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Friday, 06 January 2017 09:59

Northrop settling in as new town of Beloit chief

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New Police Chief Ron Northrop Jr. at his desk in the Town of Beloit Police Department. Northrop began working for the Town of Beloit Police Department in 2011 after retiring from the City of Beloit Police Department. New Police Chief Ron Northrop Jr. at his desk in the Town of Beloit Police Department. Northrop began working for the Town of Beloit Police Department in 2011 after retiring from the City of Beloit Police Department. Terry Mayer/staff

STATELINE NEWS -- Ron Northrop Jr. was going to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a firefighter, but early on he decided to take his public service career in a different direction and enter law enforcement.

The town of Beloit is glad he did.

"I realized real quick that I’m afraid of heights and I’m claustrophobic, so that didn’t work out as far as being a firefighter," Northrop said. "So, I went to the next best thing."

Northrop, who has worked in law enforcement for more than 30 years, was sworn in Dec. 27 as the new police chief for the Town of Beloit Police Department. Northrop replaces former Police Chief Steve Kopp, who recently retired.

Northrop has worked for the department since 2011 when he was hired as a part-time sergeant after retiring from the City of Beloit Police Department.

Now, he is looking forward to managing a staff of seven patrol officers, two sergeants and four part-time officers.

"We’ve got a good group of people here, good officers and good staff. It’s not about me, it’s about them," Northrop said. "They’re the reason why this department is doing well. Right now, I don’t know (if being named police chief) has set in yet, but the transition has been really smooth."

Diane Greenlee, town board chair, said that Northrop will do a quality job.

"We’re very pleased to have Ron as our new police chief. We had an excellent pool of candidates who each brought different skill sets," Greenlee said. "I’ve known Ron for a long time, since I was on the city police and fire commission. He’s a highly respected officer. I think he will continue some of the standards that Chief Kopp set. I think he’ll move us in the right direction."

Northrop said he plans to maintain some of the programs and services that Kopp developed.

"(Kopp) built a relationship with the schools and business community and with the citizens. I plan on doing a lot of that and continuing a lot of that," Northrop said. "One of my goals is to have open communication with our citizens."

For example, he is looking at starting a citizens’ police academy and plans to promote officers from within the department.

"I’m going to be promoting a sergeant, and we’ll have the opportunity to hire a couple of officers, too, so we’re in that process right now," Northrop said. "I want to make sure my staff is trained, that there’s a mentoring program and to develop my personnel to where they can actually step into this spot when it’s time. I think that’s very important for an organization."

Northrop said Kopp helped him prepare for the police chief position.

"His views as far as policing techniques are a lot like mine," Northrop said. "I think we worked really well together in developing some of the strategies that happened over the years. It was an easy transition. He walked me through as far as what works for him. A lot of his systems that he’s implemented here work. He’s a good mentor."

Learning the ropes

Before coming to the town of Beloit, Northrop worked for the City of Beloit Police Department for about 27 years in several positions, including sergeant, field training officer, field training officer supervisor, evidence technician, evidence technician supervisor, DARE officer and mounted patrol officer.

"There are a lot of aspects that I was involved in with the Beloit Police Department," Northrop said. "I have to admit, as far as my training and experience, I can’t thank the City of Beloit Police Department enough for the training that they gave me and the opportunities that they gave me as far as preparing me for this position."

Northrop completed his training in 1984 through Blackhawk Technical College’s police academy. He also attended the American Academy of Arts in Chicago and started his career with the Beloit Police Department as a forensic sketch artist. He said several of his drawings helped the department solve cases.

"We had an incident where a suspect robbed and beat up a Beloit College student. (The victim’s) jaw was broken. I went to the hospital to interview him, and his jaw was wired shut. I had a hard time understanding him, but I ended up doing a drawing, and I passed it around during a briefing. (One of the officers) looked at the drawing and said, ‘Yeah, I know who it is,’ and they went out and (the suspect) was him," Northrop said. "Then we had another incident where a little girl was sexually assaulted, and I interviewed her, and she gave me a good description of the suspect. (The same officer) said, ‘I know who that is,’ so I had at least two cases where I did a drawing that helped solve cases."

High-profile cases

Among the high-profile cases that Northrop has worked was the 2014 abduction of Kayden Powell that grabbed nationwide headlines. The baby was abducted by his aunt and later was found in Iowa.

"The day the infant was located, we had a press conference and Chief Kopp stood up there and showed a picture of the child and said, ‘He’s located and he’s safe.’ That’s when you realize this job is worth it," Northrop said. "I don’t think there was a person who was involved in the investigation that didn’t have a sinking feeling that the child wouldn’t be OK. It was probably the highlight of Chief Kopp’s career."

Social media and policing

Northrop said one of the changes he has noticed throughout his career is more use of technology and social media.

"When I first started, we had a little squad box, and we wore our radios ...," Northrop said. "(Social media) is where the communication is. I call my kids, and they don’t answer their phone, and I get a text asking, ‘What do you want?’ Well, I want them to answer their phone. I want to talk to them, not text. But that’s what’s happening, so as we get into recruiting for law enforcement, those are the things we have to look at as far as what to do to market this profession, because it is coming down to that."

Northrop said he’s noticed fewer younger people interested in entering law enforcement.

"We don’t have the number of applicants we had in the past," Northrop said. "I don’t know if it’s because of the anti-police aspect. There are a lot of things the state requires as far as the amount of credits with an associate’s degree to get into the profession. A lot of kids who go into college may have ambitions to be a police officer or get into civil service, but when you look at the private sector there are more opportunities."

Early years

Before going into law enforcement, Northrop worked at Bergner’s Shoes in Beloit.

He later was offered a manager’s position at Freeman’s Shoes in Skokie, Illinois. However, around that time, he also was offered a job with the Beloit Police Department.

"My wife and I went down (to Skokie) to look at the store, and she cried all the way down there and all the way back because she didn’t want to move to Skokie, but at the time it was good money and it was a beautiful store," Northrop said. "That was on a Tuesday. I was supposed to let them know on Wednesday if I wanted to take the position.

"Wednesday morning, I got a call from the Beloit Police Department, because I had put in an application and went through the training process and I was on a list. They called and asked if I was still interested. So, I called my wife and I said, ‘Do you want to move to Skokie or stay home, because I was offered a police officer position with the Beloit Police Department.’ She said, ‘I don’t want you to be a cop but I don’t want to move to Skokie,’ so I ended up putting in for the police officer position. My start date was Oct. 31, so I always call my police uniform my Halloween costume."

Northrop and his wife, Tammy, have been married more than 30 years.

The couple have three adult children, Stacy, Thomas and Brooke. Thomas works as an officer for the Janesville Police Department.

Northrop also enjoys hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities.

"I’m more of an outdoors type of person," Northrop said. "That’s what I do as far as my spare time. I don’t know how much of that I’m going to have now. It’s going to be a challenge, but I’m pretty excited about working for these guys."

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