Joliet names first female police chief

Newly installed Chief of Police Dawn Malec speaks with the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners on Monday, Jan. 11, 2021, at Joliet City Hall in Joliet, Ill. Malec was named JolietÕs Chief of Police on Monday morning.

Lt. Dawn Malec was named interim police chief on Monday, becoming the first woman to hold that position in Joliet.

Malec was a lieutenant in the patrol division who joined the Joliet Police Department in 1994.

“I’m excited. I’m happy to be here,” Malec said Monday before the start of a meeting of the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners. “I’m humbled by the opportunity.”

New City Manager James Capparelli said he will take resumés before making a final decision on who gets the job on a permanent basis but said it could be Malec’s job if she wants it. He pointed to her master’s degree in public safety administration as part of Malec’s qualifications for the job.

“I took a look at all the various folks that I thought were capable of doing the job,” Capparelli said. “She has a master’s degree. I think she’ll bring a fresh perspective to the police department.”

Malec has been a lieutenant since 2014.

She started with Joliet as a patrol officer and was promoted to sergeant in 2009.

A news release from the city noted her master’s degree from Lewis University, a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Governors State University, and an associate degree from Richard J. Daley College. She is also a 2013 graduate of the Northwestern University School of Police Staff and Command program.

Naming her as interim police chief was Capparelli’s first major decision since being hired Friday as city manager. But Capparelli said then that he planned to act immediately on the appointment of an interim chief.

In the meantime, Malec has control over personnel decisions concerning the four deputy chiefs in her command staff.

“That’s her department and her deputy chiefs,” Capparelli said. “She will keep them or not keep them.”

Malec said she had not made any changes in command staff in her first day on the job.

But there are expectations of changes coming.

“I look forward to working with her,” Todd Wooten, new chairman of the fire and police board said of Malec after the Monday meeting. “I’ve known her for years. And, I hope she puts together a very accomplished and diverse command staff.”

Malec’s appointment comes after former Police Chief Al Roechner on Friday gave notice of his retirement effective Jan. 21. But Roechner cleared out his desk that day and was not returning to work, according to then interim City Manager Jim Hock.

Roechner’s departure on Friday had been rumored for days with speculation at times centering on Malec as his replacement.

Mayor Bob O’Dekirk did not return a call seeking comment on Malec’s appointment.

Councilwoman Jan Quillman, chair of the City Council Public Safety Committee, said that she had heard there were four potential candidates for the job.

“I don’t know Dawn Malec that well,” Quillman said, adding that she knows a bit about her from her husband, Tom, a retired Joliet police officer.

“My husband did work with her years ago,” Quillman said. “He said she’s a good officer.”

Quillman said she wished Malec well and would work with her.

Asked to comment on the city hiring of its first female police chief even on an interim basis, Quillman said, “It’s about time we had a female police chief. Let’s have a different perspective for a while and see how she does.”