Town of Beloit Police Department looks to reconnect with residents
If you go
What: Town of Beloit Police Department open house
When: 4 to 7 p.m. Tuesday.
Where: Town of Beloit Police Department, 1133 Inman Parkway, Beloit.
Details: Tours, safety activities, snacks and more.
BELOIT TOWNSHIP It's not a brand-new building anymore, nor is Steve Kopp the brand-new chief.
But Kopp thinks enough has changed in the Town of Beloit Police Department that it's time for an open house.
The public is welcome to tour the department and meet the staff Tuesday evening. In addition to equipment displays, snacks and goodie bags for the kids, the event will include free child identification kits for parents and free car seat safety inspections by a certified technician.
Kopp said he feels good and settled into the job after eight weeks in his role as interim chief.
"I won't say there was a huge learning curve," Kopp said. "Police service is police service, no matter where you do it."
Being settled in does not mean things aren't interesting, he said.
"This is a profession that really every day presents something new," Kopp said. "You never really get comfortable because you're always dealing with something new."
Kopp intends the open house to be a first step in reestablishing the department's connection with the community after a string of bad publicity, Kopp said.
The town of Beloit and its police department need each other, Kopp said.
"With the recent turns of events and changes in personnel, it's a good time to invite the public to sort of reestablish a connection to the community," Kopp said.
In the short term, Kopp's goal is to maintain full-time police coverage in the township, he said.
With one officer out on extended sick leave and two new officers in field training, that's not easy, he said.
With the recent addition of two patrol officers, the department is fully staffed as authorized by the town board, Kopp said. The two officers will finish field training and be ready to take patrol shifts in late July or early August, he said.
Including those two officers, the department now has eight full-time members and one part-time member, he said. That includes five patrol officers, two patrol sergeants and a part-time officer, Kopp said.
The board has given Kopp approval to hire another part-time employee, who probably will start working in May, he said.
"We're still in this phase of scheduling difficulties," Kopp said.
Officers will continue to work overtime to keep an officer always on patrol and avoid relying on other agencies, he said.
Once the department is operating at an optimum level, the focus will turn to long-term goals of improving traffic safety and crime prevention as well as safety issues in the Beloit Turner School District, Kopp said.
When the town board voted 3-1 in February to hire Kopp as interim chief, the timeframe was expected to be three to six months before the town conducted a search for a full-time search.
Town Administrator Robert Museus said Friday the town board decided a few weeks ago to delay for 60 to 90 days any decision on searching for a permanent chief "to give them time to consider what's best for the department as it moves along."
He said the board would decide in late June what to do next.
Kopp said earlier he wanted the position full-time and would only accept the interim position if he could apply for the full-time position.
Kopp is a Beloit Township resident and retired in 2009 from the Janesville Police Department as deputy chief.
Kopp said he hasn't had any formal conversations with town administration or elected officials about the long-term job.
"I know there have been some community members that have urged the board to not spend money on the search because they feel like there's a qualified person in the position," Kopp said.
If the town decides to conduct a search, Kopp said he would put his name in.
"It's fine with me, whatever they wish to do," Kopp said. "If they're going to do a search, I'll put in for it and compete."