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Thursday, 15 October 2015 15:47

Special report: Fate of Beloit police chief, deputy chief in hands of commission

Written by  Dennis Hines, Dan Plutchak
Beloit Police Chief Norm Jacobs answers reporters’ questions Tuesday after a news conference in which City Manager Lori Curtis Luther recommended that Jacobs and Deputy Chief Tom Dunkin be fired. Beloit Police Chief Norm Jacobs answers reporters’ questions Tuesday after a news conference in which City Manager Lori Curtis Luther recommended that Jacobs and Deputy Chief Tom Dunkin be fired. Gina Duwe/Gazettextra.com

BELOIT -- Beloit officials want to fire their two top police leaders, but both men have vowed to fight what they call politically motivated charges.

The final decision on the fate of Chief Norm Jacobs and Deputy Chief Tom Dunkin, who were placed on administrative leave June 16 by City Manager Lori Curtis Luther, lies with the six-member Beloit Police and Fire Commission.

The commission’s first meeting regarding Jacobs and Dunkin is scheduled for 5 p.m. Monday, Oct. 26, according to William Henderson, attorney for the commission.

The meeting will be similar to the court system’s pretrial conference, and attorneys and commission members will set dates for the hearing, he said.

(Beloit Policed Department special coverage HERE)

(Download reports and documents HERE)

The meeting will set in motion a process that has been coming to a head since the two police leaders were placed on paid administrative leave by Curtis Luther after she received a preliminary report from consultant Hillard Heintze outlining what she said were management problems with the department.

Concerns about management in the department first were addressed by former City Manager Larry Arft, who recommended early this year that the city hire a consultant to do a review of the department.

By a vote of 6-0, the city council on Feb. 24 approved hiring Hillard Heintze to do the assessment of the police department.

Arft retired June 3 and incoming City Manager Luther, who had been the manager in Peoria County, began her job June 1.

A little over two weeks later, Curtis Luther placed Jacobs and Dunkin on leave.

On Tuesday, Curtis Luther outlined the charges she has filed with the commission.

The charges forwarded to the commission aren’t criminal charges, but constitute the complaint that will be considered by commission members. Luther said criminal charges will not be pursued against Jacobs and Dunkin.

"I do not take lightly the severity of the recommendations nor do I take lightly the severity of these actions," Curtis Luther said during a Tuesday news conference. "Beloit deserves better."

City Council President Charles Haynes said he and the council agree with Luther’s recommendations.

Haynes and interim Chief David Zibolski flanked Curtis Luther during the news conference.

"It is absolutely imperative that we act. We cannot tolerate the behaviors revealed in the investigations," Haynes said during the press conference.

In a joint statement from attorneys for Jacobs and Dunkin, the two men said they were not surprised that the city manager would seek their removal.

"The city manager threatened to destroy these men if they did not resign," the statement read. "The filing of these exaggerated charges is simply the result of the city manager acting on her threat."

Curtis Luther went into detail on several of the charges contained in the nearly 60-page charging document.

Luther said the charge of attempt to hire a candidate with a felony record relates to a candidate that applied for a police officer position who had a first-degree sexual assault charge of a 12-year-old child. She said she believes the candidate had a personal relationship to Dunkin.

Luther also said that the charge of mismanagement of evidence related to 17 missing firearms discovered in a recent evidence audit.

"There had not been a thorough audit in 20 years, and we are determining based on that audit, that there were 17 firearms that couldn’t be accounted for," Luther said. "It’s possible that they were destroyed and we don’t have the evidence to prove that they were destroyed as they should’ve been. With that said, we can’t say if something else happened to them either, so that raises some serious questions. We haven’t completed that evidence audit, and we are going to be continuing that in a very detailed process."

Now that charges have been filed, the police and fire commission is required by state law to conduct a hearing within 10 to 30 days.

Luther said after a hearing is conducted, the police and fire commission will move forward with the process of hiring a full-time police chief. Zibolski has been serving as interim police chief since June.

"Depending on the outcome, I would expect to have the police and fire commission to have a process to allow candidates to apply," Luther said. "It’s highly probable that we would be lucky to keep (Zibolski) until then, that our interim chief would be a candidate but there’s no guarantees. It’s an open process, and the police and fire commission will manage that process."

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