Beloit, WI Wants To Avoid Becoming A Ferguson. Chief of Police Placed on Leave
Due to preliminary findings of a report, the City of Beloit has placed its police chief and deputy chief on administrative leave. Beloit, Wisconsin is a small city on the border of Wisconsin and Illinois, with a population of approximately 40,000. The city has a Manager, Lori Luther, and a city council.
Concerns regarding the leadership of the police department were expressed by its staff and the community. In February of this year, employees of the Beloit Police Department told the city council that leadership was damaging employee morale and could be affecting operations.
The city held two listening sessions for residents to voice concerns about the Beloit Police Department. The sessions were held at the Beloit Public Library, and although those in attendance might sound small with the number being around 12, the room was filled. Many attending did not want to be named, but they discussed the issues of communication between the police department and residents.
Some residents complained that after shootings in their neighborhood, no police officers came by to question them. Residents with information were not leaving their house to talk to the police, and the police didn’t bother to come to the houses.
Another resident recalled the department handing out baseball cards to neighborhood children when she was growing up. “Cops weren’t ‘cops.’ They were Officer John Doe,” she said at the forum.
Another resident stated, “The priorities of the police department are different than the priorities of the citizens at this time.”
City Council President Mark Spreitzer said that after having conversations with Police Chief Norm Jacobs, he is not confident to say that there’s not an issue. Chief Jacobs is a 37-year veteran of the Beloit Police Department. Jacobs said that for 20 years the department has been national and state accredited, and is “accustomed to being inspected.” He added the department is currently preparing for an eighth review by the Commission on Accreditation of Law Enforcement Agencies. Jacobs said his concern is that the assessment will add additional stress to officers and staff who feel some “pressure in the post Ferguson environment.”
Chief Jacobs might have that concern because the priorities addressed by residents is that the police department has catered to revenue streams, such as traffic fines.
Chief Jacobs’ response to the recent gun violence in Beloit was to compare it to the Ebola virus, stating, “we should fight it using the tools that we’ve learned from our health providers.” Jacobs wanted residents to contact the police department and give them authority to search their houses for guns, on the premise that there could be guns in houses that the residents do not know about. That caused quite a stir as lawyers addressed what the police might find in houses other than guns that they might seize and make arrests. Only one call was made to the police to come search a house, and it was actually made by a man who wanted to turn in his gun because he no longer wanted it.
The City of Beloit came up with a solution in response to with Chief Jacobs’ lack of understanding community needs. For $129,000, they hired the firm of Hillard Heintze to do an independent assessment of the police department. It was the firm’s preliminary report that resulted in the Chief and Deputy Chief being placed on administrative leave.
The five-member team from the Hillard Heintze consultants firm has experience working with the U.S. Department of Justice and various agencies to consult with communities and report on their problems. The effort is a collaborative approach looking at all aspects of the department, from administration to policies and other assessments.
“We’re going to agencies before they’re in crisis …before Beloit becomes Detroit or before Beloit becomes Ferguson. We’re looking at the best practices and providing the opportunity to improve,” said Ken A. Bouche, chief operating officer for Hillard Heintze.
David Zibolski, a 31-year veteran of Wisconsin law enforcement, will be sworn in as interim police chief. Zibolski most recently served as a deputy administrator with the Wisconsin Department of Justice. Prior to that, he served 27 years with Milwaukee Police, retiring as a Police Captain in 2011.
Among the shootings that concern citizens of Beloit were those that occurred in May of this year. There were three shootings within a half hour of each other. Three investigations developed, which resulted in one vehicle description for all of the incidents. Cole Page, 19 of Beloit, Mark Kelly, 19 of Woodstock, and Savanna Denton, 20 of Rockton were arrested and charged with the three shootings in Beloit, one which wounded a man with a bullet to the chest. Two minors were also charged.
Posted on 06/29/2015, in Cases, Potpourri and tagged administrative leave, arrests, Beloit, Chief of Police, investigation, Norm Jacobs, shootings, Tom Dunkin, Wisconsin. Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.