Council increases budget for police chief search

When former Police Chief Jim Coan resigned his position in early March, the Police Commission was left with the proposition of finding his replacement.

While the commission could hire Interim Police Chief Lisa Otterbacher, they must conduct a search in accordance to state and federal laws of equal opportunity. In order to do this search, the commission must bring in an outside firm to help execute a comprehensive search for a successor.


The commission’s search for an outside hiring firm was made significantly easier May 3 as the Whitewater Common Council unanimously approved a Police Commission request to increase its budget for the selection of the outside services.

The budget increase will allow the Police Commission to spend up to $14,000 in its search for a firm to aid in the hiring process. $8,000 has already been allocated for the search, but the money already earmarked may not be enough for the commission to find the right company.

Police Commission President Jan Bilgen said recruiting a consultant service will ensure the Police Commission’s search is comprehensive and complies with all state and federal laws in regards to equal opportunity.

“Our desire is to make sure we have assistance in the areas of identifying potential [police chief] candidates, but also providing the necessary background check,” Bilgen said.

The commission received quotes back from seven companies, but two weren’t considered since they were in excess of $15,000 over the budget. Of the five firms being considered, only three will conduct background checks on the job hopefuls, but the asking price of those companies all exceed $13,000.

Otterbacher, a 21-year veteran of the Whitewater Police Department, said she will be applying for the open police chief position.

Throughout her first few weeks as Chief, not much has changed for Otterbacher from the time when she was Lieutenant.

Otterbacher said while she hopes the Police Commission chooses her for the position, she understands the search it must conduct is for the betterment of the city.

“My passion is for the community and the police department, and they deserve the best,” Otterbacher said. “So why would you just give it to somebody without making sure? It’s about finding the right person … and I hope I am, but if I’m not then I’d be honored to work for a great chief.”