Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

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New chief focuses on strengthening community relations

by Steve Targo

May 05, 2011

Steven Hurley
Geneva — Steven Hurley greeted the woman with a hello and a hug after she walked into the Geneva Town Police Department office. He said he hasn't seen her since they used to work together on a trip each year to Lake Beaulah with about 100 inner city children to teach them how to fish.

Hurley escorted the woman into the meeting room of the Town Hall. She is helping organize another fishing trip with the Lake Como Yacht Club tentatively called Take A Kid Fishing.

"It's the first event we have coming up, and we're able to partner with the Yacht Club on it," Hurley said. "But certainly we'll be involved with the FunFestival and the cardboard boat races."

This announcement comes from the town of Geneva's new police chief, a 53-year-old man from Racine who worked for the city's police department for 33 years. He retired from that department in February as its assistant chief.

Hurley also is an adjunct professor teaching business and law at Concordia University and an adjunct policing services instructor specializing in cultural diversity and ethics at Lake County College, Ill.

With all that experience in a larger community, why come to the town of Geneva? Hurley said he's been asked quite a few times why he wouldn't want to go to a bigger police department. Racine has 202 police officers.

But at this point in his life, Hurley said he was looking for a smaller department to lead at a less hectic pace.

"I felt like I gave the city of Racine what I could for 33 years and I could use my experiences to bring some new ideas to the town and a different perspective on how we do policing out here. I've done just about anything and everything you could think of in my career," he said.

Perhaps a man with Hurley's background is just what the town needs.

Last year, after some controversy stemming from a one-day suspension and allegations about his conduct at the FunFestival, the former police chief retired. Another officer resigned after facing felony charges stemming from how he handled evidence in a sexual assault case.

Hurley said that's all in the past.

"I have been told there has been some negative light cast on the department," he said. "My main objective is to repair the damage. Even prior to my arrival, I think the officers identified that and took steps to repair it."

So how does a new police chief turn things around?

"We just don't want to be a stand-alone Police Department," he said.

"We want to be a part of this community."

When asked how great is this challenge, Hurley replied instantly.

"I think we're already well on our way," he said.

Consistent behavior

equals trust

Hurley said so far, he has introduced himself to local business owners and made a recent appearance at the Lake Como Beach Property Owners Association's Senior Club.

"I'm trying to promote the Police Department," Hurley said. "The community is actually very fortunate because they have excellent police officers working here. They're very well-trained. They know what they're doing."

He said he has received a warm reception.

"Most of the business owners gave me a business card and shared the history of their businesses with me," Hurley said. "Everybody has been very welcoming. In the short time I've been here, I have not run into any negative responses."

He said he didn't expect any negativity, and it's easy to see why.

"I use this in school," he said. "I don't take credit for saying it, but I've heard consistent behavior over time equals trust. I really think if you do the right things and you do them with sincerity you don't have to worry about complaints."

When he discussed his philosophy about policing a community, what stands out is his love for people and his desire to be fair.

"I do have a heart for people and being a police officer, whether it's patrolman or chief, you have to have a heart for people," Hurley said.

Perhaps it's in his upbringing.

He said his father spent 27 years as a patrolman for the Racine Police Department. At the age of 19, Hurley decided to become a police officer. He was hired by the Racine department when he was 20.

Hurley said one of his strengths is objectivity. He said he's always willing to listen to an opposing viewpoint. There may be a disagreement, but he said not much gets accomplished when people butt heads.

He also said ethics and high visibility are important for police officers because they set the standard.

"I wear a uniform and when I go out, I drive a marked vehicle just to add to that presence," Hurley said.

He said it's important for police officers to set the example for others in the community to follow, for them to exhibit fairness because they are held to a higher standard.

Hurley said despite the misconceptions some may have about police officers, not all of them view their jobs as being undesirable. He said not all of them become different people when they don their uniforms.

Hurley said he knows of countless officers who have compassion for people.

"Really, you're a servant," Hurley said about being a police officer. "That's why you got into the job. I've talked to my officers and they're all in agreement with me in that philosophy.

The town has some very excellent officers. They have my full confidence in them when they're out there."