After 42 years with Quincy Police Department, Copley announces plans to retire May 6

Copley announces resignation

Rob Copley, chief of the Quincy Police Department, reads his retirement announcement during Monday night's meeting at City Hall. In the background are, from left, aldermen Jeff Bergman, Dave Bauer, Kelly Mays and Parker Freiburg, City Clerk Laura Oakman and Mayor Mike Troup. | David Adam

QUINCY — Rob Copley made it through his resignation letter without shedding a tear.

“That was very hard,” he said. “I actually surprised myself that I read the letter as well as I did without choking up at all.”

After 42 years with the Quincy Police Department, with 18 as the chief of police, Copley informed the Quincy City Council during its Monday meeting of his intention to retire on May 6.

Copley appreciated the decision by the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners to inform aldermen of its intention to reappoint him as chief for a three-year term. The reappointment allows Copley to finish the 12th month of his 18th year.

Copley, 61, has been with the police department since 1980 and has been police chief since 2004.

“I was 19 (years old) the day I started as a police officer, and so I really don’t know another full-time life other than police work,” he said.

Cheyne: Process to find Copley’s replacement to begin ‘soon’

Copley said his goal had been to reach 40 years with the police department. When he hit that goal, he didn’t believe he was ready.

“I still had something I could contribute, so I stayed,” he said. “It kind of struck me last winter following the year of COVID and a year of a lot of change in all enforcement legislation and attitude towards law enforcement. A friend of mine once told me I would know when it was time. It occurred to me over last winter that it was time. So I talked with my family, and we came up with a plan.”

Barry Cheyne, one of the three members of the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners, was asked after the meeting when the board hopes to begin the process to replace Copley.

“Soon,” he replied. “We’re going to get active. We’ll reach out to some firms who do police searches for business.”

The city paid $11,400 to the Illinois Fire Chiefs Association to assist the fire and police commissioners during their search earlier this year to replace retiring fire chief Joe Henning. The commissioners interviewed eight candidates. Six lived outside Quincy. The police and fire commissioners eventually appointed Bernie Vahlkamp as Henning’s successor in July,

Cheyne wants successor hired by May 6

Cheyne said the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police provides similar services for assessing and interviewing candidates.

“There are other (organizations) out there who do executive searches as well,” Cheyne said. “We’ll reach out there, do some comparisons, see what services they provide. We’ll see what the price tag generators are and take them to the council to get approval on that before proceeding.

“We’re (going to be) looking at internal and external candidates. I think it will be time and money well spent if we use an outside source to help whittle that group down to a reasonable size.”

Cheyne hopes for Copley’s replacement to be in place before May 6.

“We’re not there yet,” he said. “We need to talk with the mayor and all. (In) the perfect world, you would hope you have his replacement on board before he walks out the door. Some overlap is always good.”

Copley’s wife notes lack of clapping from Troup in Facebook post

Quincy Mayor Mike Troup caught online flak from Copley’s wife, Christy, shortly after the meeting. She posted photos Monday night on her Facebook page showing Troup not clapping — while other aldermen were — after Copley’s announcement. She captured the photos from the live stream video the city provides for each meeting.

Troup also did not comment about Copley’s retirement during the City Council meeting. Only Richie Reis, D-6, and Katie Awerkamp, D-6, congratulated Copley at the end of the meeting.

Troup, however, was complimentary of Copley in a post-meeting interview.

“it’s not too often to have a 42-year veteran of the police force, and 18 years as chief, for any community,” he said. “He’s done a great job here in Quincy.

“I know you guys report there’s friction (between the mayor and police chief), but I’ve been working with the chief. Yeah, there’s probably not a department head (who I) see eye-to-eye (with) on everything, and that one has kind of been highlighted. But the chief continues to do a strong job, and he’s got a great staff.”

Copley’s plans? Relaxing for a while

Troup appreciated Copley approaching him last week with news of his retirement, giving the city plenty of time to find his replacement.

“In those critical leadership positions, you really don’t want somebody to give you to a two-week notice,” he said. “You want time to go through everything, because you just can’t put anyone in that slot. It takes the right skills, the right experience, to find the next chief. It takes months to go through the interview cycle.”

Copley says he will miss police work.

“What’s next is relaxing for a while,” he said. “I don’t have any firm plans. I stayed as long as I did because I didn’t want to be in that position when I walked out the door, I had to get another job. I’m in that position where I don’t have to work. I’ve got things I’ll do to relax, do some things around the house. When I get bored, I’ll find something else to do.

“I’m going to be honest. There’s always need for change. A new chief will need to put his or her stamp on the job on the department, but don’t change for the sake of change. … We may be appointed by a board and work for the mayor and the council, but ultimately we work for the citizens of Quincy. If you can’t keep that in mind and do things with them in mind, then you don’t need the job.”

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