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Assistant chief ready for retirement

Assistant chief ready for retirement


There’s nothing special about March 3.

That day has “no rhyme or reason,” said Assistant Police Chief Michael Reuss. It’s just the day he picked to retire from the Lake Geneva Police Department.

Once he leaves, the position of assistant chief will also be retired. The duties of the assistant chief will be folded into the responsibles of two lieutenants.

“He’s retired. What can I say? I’m envious,” joked Lake Geneva Police Chief Michael Rasmussen.

More seriously, he said that the department is losing 28 years of experience.

Rasmussen noted that the assistant chief position was created to take advantage of Reuss’ experience. “The city had never done anything like that before,” the chief said.

The two officers worked together for many years. Rasmussen said he started as a reserve officer about the same time that Reuss started as a full-time officer.

And while the department is going to lose valuable experience, “it does open things up for growth and new ideas,” Rasmussen said.

Started as jail guard

Reuss started as a corrections officer with the Walworth County Sheriff’s Department in 1983. He spent seven years working in the jail as a guard.

It wasn’t his first career choice.

“When I graduated from high school (in 1979), I wanted to be a physical education teacher,” he said.

But then, unemployment was high and he didn’t have enough resources to go to college, he said.

Reuss took the corrections job when it became available. But it wasn’t his career path.

“I didn’t want to be a corrections officer my whole life,” he said.

Finding a path in law enforcement, Reuss was hired by Lake Geneva as a reserve police officer in 1987. It was that year that he also went to the academy at Mount Scenario College, Ladysmith. The college has since closed.

He has an associate’s degree and a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Gateway Technical College.

Reuss said he worked part-time in the summers as a Lake Geneva reserve officer and full-time as a Walworth County corrections officer until 1990.

Lake Geneva Police Capt. Bob Peters, father of Lake Geneva Fire Chief John Peters, hired Reuss as a full-time officer.

The hiring process was different back then, Reuss said.

Reuss said he was hired to fill a vacancy created when former Police Lt. Tom Nelson retired. He went to school with Tom Nelson’s son, Jeff Nelson, who recently retired from the Glendale Police Department.

Reuss said he and Nelson were school and professional friends. And they still keep in touch, he said.

Reuss has a number of family connections with law enforcement.

His father-in-law, Donald Ketchpaw, was Walworth County Sheriff.

Reuss’ brother, Tim, is a sergeant with the Northwestern University Police. And, said Reuss, his niece, Kim Ketchpaw, is a city of Elkhorn police officer. Kim’s husband, Taylor Bass, is an officer with the town of Delavan.

Joined drug unit

In 1994, Reuss spent a year as part of the Walworth County Drug Unit.

In 1997, Reuss was promoted to sergeant. As sergeant, Reuss did field training, riding with new officers to observe their practical application of police training.

He was a Defense and Arrest Tactics (DAT) instructor.

Reuss organized a Lake Geneva police SWAT team and was its first commander. The Lake Geneva SWAT worked with the Walworth County SWAT team, and the two organizations eventually merged.

Sgt. Dan Derrick has since taken over SWAT from Reuss. “He’s good at what he does,” Reuss said of Derrick.

Reuss was promoted to lieutenant in 2005. He held that rank for about three years, and then was promoted to assistant chief on Feb. 17, 2008.

As assistant chief, Reuss was responsible for the patrol staff and the school resource officers.

Mostly, said Reuss, as assistant chief, he relied on his subordinates to do their jobs.

“I had some really great sergeants who worked for me,” he said. “They ran their shifts. They were responsible. That’s huge.”

Reuss said he’s noted changes in how police work is done.

In some cases, it’s positive.

Training is more comprehensive now, said Reuss. When he was in the academy, training took 400 hours.

Now, training takes 720 hours, he said.

Defuse situations

Officers are now practicing community policing again. They’re using communication to defuse situations and tone down tense encounters.

“If we can communicate and defuse a situation, it’s better,” Reuss said.

This year, Reuss was the head wrestling coach at Badger High school.

The goal is to have a positive impact on kids, he said.

Reuss said he’s coached off and on at Badger over the past 10 to 12 years. This past season he was the head coach.

But it’s not a situation that will necessarily continue.

“The ideal situation is to have a coach in school with daily contact with the kids,” Reuss said. “I can’t do that.”

“Will I do it in some capacity next year? I don’t know,” he said.

“I think I’ve done a lot in law enforcement,” said Reuss. “It’s time to move on and do some of the things I missed.

‘Good career’

“I’ve had a good career,” Reuss said.

Reuss said he owns a a small side business, a painting company.

Reuss said one thing he will not do is work at his wife’s store, Geneva Gifts, a business that has been in his wife’s family for years.

He said he did some work in the store in the past, but it’s something he “deliberately tip toes around.” He admits his knowledge of retail is minimal at best.

“It’s her business. It’s who she is,” he said.

The Reusses have a son, 28, who lives in Minneapolis, and a daughter, 26, who is a dancer in modern ballet. She lives in Chicago, but is moving to Florida later this year.

“I’m fortunate. I have two great kids,” he said.

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Chris Schultz has been a reporter for more than 40 years. He has been with the Lake Geneva Regional since 2010. He covers the Lake Geneva City Council and the Lake Geneva area schools.

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