Troup says Copley has ‘lack of performance’, says crime report was ‘misleading’ and doesn’t believe Vahlkamp was ‘top candidate’

Troup Copley Vahlkamp

Quincy Mayor Mike Troup, Police Chief Rob Copley (top) and Fire Chief Bernie Vahlkamp (bottom)

QUINCY — Quincy Mayor Mike Troup called Police Chief Rob Copley’s annual report to aldermen last month “misleading,” believes there’s a “lack of performance” in regard to Copley and doesn’t believe Fire Chief Bernie Vahlkamp was “the top candidate” when he was hired in July.

Troup made those comments during a Fire and Police Commission meeting Monday.

When told of Troup’s remarks, Copley replied, “If he’s got evidence of lack of performance, I would be glad to hear it. If he wants to take it to the commission and go through the commission with it, that’s fine. I’m happy with that. I’ve got no concerns.”

Much of Monday’s meeting was devoted to a proposed ordinance originally calling for the mayor to name a new police or fire chief, rather than the three-person commission. The ordinance was scheduled to be read for a third and final time Monday night. Troup said he plans to ask for it to be tabled.

However, Troup made several unexpected comments during the approximately hour-long meeting with commissioners Steve Meckes, Kerry Anders and Barry Cheyne in the City Council chambers. One member of the media and Jeff Bergman, a 2nd Ward alderman, were in attendance.

Anders: ‘Were you not happy with that selection (of Vahlkamp as fire chief)?’

Anders asked Troup when he decided to change to the current ordinances, which call for the police and fire commissioners to appoint the fire chief and police chief.

“We made the decision on July 9 about the person who was going to be the successor for the fire chief. Were you not happy with that selection?” Anders questioned.

“No, Bernie’s a good guy,” Troup said. “What I told Bernie (during a meeting last Thursday with the two deputy fire chiefs and two members of the firefighters union) was, of the three finalists who the stakeholders interviewed, I did not think Bernie was the top candidate. The other two finalists had more administrative leadership experience in a fire department. Bernie did not.

“When I asked why did you pick Bernie over the other two, Barry told me, ‘Personality.’ Well, I didn’t see personality on the job description or the responsibilities.”

What I told Bernie (during a meeting last Thursday with the two deputy fire chiefs and two members of the firefighters union) was, of the three finalists who the stakeholders interviewed, I did not think Bernie was the top candidate. The other two finalists had more administrative leadership experience in a fire department. Bernie did not.”

Quincy Mayor Mike Troup

“I said a lot of things,” Cheyne said.

“That was the first thing you told me,” Troup shot back.

“If it was, there was a lot of things that he had in good character that were there. There were pluses,” Cheyne replied. “The bottom line was that he scored better than the other candidates.”

Vahlkamp: I feel like a man is entitled to his opinion

Troup went on to say he believes Vahlkamp eventually will be a good leader.

“I talk to him at least weekly, and Bernie’s an intelligent person,” the mayor said. “He’s signed up for the (fire chief) training, which is a three-year program. Do I have a problem thinking he won’t complete that training? No, I don’t. I think he’s going to go through that fine. But he still doesn’t have the experience level that the other two candidates did. 

“Am I looking to change? This ordinance has nothing to do with Bernie being selected. Am I going to do something with Chief Vahlkamp if this (proposed ordinance) gets approved? There’s nothing that I have planned.”

Vahlkamp confirmed what Troup told the commissioners.

“He told me in our meetings that he thought I had the less administrative experience of the three, but not that I wasn’t capable of doing it,” Vahlkamp said. “I’m totally capable of learning the experience. I’ve been involved in fire departments for 24 years now at all levels. 

“I feel I have the support of the mayor to the extent that I really I believe he will work with me on my thoughts and directions. As far as the administrative side of this goes, a lot of it’s just about running budget numbers and that kind of stuff. I think I have a pretty good grasp on all that. I feel like a man is entitled to his opinion, and he’s allowed to voice it.”

Troup wants uniformed officers out from behind desks

Troup, who took office in May, also told commissioners he was surprised by “the number of uniformed officers that Quincy has in desk jobs compared to any other community” while studying about the pension challenges facing the Quincy Police Department during his mayoral campaign.

He said Copley told him during a recent meeting that it’s “more challenging now” to hire people who want to get into law enforcement. 

“Can’t we redeploy some of the people you have at the desk jobs back out into the public?” Troup asked. “Well, (Copley has) done very little of that, if any.

“I think we can replace a lot of those people with civilians, just like other civilians work in this building. They will be paid less, and the (Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund) benefit would be less than the police benefit. That’s something that can help the community from a tax-saving standpoint, and I think it would be more efficient.”

“I’ve tried to have this conversation with (Troup), and he doesn’t listen. He’s getting this information from who knows where. He has no concept of what is going on in the police department.”

