These are the three finalists who were publicly interviewed to become Middleton’s next police chief

The three were questioned in a public forum at Middleton's City Hall that allowed them to address why they would be the best fit for the role of Middleton's police chief

MIDDLETON, Wis– The Middleton Police Department will soon name its new chief. On Wednesday, a public forum was held at Middleton City Hall to publicly interview the top three finalists for the job. One of them will replace now retired and former police chief Charles Foulke. More than 60 members of the community attended the forum.

The top three candidates are:

Troy Hellenbrand: Current captain at the Middleton Police Department. Hellenbrand has been with the department for the past 25 years.

Kevin Warych: Currently in his 18th year with the Green Bay Police Department.

Ken Clary: Currently a captain with Iowa State Patrol. Clary has been with Iowa State Patrol for the past 25 years.

A list of six questions was given to the three candidates. Each candidate was given three minutes to answer each question.

The questions were as follows:

  1. Tell us a little about yourself, focusing on your educational background and work history and why you would be a good fit for the Middleton Police Deparment. 
  2. How would your department handle issues of diversity and inclusion, both in the public and on the force?
  3. What would you do to offer your officers the support they need, both as officers and as human beings?
  4. In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge facing law enforcement agencies today and how would you propose to handle the challenge?
  5. What have you done in your past police leadership positions to promote safety in schools? What would be your strategy to maintain school safety in Middleton?
  6. What have you done in your past police leadership positions to promote accessibility and communication between yourself and residents, business and governmental leaders? What would be your strategy to accomplish this in Middleton?

The candidates’ responses to some of the questions are summarized below:

On diversity:

Hellenbrand: “A police department can only be as successful as the support we get from the community.” Hellenbrand emphasized the issues he currently sees when it comes to the disconnect between people of color and the Middleton police department. He said he hopes to address these issues as chief.

Warych: “We need to make sure we are intimately engaged with them, we know their hopes and dreams and fears. We need to make sure our officers can relate to everyone in the community. If there are fears of immigration or deportation, they have a direct line of communication.”

Clary: “A diverse police force is more beneficial of the community we serve. However, we have done a horrible job of that.” Clary said he wants to focus on figuring out why it has become so difficult to attract and retain officers nationwide, and particularly to attract a good number of diverse individuals to more accurately represent the communities they serve. He also emphasized how important it is to have more women represented in police departments and plans on implementing a cultural competence training if selected as the new chief. “It’s all about transparency, collaboration and inclusion.”

On providing support for officers:

Hellenbrand: “Employee wellness is a top priority. I plan to implement an annual mental health day for officers to talk to someone about any struggles they might be dealing with.” Hellenbrand referred to the “unacceptable” suicide rate among officers across the nation

Warych: “The golden rule is to treat others how you want to be treated. I’m genuine. It doesn’t matter what position you hold, everybody has value. That’s me as a person. That’s me as your future chief. My approach will be 24 hours a day. People will have my personal number.”

Clary: ” Everybody is unique. Everybody has a unique situation at home and at work. Your troubles at work and at home can overlap. Peer counseling and having a mentoring group is essential. We train our officers to prepare for the threats outside but what are we doing to prepare them for the problems going on internally?” Clary mentioned the high rate of suicide among police officers across the nation and said he doesn’t want that to escalate any more than it has.

On top issues law enforcement faces today:

Hellenbrand: Hellenbrand touched on the top issues involving suicide rates among officers, building positive relationships with the community, and the number of juveniles committing crimes. He said he wants to make employee mental health a priority, provide positive interactions with the community and build relationships with schools and community groups for kids to tackle the problems before they happen.

Warych: Warych said the number one issue is establishing positive relationships in the community. He said there are people who may have had bad experiences with cops in the past, but he wants reestablish those relationships and build more positive ones.

Clary: Clary said recruitment and retention of officers is a huge problem that law enforcement faces today. He mentioned that if more officers were able or willing to join, it might be easier to work out some of the other issues previously mentioned.

On keeping schools safe:

Hellenbrand: Hellenbrand formerly served as a school resource officer where he implemented a numbered door system to easily communicate with law enforcement and emergency medical crews in case they ever needed to gain quick access in a school. He also said he frequently provided his personal contact information to students and parents to keep an open line of communication to make them feel safe.

Warych: “We need to prepare for the worst day. We need to train our officers to make sure they know the building layouts of every school and know the janitors. The janitors know everything.” Warych said it is a parent’s worst nightmare to find out there is an emergency at their child’s school. He wants to be able to assure parents their kids will be safe.

Clary: “Anonymity and trust in schools” is something Clary said is important. He said when students are able to tell adults about an issue that “raises the hairs on the backs of their necks”, that’s integral in preventing bad things from happening. He also said he wants to work with schools and local groups on how to best practice prevention methods.

Members of the public were given feedback sheets at the beginning of the forum, where they were able to rate each of the candidates on a scale of one to five based on each of the candidates’ leadership experience, knowledge of current best practices/ policies in policing, commitment to building relationships across government agencies, positive attitude, approachability, public speaking skills and engagement in the community.

The police commission and council members collected the sheets at the end of the questioning process, went into closed session and deliberated on who their top pick was for the job. An announcement of who got the job will be made sometime next week.

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