Police and Fire Commission approves Kenosha Police Chief’s retirement, resignations from department

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KENOSHA ⏤ After approving Kenosha Police Chief Daniel Miskinis’ retirement, the Police and Fire Commission addressed the “significantly understaffed” department Tuesday morning.

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Retiring Kenosha Police Chief Daniel Miskinis.

Miskinis announced his retirement months ago, hoping to give the city time to find a replacement, as he states in his letter to Mayor John Antaramian.

The commission also unanimously approved the interim appointment of Eric Larsen as the department’s new chief. 

“He will do an outstanding job,” Miskinis said in his comments Tuesday morning. 

Miskinis has worked in law enforcement for 37 years ⏤ the past five years spent as KPD’s chief. 

However, younger officers with 10 years of experience or less make up large swaths of the resignations presented to the commission the past few months.

Expediting certified Kenosha police hires

As a result, this led the commission Tuesday to approve a measure that would differentiate between certified police officer candidates and non-certified candidates. Currently, according to Miskinis, candidates ⏤ both certified and non-certified ⏤ are put onto one list. 

Audio of the Police and Fire Commissions discussion on what Commissioner Richard Gallo called “significant understaffing” in the Kenosha Police Department. Property of Daniel Thompson/The Uptown Observer.

The department sought the approval of the commission to have two separate lists. The hope of the two lists is to expedite the hiring process of candidates who are already certified.

The only other change in hiring protocol is that certified candidates will not have to take a written examination. 

However, Miskinis emphasized, they will still have to pass the health, mental and other exams like any other recruit.

“We’re seeking to have a revolving recruitment process without a deadline,” Miskinis said.

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Commissioners’ comments on police staffing

The last item on the commission’s agenda Tuesday pertaining to the department focused on its staffing issue. 

Commissioner Leo Chiappetta cautioned the commission and department from rushing to fill the gaps in its roster too quickly. He wants the commission to ensure the city is still getting high-quality candidates. 

“I understand, as we look at these resignations, that we may be understaffed quite a bit,” Chiappetta said. 

The resignations also bother Chiappetta, he said.

“But I understand,” he added. “We have a different climate. But we still have to move ahead and work with that new staffing to maintain our police department.”

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During the commissioners’ comments portion, Commissioner Richard Gallo also expressed his discouragement at the number of police resignations the commission has recently seen.

“I am somewhat disheartened to go through several agendas where we have a fair amount of resignations. And I understand the thinking behind people making that decision.

But it does put a certain hamper. on the department to function when we are running at levels significantly understaffed.”

Police and Fire Commissioner Richard Gallo

Commissioners’ comments on Miskinis

Police Chief Daniel Miskinis’ letter to Kenosha Mayor John Antaramian announcing his retirement.

As Tuesday served as Miskinis’ last Police and Fire Commission meeting, interim Kenosha Fire Department Chief Christopher Bigley, as well as the commissioners, took time to thank Miskinis for his service.

“I want to congratulate Dan on his retirement and personally thank him for the advice and guidance he’s given me over the last four years. … He will be greatly missed by the fire department,” Bigley said.

“I know that certainly the last several months, last year has been much more tumultuous than any of us would have liked to have faced and I certainly wish you well in your retirement,” Gallo added. “A long and healthy retirement to you.”

Chiappetta also wished Miskinis well. He, too, commented on the tumult of his final year in office.

“I know people in leadership roles today are having a difficult time, and the only people who know how difficult it is are in those positions,” he said.

Commissioner Geri Cucunato kept her comments short and sweet.

“Chief, enjoy your retirement,” Cucunato said. “Well deserved.”

Final public comments on Miskinis

However, as has been apparent for a year now, officials’ opinions of Miskinis and the public’s differ greatly.

During the public comments portion of the meeting, resident Joel Trudell laid out a different take of Miskinis’ legacy.

And it is a take that many will most likely hold on to after the events of August 23, 2020.

“Chief Miskinis’ legacy will forever be stained by the actions of his police department beginning on Sunday, August 23rd, 2020 and thereafter. Chief, it was your officer that took away a man’s ability to walk. Your officer shot a man,not convicted of a crime, in the back seven times; paralyzing him.”

Kenoshan Joel Trudell

“Your officer sentenced a man to life without the ability to walk, no judge, no jury.”

Blame, warranted or unwarranted

Trudell’s comments also lay blame at the feet of Miskinis for the response to the “civil unrest” following the police shooting of Jacob Blake.

“Chief, it was then your department that failed to maintain control of the city you were put in place to maintain,” Trudell continues. “The facts are clear – with the burnt cars and destructed (sic) buildings that you failed your position and the residents of Kenosha.”

While this is often levied against Miskinis, it is important to clarify Sheriff David Beth led law enforcement’s response. 

This is the case as Beth is the emergency commander for Kenosha County; therefore, once the county sets up an emergency operations center, Beth assumes control over the response to the perceived danger or threat.

Parting words

However, Trudell’s parting words to Miskinis lay bare the tattered relationship between the department and the community.

In them, he states that “there does not appear to be accountability on the horizon.”

But “perhaps courage will find an alderperson or two,” he added.

“Perhaps an alder or Mayor will listen to what their neighbors are demanding,” he wrote.

“To Interim Chief Eric Larsen. Kenosha hopes you have learned from the opportunities of your predecessor and hopefully you can start a new page for Kenosha, moving forward.”

Kenoshan Joel Trudell

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