Joliet Police Chief Brian Benton has given notice of retirement and will begin taking paid leave at the end of August.
His notice of retirement, effective Nov. 27, comes at a time when Joliet is leaving two of four deputy chief positions vacant in anticipation of a restructuring of the command positions in the police department.
“It’s in the best interest of the police department, and the city as a whole, for a new chief to come in and move forward with his command staff,” Benton said. “I anticipate another deputy chief retiring in the coming months. I don’t know if it’s fair for me to pick these three positions if they’re going to be there for another chief moving forward.”
Benton is only 49 but said he will become eligible for retirement when he turns 50 in November.
The pressures of the job and time away from his family were factors in his decision to retire, Benton said.
“It’s a very stressful job,” he said. “There’s a lot of pressure that most people wouldn’t realize when they aren’t in it.”
His notice of retirement came a day after a request to fill one of two vacant deputy chief positions was pulled off the agenda for a meeting in which the Joliet City Council was to vote on the matter.
City Manager David Hales said he does not want to fill the two vacancies until the city resolves a dispute with the police supervisors union that could lead to the elimination of four captain positions.
Deputy Chief of Administration Tab Jensen retired in July, and Deputy Chief of Technical Services Brian Dupuis retired earlier this year.
The deputy chief structure was created in 2014 under Benton. Also appointed at the time were Deputy Chief of Operations Al Roechner and Deputy Chief of Investigations Ed Gregory, who remain on the job.
Benton said that a number of people in key positions in the police department are reaching retirement age, and he believes it best for a new chief to be in place if those positions open up.
Although Benton’s official retirement date is Nov. 27, he will begin taking paid leave at the end of August, Hales said. Benton said he will assist in the transition, but he may no longer effectively be leading the department by September.
“The immediate task is to work on naming an interim chief,” Hales said.
Hales and Mayor Bob O’Dekirk met Thursday to begin discussing the process of hiring a new police chief. The process will have community involvement in some form, he said.
“We want a very engaged process with opportunities for the entire community to give input,” Hales said.
He called Benton “a consummate professional.”
“[Benton] has a passion for moving forward to continuously improve how law enforcement is delivered and recognizes, especially these days, how important it is to have relationships with all members of the community,” Hales said.
O’Dekirk commended Benton for his leadership during a time when police departments have come under fire in many communities.
“It’s been a very difficult time for law enforcement all over the country,” O’Dekirk said. “He’s done a good job leading the department.”
Benton emphasized community outreach in the department.
“I am very proud of the relationships that I have helped foster in our community, especially in some of our underserved communities,” Benton said.
The Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies presented Joliet police with an Accreditation with Excellence Award in July, the second consecutive time the department received it under Benton.