County assists South Beloit police

County assists South Beloit police

By Shellie Berg

By Shellie Berg

Staff Reporter

On Feb. 1, the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Department took a more active role in aiding the South Beloit Police Department while the department is revamped.

On Jan. 25, the Winnebago County Board approved the agreement. Police Chief Jack Johnson resigned in October. On Jan. 22, another officer, Kevin Riordan, was subtracted from the force for personnel matters after Police Commissioner Maurice Kehoe fired him, with Beloit City Council approval. Five officers remain at the department.

“They had a force of 10 or 11,” Sheriff Richard Meyers noted. “Their force has been depleted quite a bit. We’ll be looking at the general administrative operations of their police agency and assist them in development of policies and procedures.”

Meyers said the county’s policies and procedures are written and are standard, but they are non-existent in South Beloit.

“That’s probably one of the reasons why the City Council is looking at rebuilding this,” he said. “There’s quite a few things that should be done that are not. It’s not unusual that the smaller agencies, by virtue of their size, don’t have the resources that we have, or experience.”

Sgt. Richard King has been acting police chief since Johnson left, but County Lt. Bob Springer is now overseeing daily operations.

The city is currently accepting applications for the police chief and the officer positions. When the city hires a police chief, the county would continue the agreement between Winnebago County and South Beloit for 60 to 90 days.

Eight months ago, the South Beloit City Council indicated to the county its police services could be useful. Meyers noted the entity inquired about whether either the county would create a contract or help the department rebuild, and the city chose the latter. “It’ll give us some liability protection, and it’ll cover our costs,” Meyers remarked.

Meyers said that besides Springer, the county officers who will work at the department won’t be forced to leave their sheriff’s department shifts. Rather, they will only work in South Beloit part time for overtime pay.

The sheriff’s department presently patrols unincorporated areas of South Beloit and works in the city when backing is requested.

“It was ironic after the board meeting—we took into custody an individual from Beloit who committed a burglary in unincorporated Winnebago County,” Meyers said. “That’s why it’s so important from a public-safety standpoint—someone needs to get a handle on it.”

South Beloit City Council Commissioner Randy Kirichkow said problems have festered for a long time. He said that in the last year, the sheriff’s department investigated the rape case of a 13-year-old and discovered the South Beloit police mishandled the case.

Kirichkow stated that the South Beloit police worked on the case for a total of eight days and supposedly solved it in three. The sheriff’s department investigation found that “the negatives heavily outweighed the positives. They just didn’t work on it.”

Kirichkow is pleased with the agreement because the department has had problems. “The old police department will no longer exist like it ever did before,” he said. “I just want to thank Sheriff Meyers for all of his help.

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He’s been very instrumental in helping us in this process.”

King added the county’s intervention is positive. “They’ve got the experience, and they’ve got the staff to do it,” King stated. “I believe, in the long run, the police department will benefit, along with the community.”

Meyers stated it’s imperative to aid other departments when they ask. He added that if the county would refuse, “the law enforcement in the entire county suffers because of that. That’s why when South Beloit asked, we didn’t hesitate to say, ‘we’ll give you a hand.’ I think the City Council should be commended for number one, realizing there’s a problem, and number two, to set out and correct that problem.”

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