to try to find an explanation. Each time I returned to the bar, I found something new and different. I noticed that the towns of Stone Park and Melrose Park are separated by something called Indian Boundary Line. I started thinking about Native American tribes who resided in that area many years ago.
After that, I knew I wanted to put together a paranormal investigative group of police officers. I thought we could investigate crimes, interview people, and find truth within the Chicagoland area. We called ourselves the Chicago Paranormal Detectives, or CPD.
How did CPD become a reality show?
I received a call from an Elk Grove Village police officer. He was putting together his own group of paranormal cops and wanted to merge our guys together. He said he was going to pitch the story to the TV industry. We didn’t know anything about how to pitch a show to TV networks.
How did you get A&E to pick up the show?
I found a fantastic medium located in Galena, Ill. After we found her, we filmed a sizzle reel at a restaurant in Galena. A sizzle reel is what needs to be made if you want to pitch your show to production companies, who can pitch the idea to networks.
There’s a business called O’Hare Towing on Mannheim Road, which is located down the street from the Stone Park Police Department. O’Hare Towing was filming a reality TV show called “Wrecked.” It was going to be on a channel called The Speed Channel. I called the owner of O’Hare Towing and he told me the name of his production company.
We ended up sending that sizzle reel to the production company that O’Hare Towing recommended. They liked what they saw.
The production company filmed a whole new demo that we pitched to networks. A few months went by, and we signed a deal with A&E in Feb. 2009.
Tell me about the next steps for filming the show.
The production company hired a local staff. We filmed from Feb. 2009 through the end of April. A&E paid for six episodes, which is half a season. It would be six hauntings, six investigations. Everything was filmed in the suburbs. Some scenes were set up to make a story line.
We had to go back and film scenes introducing each of the hauntings. So, we filmed some scenes at my buddy’s bar, Chances R Bar in Melrose Park. The show was only a half an hour, which is 22 minutes with the commercials. A&E had to craft a story line that flowed.
How would you determine cases that you wanted to investigate?
We decided to answer requests from people that were desperate. These people were thinking of selling their houses or quitting their jobs due to their fears of the paranormal in that space. We would only investigate certain controlled environments. We wouldn’t take jobs outside. We wouldn’t do apartments, hotels, or condos. We didn’t want neighbors interfering with noises. We would secure the area with police tape.
How did you know the people or businesses were legitimate? How did you know they weren’t calling you for fame or publicity?
We would do concealed interviews. We could tell if someone was making up a story. We would also follow up with the police departments in those towns to see if those businesses or people had legitimate cases.
What did you do to advertise the show?
We would do different interviews with media outlets. A lot of media outlets would contact us. I did interviews with newspapers located in Boston, Los Angeles, Phoenix, and other outlets across the country. We did a lot of radio interviews. I also went on Facebook to promote this show. We made an appearance at a Chicago paranormal show. After the show aired, we went on the Mancow Show. We went on a lot of Chicago morning shows.
A&E rented out Excalibur, which was a bar downtown, and they hosted a huge Halloween party. The party also featured other people from various A&E shows.
When did the show premiere?
It premiered in Jan. 2010. It premiered all over the world. Our debut episode was “Casa Madrid.” It was filmed in Melrose Park, which is my hometown. The ratings were good, but A&E wanted great ratings. After the six episodes aired, A&E decided to cancel the show. A&E played re-runs through 2012. When they stopped running the re-runs, the show kind of died.
What happened after the show was canceled?
Two years ago, the show was very popular in Italy. There was interest because I am Italian, and Melrose Park is an Italian neighborhood. They translated the show in Italian. I got a lot of Facebook friend requests from people in Italy.
I’m proud of it. A lot of what we filmed showcased our personalities, but it wasn’t shown. People can currently watch “Paranormal Cops” on Amazon Prime.
What advice would you give someone who wants to go into reality TV?
The question you must ask yourself is, do you want to be on a show or create a show? You must find a niche and find something unique. It must be captivating. Also, once you make that transition, you’re in the entertainment business. Your personality must be entertaining.
Do you have to be thick-skinned to do reality TV?
Thick skin always helps in life. People will write all different things about you. There’s no such thing as bad publicity. You can’t take negative comments to heart. Other people might have an agenda when trying to get close to you.
Would you like to work in TV in the future?
I am friends with people who are still in the TV business. If it was a good idea, I would consider it.
Tell me about your band Open Key.
We performed at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C. in front of thousands of people. I performed with Austin Edwards, who went on to get second place on “America’s Got Talent.” We were also inducted in the American Police Hall of Fame for a song that we wrote called “Final Call.”
Tell me about your life outside of your career.
I have four beautiful kids. I have an amazing girlfriend named Minnie.
Ron’s Guide to Chicago:
Italian Restaurants: Capones Pizzeria (360 W Schick Rd, Bloomingdale); Q’s Restaurant and Pizzeria (4841 Butterfield Rd., Hillside); Freddy’s Pizza (1600 S. 61st Ave., Cicero); Armand’s Pizzeria (7650 W. North Ave., Elmwood Park); Italian Village (71 W. Monroe St., Chicago); Eataly Chicago (43 E. Ohio St., Chicago); Capri Ristorante (324 Burr Ridge Pkwy, Burr Ridge); Ristorante Agostino (2817 N. Harlem Ave., Chicago); Jim and Pete’s (7806 W. North Ave., Elmwood Park)
Date Spot: Hala Kahiki Lounge (2834 River Rd., River Grove)
Dessert: Cinnabon (Yorktown Mall, 203 Yorktown Shopping Center, Lombard)
Coffee Order: Black (Dunkin, 8630 Cermak Rd., North Riverside)