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An end to search for a new chief?


Conditional offer goes to 32-year vet



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February 01, 2011 | 03:28 PM
Geneva — Steven R. Hurley has a pedigree.

The assistant chief and 32-year veteran of the Racine City Police Department has a master's degree in management. He's a 2000 graduate of the FBI National Academy in Quantico, Va. He is an adjunct professor at Concordia University and an adjunct instructor at The College of Lake County, Ill.

And if all goes as expected by Geneva Town Police Commission President Jay Hencken, Hurley will become the next town police chief.

Pending the outcome of a background check and medical and psychological testing, Hurley may take the place of former longtime chief Ed Gritzner, who retired last year after some controversy surrounding his alleged conduct at the FunFestival and his one-day suspension in March.

During a telephone interview Thursday, Jan. 27, Hencken seemed optimistic about Hurley meeting those lingering requirements. If he does, it is presumed Hurley will be the next town police chief.

"Obviously, you don't get to be an assistant chief of the Racine Police Department without having a good background, but there are still formalities," he said of Hurley.

The commission spent nearly four months looking for a new chief. It may have found one sooner than Geneva Town Chairman Dan Lauderdale expected. Recently, he said he hoped the commission would find one by March 1. Hencken said he notified Lauderdale of the commission's decision, which is final pending the outcome of Hurley's background check and testing.

At a Jan. 25 meeting, the Town Police Commission voted 5-0 to make the conditional offer of employment to Hurley. Hencken said it usually takes between three and four weeks to complete the background check and testing.

"I have high hopes that the background check isn't going to take three to four weeks," Hencken said.

He is one of five town residents who shared the arduous task of selecting someone to head a department which experienced some tough times last year.

Gritzner wasn't the only officer at the center of controversy. Former police Sgt. Robert Haase faced two felony charges stemming from the way he allegedly handled a sexual assault case. As an outcome of that case, Haase resigned from the Geneva Town Police Department.

So how does one make a decision which concerns every town resident?

On Jan. 27, Hencken said he's the type to look forward, not back.

"I viewed the start of this process as a golden opportunity to re-establish the reputation of this law enforcement agency (and) to bring a positive light," Hencken said.

But it wasn't an easy decision.

"Our job was made very difficult because of the high level and qualifications of all the candidates who came to us," Hencken said.

Applicants

According to information released Friday, Jan. 28, by the commission, 45 people either inquired or applied for the town police chief's position. Those who applied include former Lake Geneva mayor William Chesen, also a police officer in Racine; Walworth County SWAT Commander Tom Hausner; Lake Geneva Police Sgt. Bridgett Way; and David Kirmsse, a former police officer in the towns of Geneva and Bloomfield.

Hencken described the process of selecting a new chief, which began shortly after Gritzner's retirement became public in September.

According to Hencken, it was a five-step process, one in which the pool of applicants was narrowed with each step. The process involved a written test and interviews. The commission received help from a panel of area police officers, including Walworth County Sheriff David Graves, Lake Geneva Police Chief Michael Rasmussen, Walworth Police Chief Chris Severt and Lt. Laura Washer, of the Williams Bay Police Department.

Hencken said the commission conducted parts of the process in the Como Community church and the Lake Como Sanitary District building. He said the only part which took place at the Geneva Town Hall, aside from the Jan. 25 meeting, was the outside assessment conducted by the area police officers.

Although it's typical to see applicants ranked on a number scale, Hencken said the commission shied away from that, despite having narrowed down the candidate pool to three after exit interviews at the Sanitary District building.

"We had three and we selected one," Hencken said. "We didn't have a No. 2 or 3."

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