RPD navigating upcoming retirements and hiring

‘We have good supervisors in place and we’ll hire hard’

Jeff Helfrich
Posted 2/10/22

Rochelle Police Department Chief Eric Higby said Monday that the city is currently working to replace four retirees this year, one of which has already occurred.

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RPD navigating upcoming retirements and hiring

‘We have good supervisors in place and we’ll hire hard’


ROCHELLE — Rochelle Police Department Chief Eric Higby said Monday that the city is currently working to replace four retirees this year, one of which has already occurred. 

Deputy Chief Jeff Leininger retired last month and was replaced by the promotion of Terry Inman. Higby said three more retirements are planned for the rest of the year and RPD recently finished taking applicants for patrol officers at the end of January. 

The next steps for hiring include written tests, oral interviews and psych, poly, background and medical evaluations before applicants would go to the police academy in late April if hired and if they haven’t already been to it. Higby said RPD could get some lateral applicants that have already worked as officers elsewhere that could result in a new hire being on the street faster. 

The three planned retirements are currently slated throughout the remainder of the year. Potential promotions would fill those positions and open up patrol officer positions for new hires.

“It’s very difficult,” Higby said. “When you start having to make changes, it complicates things further. Summer is a busier time with policing and people have vacations and we’ll have to replace detectives. We need to bring people up before we need them and we need bodies to replace retirements. It will be tough with timing. We have to stay on our timeline.”

Higby said he has six police academy spots he can use this year if needed for new hires. He would like to hire four officers if RPD is going to lose four due to retirement this year. Hiring would ultimately be up to City Manager Jeff Fiegenschuh.

Applications across the country for law enforcement positions are down. But, Higby said he was pleased with the recent turnout the city received for its openings. From what the chief knows, similar agencies are getting 6-8 applications for open positions. RPD received 18.

“That’s not bad right now,” Higby said. “I think the laws in Illinois along with national coverage of policing is playing a factor in the number of applicants and qualified applicants we’re getting being down. I know when I tested here years ago there were 150 people testing for 1-2 positions and now it’s 18 testing for four different positions.”

Higby called the situation of applicants being down “unfortunate” and said the hiring process is all predicated on finding good applicants. 

“It’s a job that’s near and dear to our hearts,” Higby said. “It will continue to be a job that needs to be done by qualified people. It’s still quality applicants we’re getting, there’s just less of them.”

Higby said that as police work has changed over the years, more manpower has been needed. Officers are spending more time on things like training and Freedom of Information Act work due to changes in laws. While more training has come about, time patrolling still has to be done. And more training requirements are coming in the future, he said.

Inman was sworn in Monday to start his duties as deputy chief. John Kaltenbach, who was recently promoted to detective sergeant, was sworn in as well. Both men will be sworn in officially at a future city council meeting as well. 

Higby called Inman’s new position of deputy chief a “critical position” within the department. Inman will serve as chief when Higby isn’t available and run the day-to-day aspects of RPD. Inman has a master’s degree and “all the experience needed,” Higby said. 

RPD is authorized to have 21 sworn officers. It now has 20 since Leininger’s retirement. Over the years with moving officers into school resource positions at Rochelle Township High School and Rochelle Middle School, less officers have been available for patrol. 

“If those guys were still on the street, we’d be fully staffed,” Higby said. “Would we like extra people? Sure. But those costs add up and it would be a lot of extra cost.”

Along with the four planned retirements this year, Higby said there are at least three more officers in the department that could retire. Any officer with 20 or more years on the job or coming up on age 50 is eligible for retirement. That’s why the city started planning for this situation “a couple of years ago,” but unfortunately, new officers can’t be sent to the academy that far ahead of time, Higby said.

The chief called institutional knowledge and having veteran officers important. RPD is fortunate to have officers in the middle of their careers who can be promoted to replace retiring officers, Higby said. Training will also aid in the transition, as new sergeants will have to go to supervisor school and new detectives will get more training as well. 

“It will take a while to get things running the way they should be,” Higby said. “I don’t think it’s a concern for the future of the department. We have good supervisors in place and we’ll hire hard. New people are good. They start on the street and work hard and get more seasoned and well-rounded. An infusion of youth is good.”