QUINCY POLICE CHIEF Rob Copley

Copley said his budget calls for 73 police officers, but he currently has “58 or 59” officers on staff. He said he believes four people have “desk jobs” — himself, two deputy chiefs and an administrative sergeant.

“I’ve tried to have this conversation with (Troup), and he doesn’t listen,” Copley said. “He’s getting this information from who knows where. He has no concept of what is going on in the police department. Whoever he’s listening to is alluding to detectives. We have detectives, but they are not (doing) a desk job. They do a tremendous amount of very good police work.

“Under our current manpower issues, we are in the planning stages of having all of (the detectives) take some shifts and work the street. But if we don’t have detectives, then the officers on the street have to do follow-up investigation that takes them away from their patrol duties. If that’s what he’s talking about, he has a misconception of what detectives do and how this works.”

Troup says Copley’s contention that crime is down ‘is not correct’

Troup also took issue with the annual report that Copley provided to aldermen a month ago. Copley wrote in a letter to aldermen accompanying the report that the majority of crime statistics are down from previous years. He believes the decline was directly related to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“We did ask officers to conduct less self-initiated activity that was not related to life/safety issues so as to lessen contact with potential COVID carriers,” Copley wrote in the report.

“What’s the highlight of Chief Copley’s annual report? Crime is down. OK, that is not correct,” Troup said.

“The only thing that’s down this year is their arrests are down. The chief says because of COVID he doesn’t want his staff going out and arresting various people or going to the crime scene. Because of COVID restrictions, you could put more people in the county jail.

“To say in the report that crime is down is misleading to the public. Crime is not down. Matter of fact, my office gets calls weekly. ‘We’ve called for the police, and nobody comes by.’ They’ve got film on residential cameras, security cameras, (showing) the drug deals going off or prostitution. They’re called by citizens, yet the police doesn’t act like they get the calls. Those are the calls that I get to my office. OK, something’s not right.”

“To say in the report that crime is down is misleading to the public. Crime is not down. Matter of fact, my office gets calls weekly. ‘We’ve called for the police, and nobody comes by.’ They’ve got film on residential cameras, security cameras, (showing) the drug deals going off or prostitution. They’re called by citizens, yet the police doesn’t act like they get the calls.”

QUINCY MAYOR Mike Troup

Copley said he hasn’t heard from Troup about these calls.

“The first thing that wouldn’t be right is he’s not following up with me on that,” the police chief said. “If he’s getting those calls, he should be calling me, and he is not.”

Copley said he never told any officers not to investigate crimes and not to go to crime scenes.

“What we asked them to do was to limit non-life-threatening vehicle stops and encounters of that sort,” he said. “One comment I’d like to make is it troubles me that the mayor finds it necessary to talk about these things in an open meeting and not have a discussion with me.”

Troup: ‘How come the chief’s not responding to my request?’

After Troup spoke about the number of uniformed officers in desk jobs and the lack of response to calls about crime, Meckes asked, “What drew you to the conclusion that, with these concerns, you couldn’t work with this commission to address them?”

“There’s not a clear line that these chiefs report to the administration,” Troup replied.

“It is clear. It’s very clear. It’s written in the ordinance,” Cheyne said.

Cheyne was alluding to chapter 40 of the City of Quincy’s municipal code, which states:

“The mayor and the director of administrative services shall conduct annual evaluations of the fire and police chiefs. The mayor and director of administrative services may seek the advice and council from the chairs of the fire and police aldermanic committees. Such evaluations may include assessment and evaluation of the respective chief’s leadership, planning, organizational and administrative abilities, judgment and problems solving abilities, oral and written communication skills, attitude, skill in development of subordinate employees, relationship with subordinate employees, administration and the public, as well as such other matters which the mayor and director of administrative services may determine to be of assistance in evaluating the performance of the chiefs. The mayor shall report the results of such evaluation to the respective chiefs, the City Council and the Fire and Police Commission.”

Troup replied to Cheyne, “How come the chief’s not responding to my request? Why would do I have to go through three commissioners if, in fact, the chief reports to me? Why is he not following through with my request?”

Meckes said he couldn’t answer for Copley.

“I will then come to (the Fire and Police Commission) meeting Wednesday and file a complaint,” Troup said. 

“As far as I know, you have reporting responsibility for the chiefs. You set goals and objectives, and you do their performance review,” Meckes said. “Should there become a situation where the chief isn’t performing, I would think there would be a discussion amongst this group and a plan to address it.”

“OK, so let’s note that we’re talking about lack of performance starting today,” Troup replied.

Asked to comment about Troup’s concern about his performance, Copley said, “That’s the noise he’s making.

“The reason I’m not shocked by what you told me he said is because he’s been telling all the aldermen this when he’s trying to talk them into voting for his ordinance. I just can’t believe he would talk in front of a reporter in an open meeting about these things.”

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