Joliet Police Chief Roechner sets exit date, replacement may come sooner

Joliet Police Chief Al Roechner has effectively retired as police chief.

“I got a copy of his retirement letter,” interim City Manager Jim Hock said Friday morning. “It will be effective Jan. 21. The pension board meets Jan. 20th.”

Hock would not elaborate on his reference to the pension board. But sources said Roechner’s departure is tied to an arrangement affecting his pension.

While the retirement does not take effect for another two weeks, Roechner will be immediately taking comp time and not returning to work, Hock said.

Hock, who himself was on his last day of work for the city, said he did not know what arrangements have been made in police command but noted Roechner is “still the chief.”

New City Manager James Capparelli, questioned while he was waiting before the City Council voted to hire him Friday, said he needed to find out more about the police command situation but intended to address it immediately.

Capparelli, who starts Monday, said he would likely put an interim chief in place before making a decision on who would be the next police chief.

Roechner’s retirement while sudden was not unexpected.

Speculation had been rampant all week that Roechner would not be on the job past Friday, largely because of the pending change in city managers.

Hock said he met with Roechner on Thursday.

“We talked about his future here, what that means with me no longer in this seat,” Hock said. “He made a decision.”

Capparelli comes in with the backing of the Mayor Bob O’Dekirk, who has been at odds with Roechner since at least September 2019, when Roechner wrote up a report saying O’Dekirk had falsely accused a police sergeant of being drunk while working security at the Fiesta en la Calle event. O’Dekirk in turn declared that the chief was under an investigation that was being conducted by the mayor’s inspector general.

The two have continued to clash over issues, including the handling of the firing of Brian Nagra, a former police officer awaiting trial for allegations of theft related to doctored payroll sheets.

Roechner turned over an investigation into O’Dekirk’s skirmish with two Black Lives Matters protesters in May to the state police, who are still looking into the matter.

O’Dekirk in June called for an Illinois Attorney General investigation into police treatment of Eric Lurry, who died after ingesting drugs in the course of a police arrest, and the department’s handling of police video showing the incident.

Roechner has not returned repeated calls since Thursday evening.

O’Dekirk also did not return a call seeking comment.

Roechner has been chief since December 2018 after serving three months as interim chief following the retirement of Chief Brian Benton. He had previously served as deputy chief, rising through the ranks in Joliet after starting as a patrol officer in 1991.