Eau Claire Police Chief Gerald Staniszewski plans to retire at the end of the year.
Staniszewski has been chief of police in Eau Claire since 2013. He has served as a police officer in Eau Claire for over 28 years.
Staniszewski’s retirement date will depend on the Police and Fire Commission’s plans to recruit a new police chief, as well as the needs of city manager Dale Peters’ office, Staniszewski said in a letter to the community Monday.
“I left it open because I wanted them to be able to plan a replacement, and with the city going through the budget process, to finish that as well,” Staniszewski told the Leader-Telegram Monday, saying he hopes for “a good clean transition to the next police chief.”
“We’re going to have to look hard and diligently to find a replacement,” said Daniel Kincaid, president of the Police and Fire Commission.
The commission plans to discuss recruiting a new police chief and possibly reviewing candidates for the interim chief position during a meeting 5 p.m. Wednesday at City Hall, 203 S. Farwell St.
The commission, made up of five citizen members, will have the final say in choosing Staniszewski’s replacement.
The group has the authority to hire, fire or discipline all officers, including chiefs, Peters said.
Wednesday’s meeting will begin in open session, starting with a presentation with more details about the recruitment process, said Victoria Seltun, city of Eau Claire human resources director.
The commission will likely enter closed session to discuss appointing an interim police chief, she said: “(That) would depend on the length of the recruitment process, if it looks like there’d be an overlap.”
Commission members will also decide if they’ll look internally for a local candidate, or begin a nationwide search for Staniszewski’s replacement.
“Those decisions will be made on Wednesday,” Seltun said.
Kincaid expects the recruitment process to take several months: “I think it’s unlikely the search will be done by the end of December ... we’ll have to decide if and when we’ll appoint an interim chief and how we’d do that.”
The commission received word about a week ago that Staniszewski planned to retire, Seltun said.
“I feel nothing but pride and honor for having the opportunity to be a part of this organization while serving the Eau Claire community,” Staniszewski wrote in the letter, which the department posted on Facebook Monday.
Staniszewski was appointed the city’s 19th police chief in November 2013, promoted from deputy chief of the detective division. He replaced former chief Gerald Matysik, who retired in 2013 after leading the department for a decade.
“Community-oriented policing” — and connecting with every neighborhood in Eau Claire by having officers attend every neighborhood meeting — was one of Staniszewski’s first priorities as police chief, he said.
“We can run crime statistics and data every day to determine what’s going on in town from a larger, crime rate perspective, but because we have so many neighborhoods, we really have to be there face-to-face to hear straight from the neighborhoods what they feel the problems are,” Staniszewski said.
Eau Claire’s crime rate saw an 11-year high in 2017, according to the department’s annual report, but the chief credits a subsequent dip in the crime rate in 2018 to “intentional efforts” at the department.
Under Staniszewski the department shifted toward new technology to track crime. The department transitioned in late 2017 from summary-based uniform crime reporting to a national incident-based reporting system, and began using new crime-mapping software in early 2018.
The department has changed patrol officers’ neighborhood schedules in an effort to connect with more residents, Staniszewski said: “If we talked about things we’ve changed or different philosophies, it’s a proactive policing style.”
Peters praised Staniszewski’s “strong leadership and dedication,” saying he’s continued a tradition of emphasizing crime trends after the department hired its first crime analyst in 2008.
“He’s also just a really nice guy and we’re going to miss him,” Peters said.
“We think the chief has done a very good job with the police department and with his community policing policies. We’ll be sad to see him leave,” Kincaid added.
Staniszewski is most proud of the department’s work with the Junior Police Academy, a week-long course that lets kids 12 to 17 years old learn from officers about law enforcement, and the five school resource officers who are placed in the Eau Claire school district, he said.
He doesn’t have clear retirement plans, but he’s looking to stay connected with the Eau Claire community and “serve in some capacity.”
“We’ve lived in Eau Claire longer than we’ve lived anywhere else, and we consider Eau Claire home,” Staniszewski, a native of Corpus Christi, Texas, said of his family.
During his time in Eau Claire, which began when he joined the police department in 1991, Staniszewski has worked with the Wisconsin Northwest Region FBI National Academy Associates, chaired the Chippewa Valley Regional Forensics Lab Advisory Board and served as a member of the West Central Drug Task Force Advisory Board.
“This was an amazing experience, both professionally and personally,” he said. “You want people to have good memories of Eau Claire, and as chief that’s part of my responsibility to make sure we have a great place to live and raise a family.”