Zibolski arrived in Beloit last June as interim police chief after then Chief Norm Jacobs and Deputy Chief Tom Dunkin where placed on administrative leave, pending an investigation into the department’s management. Beloit City Manager Lori Curtis Luther filed charges against Jacobs and Dunkin in October and recommended that they be terminated from their positions. Jacobs and Dunkin later entered into a separation agreement with the city, which led to their retirement on Jan. 31.
The process of hiring a permanent police chief to replace Jacobs was not without controversy. The Beloit Police and Fire Commission initially voted to hire then Rockford interim Police Chief Patrick Hoey. However, some city council members and community members pressured the fire and police commission to reconsider their vote, which eventually led to Zibolski being hired as the permanent police chief.
"We had a fairly long process in which the work of the prior administration was under review," Zibolski said. "That process took some time, and even after that was resolved there was some time completing the selection. Through that whole time period, there was some uncertainty. And when you have that level of uncertainty it’s hard for everyone in the department to commit 100 percent to what you’re trying to do because they really don’t know if you’re going to be the person who’s going to be here long term or not."
Zibolski said his main goal as police chief is reducing crime in the community.
"We want to make Beloit a safer and more prosperous city," Zibolski said. "I think we want to follow the same path that it’s on, but the safer it is and the more prosperous it is, the more likely we are going to grow. It’s a beautiful area, and I think this area suffers from a perception that outpaces the reality. I think that’s something that we need to look at in terms of branding, not only for our department but for the city and community."
Luther said she feels Zibolski will do a good job of heading up the police department and helping to reduce crime in the area.
"Under the leadership of Chief Zibolski, we are a community united and are committed to working together to reduce crime, fear and disorder in our neighborhoods," Luther said.
Another one of Zibolski’s goals is to expand the department’s community policing program.
"We’re going to be looking at different ways and programs in how we can better partner with our citizens and people in the neighborhoods for active engagement, not just by police calls for service or by stopping someone at a traffic stop, but actually getting out and making contact with citizens and neighborhoods, just to have contact with them and to better understand the concerns they have in their neighborhoods," Zibolski said. "So, there’s a variety of ways we can do that, so we’re going to be looking at all avenues, maybe piloting some things and if it doesn’t look like it will be successful, we’ll try something different."
Since his arrival, Zibolski has established a shift commander program, partnered with other area police agencies and has involved the community in some of the department’s decisions.
"We have community members from different areas of Beloit being on the panels to help us assess new officer applicants and sitting in for interviews for sergeant promotions," Zibolski said. "You start to involve the community in police operations, and they have a better feel for what’s going on and that helps build that trust, so they can see what the process is all about."
Zibolski said the Beloit Police Department has quality officers who are willing to serve the community.
"The people who work here are very dedicated," Zibolski said. "They want to make the community better and they want to be the best cop that they can be to prevent crime and to provide justice for those who are victimized. We’ve had really good, positive responses from the community and good support."
Career in law enforcement
Zibolski said he has been interested in working in law enforcement since he was a child.
"From early on as a kid, I’ve always wanted to be a cop," Zibolski said. "I like the public aspect of it. I like the idea of protecting those who can’t protect themselves. It’s the service aspect that draws me. It’s kind of a passion. It comes from the heart really, because it’s something you really want to do."
Zibolski has worked in law enforcement for about 31 years. He worked for the Milwaukee Police Department for 27 years and retired from that department in 2011 at the rank of captain. While working in Milwaukee, Zibolski established a cold case unit, which cleared a number of unsolved homicide cases, including the case against Walter Ellis who was charged with killing several women in the Milwaukee area from 1986 to 2007.
"That entailed going back and looking at 400 homicides going back to the mid-90s," Zibolski said. "The first year of operation, they cleared six or seven homicides and the establishment of the unit was the reason Walter Ellis was discovered, because part of reviewing those cases was reviewing the evidence and identifying which evidence was good enough to be analyzed again and sent out, because DNA technology had advanced to such a point where cases that we looked at previously could be re-examined with greater scrutiny. That’s when they had DNA matches for several open homicides, which ultimately led to the discovery of Walter Ellis."
After retiring from the Milwaukee Police Department, Zibolski worked for the Wisconsin Department of Justice Division of Law Enforcement Services.
He helped establish a statewide training program for the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
"Prior to that, there wasn’t a leadership program for cops across the state. Partnering with the IACP allowed training and standards to be funded throughout the whole state, so cops could get really important leadership training," Zibolski said. "(The training) is pretty intensive. It deals with human behavior and understanding our own behavior, so you and your team are more successful."
Zibolski and his wife have been married for 30 years. The couple has two daughters, one of which works for the Department of Justice and is attending law school. The other daughter works as a graphic designer for a company in Minnesota.
"Somebody’s got artistic talent in the family," Zibolski said. "Not me, but I can do really good stick people."
During his free time, Zibolski enjoys outdoor activities such as camping, hunting and hiking.
"A great thing about this area is the biking trails and the hiking trails," Zibolski said. "So, I’ve started to check those out. Both my wife and I are into exercise and outdoor activities."