November 16, 2011 | 07:39 AMLINN — At the annual Halloween party in the fire station, children sprinted from game to game in the garage while adults socialized over hot dogs and refreshments in the meeting room.
For 55-year-old Police Chief Dennis Wisniewski, it was a chance to show off his "dress blues." It's also probably the last chance people had to see him in full uniform. Wisniewski begins his retirement Jan. 6, 2012.
"I wanted the people to know how proud I am of the uniform," Wisniewski said during a Nov. 3 interview about his decision to appear at his last party as chief in style. "I'm proud of the uniform, I'm proud of the profession and I'm proud to have represented the people of the town of Linn."
He said the Protective Services Committee's annual Halloween party always has been special to him, dress blues or not.
"It's the one event the Police Department can host that gives back something to the community," Wisniewski said. "It's a good interaction between all fire and police department members, the people in the community and the kids. Everyone gets to know us on a different level."
He said he enjoys seeing that unfold each year, seeing the children have a good time, talking to people "who the only time I ever see them is at this Halloween party."
Wisniewski said former police chief John Palmer started this party. It has occurred annually throughout Wisniewski's 22-plus years with the Linn Town Police Department.
Although he's retiring, Wisniewski said he's not leaving the area. He said he still plans to go to the Halloween parties every year, for as long as the committee will have them.
But he sounded eager to turn the page to the next chapter in his life.
"I have a lot of grandchildren to take care of," Wisniewski said. "I'm just excited to give back to my family."
The road to Linn
Originally from Chicago, he moved to Pell Lake in 1969. In 1976, at age 19, Wisniewski took his first police officer's job in Bloomfield Township.
He worked there until the early 1980s, then tried some "non-law enforcement" jobs — including working at a tree service and Morton Chemical. However, Wisniewski said he continued to work for the Geneva Lake Law Enforcement Agency for "four or five summers" prior to being hired as a police officer in Linn Township.
That's where he would stay, for 22-½ years.
"I liked law enforcement," he said about his decision to take the job in Linn. "It gave me a sense of accomplishment when I was able to do something for somebody, regardless of what it was."
Since then, he rose to the rank of captain, then served as interim chief from the time former police chief Joe Leedle retired to 1998, when the town hired Gerald Kerns.
On March 22, 2007, the Linn Town Board selected Wisniewski to be the next police chief.
He said as chief, he achieved several accomplishments, including helping to bring back the DARE program to the department.
But is that how Wisniewski would like to be remembered? He said he doesn't feel he should be remembered for anything "because it's not just me" working to protect and serve town residents.
"It's everybody in the department," Wisniewski said. "It's a team effort. Each one of us has something to offer. If anything, I'm just really proud to be a part of the team."
He said it's not just the team he will miss most after he retires, it's the camaraderie from other police chiefs and officers in other agencies.
"I've met a lot of very, very nice people in my 22-½ years," Wisniewski said. "I'm glad I had the opportunity to be involved in this profession."
He said his advice to the person who becomes the town's next police chief is the same thing he has heard from those former chiefs he served under, "to, as I was told, continue with the traditions of the department and take care of the people."
And as months become weeks before his last day on the job, Wisniewski offered one last humble bit of reflection on this job he has deeply loved and why now is the time for him to retire.
"Law enforcement is becoming more complex and I've reached the point that I feel it's time for me to try something different," he said.