Updated: City places Beloit police chief, deputy chief on administrative leave
Beloit Police Chief Norm Jacobs defended his 37 years of work in the department Tuesday afternoon after the new city manager announced hours earlier that Jacobs, along with Deputy Chief Tom Dunkin, were being placed on paid leave following a consultant's review of the police department.
Findings in the consultant's report commissioned by the city council this spring are serious and involve questions of leadership and management of the police department, City Manager Lori S. Curtis Luther said.
She said she understands the public wants more information, but the results of the report can not be released because they are now the basis for an internal investigation.
Curtis Luther said it was her decision to place Jacobs and Dunkin on leave.
Hillard Heintze is the Chicago-based consulting company the city hired to study the department after complaints from police department employees. The city also saw an uptick in homicides last year.
Curtis Luther said she is hiring another branch within Hillard Heintze to conduct the internal investigation. Jacobs and Dunkin will remain on leave until the investigation is complete.
David Zibolski, a 31-year veteran of Wisconsin law enforcement, is serving as interim police chief.
“Regardless of the outcome of the internal investigation, today we are taking the Beloit Police Department in a new direction to enhance leadership, strengthen community relations and transition into a new era of modern-day policing,” Curtis Luther said at a press conference.
Jacobs' attorney, Robert Mihelich, issued his own news release Tuesday, saying Curtis Luther “unilaterally” moved to place Jacobs on “administrative suspension” with no specific charges or allegations, other than citing an independent report that cost $130,000 and has never been shared with the Jacobs, despite numerous requests.
Mihelich said the situation arose out of a spike in homicides last year, and Jacobs was told several times that certain “influential members of the public” raised concerns about his “effectiveness.” The community members felt Beloit was getting a bad reputation, and it was negatively impacting them, Mihelich said.
“They placed the blame at my client's feet and suggest he leave,” he said.
Jacobs declined, Mihelich said, and in response the review was conducted. Throughout the process, Jacobs never was given any reasoning for the suggestion he leave, and no specific examples were given, Mihelich said.
“You can only do your job if you know what the issues are,” he said. “He's listening and taking action.”
Mihelich said the consultant told Jacobs he would recommend Jacobs leave the department, and Jacobs again refused in a meeting Friday with city officials.
Lissa Druss Christman, a spokeswoman with a communications firm hired by the city, said no recommendations were made.
"The consultant discussed professional options with Jacobs but did not recommend anything," Druss Christman said.
At Tuesday's press conference, Curtis Luther said she did not in any way ask Jacobs to resign, and she didn't see any direct relation between her decision to put Jacobs and Dunkin on leave and the crime rate. She said she told Jacobs and Dunkin in conversations Friday to take a three-day weekend and consider their options.
“I did not present what those options might be or look like,” she said.
When asked if other city officials, including the previous city manager who recently retired, asked Jacobs to retire, Curtis Luther said, “I really couldn't say.”
Curtis Luther started as city manager June 1.
BEFORE THE STUDY
Beloit City Council President Charles Haynes said the council felt it had to get to the bottom of the complaints they were receiving in the middle of and late last year. Officials did not give specifics on the complaints.
Beloit had eight homicides last year, many more than normal, according to a previous Gazette article. This spring, Rock County sheriff's deputies started patrolling targeted Beloit streets in response to the wave of shootings.
Following last year's homicides, Jacobs and his command staff “took prompt action to specifically address the homicide issue and alleged morale issues. These steps have proved effective in addressing these issues,” Mihelich's news release states.
His news release states Jacobs has always received favorable employment reviews and has never been disciplined. As chief, he has received positive reviews for his work ethic, quality of the department, communication and interpersonal skills, initiative and management skills. His most recent performance review from April 2014 rated him an “exceeds,” Mihelich said.
Curtis Luther said she thought it would be best to bring in outside expertise and additional depth for the interim chief position. She solicited feedback from two recruitment agencies, and Zibolski was on the short list of recommendations from both firms, she said.
In his most recent tenure with the Wisconsin Department of Justice, Zibolski served as the deputy administrator of the Division of Law Enforcement Services. Prior to that, Zibolski served 27 years with the Milwaukee Police Department, retiring as a police captain in 2011.
Zibolski and Curtis Luther met with police department staff during shift meetings Tuesday and said they plan greater visibility within the department. They also are seeking input from residents through community outreach meetings.
Curtis Luther said she stands behind the department as a whole and its officers, who are “positioned to do some really excellent work.” She also noted the report included positive findings.
Once completed, the results of the internal investigation will be presented to the Police and Fire Commission. Curtis Luther said she has no timeline, but the process would be expedited.