Janesville34.2°

Panel names interim chief

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Kevin Hoffman
March 17, 2011
— Lt. Lisa Otterbacher will lead the Whitewater Police Department while an outside agency searches for a permanent replacement for retiring Chief Jim Coan.

The city's police commission Wednesday unanimously approved the decision days before Coan is set to leave his post. Otterbacher, who has been with the department for 21 years, already was considered second in command.


"I promise to keep the police department consistent and steady," she said, "and turning no boats around or tipping them over, and keeping them straight and narrow until the full-time positions is filled."


Coan, who spent 18 years as Whitewater's police chief, tendered his resignation earlier this month. He accepted a similar position with Centennial Lakes Police Department, north of Minneapolis, to be closer to family.


His last day is Saturday, and he is expected to assume his new role Monday.


The police commission Wednesday entered the early stages of selecting a new chief by reviewing various consulting firms to advertise the position and screen candidates. The city council Tuesday approved $8,000 for the search.


Three firms already have expressed interest—two based in Wisconsin and one in Illinois. The commission plans to accept additional proposals before its April meeting.


Details in Coan's contract still need to be ironed out. He left the department in 2006 to become police chief in Hudson, Minn., only to return after two weeks. The city then added a stipulation to his contract requiring him to pay a $10,000 penalty if he left the department within five years.


The city council met in closed session Tuesday during its meeting, but no decision has been made on whether that penalty will be enforced.


Coan was presented with a plaque by City Manager Kevin Brunner during that meeting, commemorating his years of service with the department.


Whitewater Police Department in 2008 became the smallest in Wisconsin to earn accreditation, and Coan is credited with cutting its budget by using community service officers and interns.



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