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Thursday, 15 October 2015 15:09

Interim chief interested in staying on if job becomes available

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Editor's note: This is an updated version of a story first published Monday, Oct. 12, 2015

BELOIT -- Although public’s focus has been on the fate of Police Chief Norm Jacobs and Deputy Chief Tim Dunkin, a quite transformation in culture has been taking place during the past 120 days, according to interim Police Chief Dave Zibolski.

Zibolski made no secret during a wide-ranging press conference Oct. 9, the day after Jacobs and Dunkin were notified that City Manager Lori Curter Luther would seek their ouster, that he would like the job full time.

(Beloit Police special coverage HERE)

Zibolski was hired in June by Curtis Luther after she placed Jacobs and Dunkin on administrative leave.

At the time, Zibolski had been looking to make a career move to police chief after serving as the deputy administrator for the Division of Law Enforcement Services with the Wisconsin Department of Justice. Before that, he worked for the Milwaukee Police Department for 27 years.

Zibolski said there has been major changes in the past four months.

For example, he said detectives still are actively working on the unsolved cases from a year ago.

"If you look at 2014, there probably were five or six people involved in many of those incidents -- either suspect, victim or witness -- so it turns out that a few individuals were doing a lot of bad things," Zibolski said.

That renewed focus on identifying and apprehending suspects, along with the partnering with the Rock County Sheriff's office, all have contributed to a significant drop in gun-related deaths over the past summer, Zibolski said.

One of the department’s major initiatives involves closer partnerships in the community.

The department has abandoned programs, such as the one that targeted certain individuals for minor traffic infractions as a way to search for illegal weapons, and instead has focused more on community relationship building.

The department has hosted several community symposiums, with the next one being Tuesday, Oct. 20, at Merrill Elementary School. The symposiums give community leaders and residents a chance to interact and share their ideas with the department, Zibolski said.

The department also has had success with the previously announced Parolee Roll Call Program, which brings those who recently have been paroled into the shift briefings where they are able to meet officers and get to know them one-to-one.

All of those programs are connected to an increased social media presence. The department posts an update on what officers were working on the day before. But rather than writing in traditional police news-release style, the posts are conversational and often quite personal.

In addition to building a bond with social media readers, police can get information out to the public, and most importantly, according to Zibolski, refute incorrect information that can spread rapidly online.

Zibolski says he also has instituted significant changes in the leadership structure at the department. Each shift now has a shift commander responsible for overall decision making, arrest review and media contact. In the past, officers often had to work their way up a chain of command to get critical decisions.

For the first time, the department has hired a crime analyst to sift through data to help officers with their investigations. It’s part of what Zibolski calls a transition to modern policing.

Less publicized than the shootings but more prevalent, Zibolski says he’s made major changes in the way sexual assault cases are investigated.

Shift commanders now are assigning follow-up on cases handled by patrol officers with an increased emphasis on identifying and arresting suspects.

All felony adult sexual assault cases now are being investigated by a detective rather than a beat officer, Zibolski said.

"Those victims now are getting the best of what we have to offer in terms of investigations," he said.

Zibolski said he considered the previous approach to sexual assault investigations to be unacceptable in terms of taking care of victims and preventing future victimization.

Zibolski says he’s trying to create an environment where officers can do the job that’s expected of them.

"I think the officers have been receptive to that."


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