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May 09, 2012 | 07:56 AMFONTANA — It will take some time before Jeff Cates is used to being addressed as sergeant.
On Monday night, the Village Board accepted the Police and Fire Commission's recommendation to promote Cates from patrol officer to sergeant. The second in command position opened up in October when former Lt. Brad Buccholz accepted a position as the Sharon Police Chief.
On April 28, the village's Police and Fire Commission interviewed Cates and three other Fontana Police Officers for the position. However, the commission did not make its recommendation public. It didn't even inform Cates or any of the other candidates.
On Tuesday morning, Cates said he applied for the job because he wanted to advance his career.
"I've been here for a little over 10 years and this was the next step," Cates said. "This was the next opportunity for advancement."
Cates joined the Fontana Police Department in May 2001. He also served as the village's community service officer from May 1999 to September 2000.
Last week, Fontana Police Chief Steve Olson said all four full-time police officers applied for the position. He said all four were qualified and he would have been comfortable with any of them.
By stepping into the supervisory role, Cates will now oversee some of his former peers.
"We all knew going into this that there was only going to be one person chosen," he said. "Everyone responded well and gave their congratulations."
Olson said all four officers had their own strengths and weaknesses. He said Cates' strengths include his specialized training and experience in sexual assault and drug investigations.
Cates is Fontana's contact for the Walworth County Drug Unit. He also serves as Fontana's contact for the Walworth County Gang Enforcement and Tactics Unit.
As a member of the Walworth County Sexual Assault Task Force he handles all sexual assault investigations in Fontana and has received training in interviewing children and collecting evidence.
Cates said his experience handling some of the departments more challenging cases — the sexual assault cases, the white collar crimes and burglaries — helped set him apart from the other candidates.
As for his weakness, Olson said Cates doesn't have any prior experience as a supervisor.
"His hurdle will be to show that he has the ability to be a supervisor," Olson said. "Not everyone has that ability. He will have to demonstrate that to me during his probationary period."
Cates probationary period ends after he works 2,080 hours.
More about Cates
Cates was born and raised in Fontana and graduated from Big Foot High School in 1999. He received an associate degree in political science from Gateway Technical College in 2001.
"I think its been beneficial," he said. "You know the area, the people and you know what to expect."
Having lived in the area, Cates said he has had to cite and arrest people he went to high school with or knows.
"I think everyone understands that is the job and if they are in the wrong that is going to happen," Cates said. "Whether it is me or another officer, the outcome is the same."
Becoming a police officer has always been an interest of Cates.
"It was an interest in high school and I pursued it," Cates said. "I just like the role of being in the community and meeting and greeting people in the community and being a face of the community."
He said he also enjoys being a police officer and fighting crime.
"There is a thrill and a rush going to heated situations and making quick decisions," he said.