BELOIT - The Beloit Police Department is seeing multiple retirements of longtime veteran staff, from sergeants to patrol offices.
The department is saying farewell to sergeants Edmund Gates and Mark Douglas, along with patrol officers John Baumgartner and Richard Sears III.
The officers agreed they would miss the camaraderie with fellow department staff and helping make the Beloit community a safer place through conflict resolution and problem solving.
Gates joined the department in May 1994; Douglas in April 1989; Baumgartner October 1988 and Sears August 2007, according to department data.
Chief David Zibolski said he wished all departing officers a "happy and healthy retirement."
"Retirements from the law enforcement profession are often bittersweet," Zibolski said. "As a department, we are happy to see our colleagues successfully complete a challenging, but rewarding career, and move on to the next stage of life. At the same time, we will miss them, as well as all the effort and commitment they brought to our department and community."
Douglas joined the department in 1989, after working as a security guard for multiple businesses in Rockford including Singer Mental Health and Rockford Memorial Hospital. Douglas started as a patrol officer and was promoted to sergeant in 2007. In his time at the department he worked as a the crisis negotiator and served as a certified training officer.
"I think the department has a responsibility to be more engaging with the community than in the past, and we have to talk to residents so that they help us to be able to do our jobs," Douglas said.
He said his most memorable moment with the department came when he responded to a fatal motorcycle accident in 2013, where he unknowingly comforted family members of the victim.
"Doing the right thing that particular day was giving the right person a hug," Douglas recalled.
He said he doesn't have concrete retirement plans, but is looking forward to the relaxation that will accompany his retirement.
Baumgartner knew he wanted to be a police officer from the time he was in school at Black Hawk High School in South Wayne, Wisconsin, during his first ride-along with an officer. From Gratiot, Wisconsin, Baumgartner is a graduate of Blackhawk Technical College.
He served as a canine unit handler for six years in the early-to-mid 90s, a school resource officer at Beloit Memorial High School from 2000 to 2005, also serving as an evidence technician, a relief court officer and police union president from more than 10 years.
"After working here for more than 29 years there are a lot of friendly faces and good people that I have met along the way and now it will be feel different," Baumgartner said. "I have said working in Beloit is like opening a Cracker Jack Box; you know there is always going to be a surprise inside and it might come when you begin your shift or at the end, but there is going to be a surprise."
Baumgartner said his fondest memory with the department came with his former K9 partner Fronz.
"The time we had was very special and the amount of joy watching people interact with him and the smiles he put on little faces is sadly missed," he said fondly.
Sears spent nearly 25 years outside of the policing world until he sought a career change from retail management, joining the department as a second shift patrol officer for the entirety of his time with the department.
Sears, who is from Washington's Crossing, Pennsylvania, served as a court/warrant officer for just over two years until stepping in as the department's Crime Stoppers coordinator until the role was shifted to the detective bureau. For seven years, Sears worked with command staff to develop changes to the department's training and standards. Before the program's elimination, Sears served as the department's police chaplain.
The longtime patrolman earned a lifesaving award for performing compressions on a man who was not breathing.
"Several months later, he came to our shift briefing and presented me with my life saving award," Sears said. "That is what it is all about," he added emphatically.
Sears said he will miss helping resolve conflicts, noting that "Conflict resolution seems to be a dying art, and we in law enforcement must work hard on perfecting our skills in this area," Sears said.
An avid ATV rider, gardener and camper, Sears said he will head into the ministry and devoting time to his chaplain's work by being ordained as a pastor in two years.
"I plan on continuing to serve the men and women in law enforcement, providing them spiritual care during crisis situations," Sears said.
Gates did not immediately respond to request for comment as of press time.