illinois Digital News

Joliet’s National Police Chief Search: Only 4 Applicants


JOLIET, IL — Joliet’s Human Resources Director Kathy Franson received only four applications after posting the job opening last Oct. 12 as part of a national search to hire a new permanent police chief to oversee one of the largest municipal departments in Illinois, Joliet Patch has learned.

The Joliet Police Department has about 250 sworn officers and 60 civilian employees.

On Tuesday, Joliet Patch broke the news that retired Cook County Sheriff’s Lt. Bill Evans will become the next Joliet police chief, marking the first time since the 1990s that Joliet has hired a police chief from outside the department.

Find out what’s happening in Jolietwith free, real-time updates from Patch.

Last week, Joliet Patch submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to city officials seeking information regarding Joliet’s police chief hiring process.

On Wednesday, Joliet responded to Patch’s FOIA questions with the following answers:

Find out what’s happening in Jolietwith free, real-time updates from Patch.

Patch: The number of people who submitted applications for the position?

Joliet’s response: 4

Patch: The number of people who have withdrawn their applications?

Joliet’s response: None

Patch: The number of people who have been notified by the city of Joliet that they are no longer being considered for chief of police opening?

Joliet’s response: None

Patch: The number of people from outside Illinois who applied for the position?

Joliet’s response: None

On Wednesday, retired Will County Sheriff’s chief deputy of investigations Nick Ficarello, who later served as the Braidwood chief of police, told Joliet Patch that he was one of the people to apply for the Joliet police chief opening.

Ficarello said he was with the Will County Sheriff’s Office from March 1978 until September 2009. He was Braidwood’s police chief from April 2015 until April 2019.

In November 2020, Ficarello ran as the Republican candidate for Will County Executive, losing to Democrat Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant, who garnered 53.9 percent, with 172,941 votes, while Ficarello had 46.1 percent, with 147,673 votes.

Patch asked Ficarello what motivated him to apply for the Joliet police chief position?

“I’m always up for a challenge,” Ficarello remarked.

In November, Patch reported how the Joliet Police Department continued to be the recipient of negative statewide and national attention and instability at the top of the police administration.

At that time, one of the country’s largest newspapers, USA TODAY, reported that members of Joliet Police Sgt. Javier Esqueda’s Joliet Police Supervisors Association voted 35-1 to expel Esqueda from their group during a vote Wednesday night at the Joliet Moose Lodge building.

Mike Devito, the Fraternal Order of Police Labor Council president for the patrol officers, told Joliet Patch in late October that “we are desperately looking for someone who can come in and mentor this young department and lead them out of this turmoil and back to where we were.”

During Wednesday’s interview with Patch, Ficarello said he did not know that Evans was in the running for the job, but believes Evans will make a fine chief.

Ficarello said he met Evans on a couple of occasions over the years when Ficarello ran the SWAT unit for Will County and Evans was a supervisor with the SWAT team for Cook County.

“I’ve met Bill, and he seems like a pretty competent individual,” Ficarello said.

Manhattan Republican Nick Ficarello told Patch that he applied for the Joliet police chief opening. File/John Ferak/Patch

When asked if he was surprised that Joliet only got four applications for police chief after four months of posting the job opening, Ficarello answered, “Yes, it does, especially for a department the size of Joliet.”

The city of Joliet established several desired minimum qualifications that would have prevented several hundred police chiefs and deputy chiefs in smaller to mid-sized cities across Illinois, and elsewhere, from being considered.

For instance, Joliet’s HR director stated that applicants for Joliet police chief should have “a minimum of 10 years of actual working experience in a law enforcement organization and a minimum of five years in a command-level position in a law enforcement organization with 200 or more sworn personnel.

On Oct. 6, Joliet City Manager Jim Capparelli got rid of Dawn Malec as Joliet’s police chief after less than nine months in the job.

Prior to Malec’s hiring last January, Al Roechner, Joliet’s chief of police the previous two-and-a-half years, agreed to retire as part of a financial settlement worked out by outgoing interim city manager Jim Hock during Hock’s final days on the job before Capparelli took over.

The arrangement gave Roechner a raise of more than $31,000 to spike his Joliet police pension as well as his retirement payout for his unused sick days, vacation and comp time accruals as an incentive to get Roechner to leave Joliet on his own accord.

After determining that Malec was not the right person to lead the Joliet Police Department, Capparelli installed Rob Brown as interim chief in October. Capparelli made it clear that Brown would be serving in that role on a temporary basis, and would not become the permanent chief.

Since Malec’s demotion back to patrol lieutenant, Brown served as Joliet police chief for most of October, all of November, December, January and he still remains in the position. Last January, Brown was promoted from a lieutenant to deputy chief of operations.

As for Evans, the retired Cook County Sheriff’s Department lieutenant ran against incumbent Sheriff Tom Dart in the 2014 Democratic primary, finishing second out of four candidates on the ballot.

The 54-year-old Evans spent nearly 25 years with Cook County. According to his Wikipedia page, “Evans became Gang Crimes Sergeant in 1997, focusing on high crimes areas in Cook County including Ford Heights, Cicero, Melrose Park and Maywood. He also served as a Sergeant in the Cook County South Suburban HIDTA Initiative (High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area) where he supervised the Street Enforcement Team.”

His Wikipedia page also noted that Evans “commanded the Special Operations Group from 2003-2005, including the Organized Crime/Intelligence Section, the Vice and Gambling Section and the Hostage Barricade Terrorist Team. Evans was assigned to the Office of the Deputy Chief of Special Functions, overseeing the Emergency Services Bureau until December 2010.”

Joliet did not post a salary for its police chief opening, indicating the salary depended on qualifications.

Bill Evans of Chicago is coming to Joliet to bring stability to the leadership of the Joliet Police Department. File/John Ferak/Patch

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