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Police Chief Hegerty's resignation causes reverberations

Milwaukee Police Chief Nannette Hegerty's unexpected (but not totally surprising) retirement announcement Friday morning impacted the city and its police department on many levels -- some obvious and some intangible -- and the reverberations will be felt for months and years to come.

On "the day after," here are some facts, reactions, questions and observations:

FACT: Hegerty, 56, was sworn in as the Milwaukee's first female police chief (17th overall) on Nov. 19, 2003, and expects to end her three-decade career with the department on Nov. 16.

"It has been a privilege to serve this community as a law enforcement officer for more than 30 years, and a distinct honor to serve as the Chief of Police for the past three years," Hegerty said in a five-paragraph memo that announced her decision.

"There is much work to be done before my retirement in November. I am confident that we, as a team, will continue to move the Department forward throughout my tenure as Chief of Police."

OBSERVATION: Hegerty's announcement jolted the city's newsrooms on a "slow news day" that would have been dominated by reports of unseasonably balmy weather. We still got shots of busy golf courses and empty ski hills, but the Hegerty story was an obvious lead despite the fact that the chief did not make herself available for interviews.

REACTIONS: While the Chief was in hiding, politicians issued statements and comments from every direction. A sampling:

Gov. Jim Doyle: "I want to thank Chief Hegerty for her years of outstanding service and dedication to the City of Milwaukee. She is an incredible leader for our community and a great role model for women across Wisconsin as the first woman to lead the department.

"In the face of some of the most demanding circumstances, Chief Hegerty has shown wisdom, poise and precision in keeping Milwaukee safe. As citizens, we put our faith in our state's police officers, and Chief Hegerty worked tirelessly to affirm that faith. I thank her for her service and dedication, and wish her all the best for her future."

Milwaukee County Board Chairman Lee Holloway: "I wish Chief Nannette Hegerty well in the next chapter of her life. I thank Hegerty for her more than 30 years of law enforcement service to the community. Serving as Police Chief of Milwaukee is a complicated job. The Department has grappled with the beating of Frank Jude, Jr., and the numerous police-involved shootings in the city in recent years.

"But we need to reassess this position. We need a new chief that can handle the complexities of this job, bring even more progressiveness to the force, forge a positive working relationship with the Milwaukee Police Association and help produce the best police officers in the country.

"We also need to reassess the level of criticism that was unfairly placed on Arthur Jones when he was Chief of Police. The 'code of silence' that was discovered during the trial involving the beating of Frank Jude, Jr., was embarrassing. You can't operate an effective police department in that type of situation. Public safety is one of the most important functions of local government."

Mayor Tom Barrett: "I have enjoyed working with Chief Hegerty and have tremendous respect for her as a person, as a law enforcement officer, and as an administrator. At the same time, I respect and understand her decision to spend more time with her husband and pursue her personal interests. Her legacy at the Milwaukee Police Department will be one to build on.

"Chief Hegerty has had a distinguished career and during her tenure as Milwaukee's seventeenth - and first female - Police Chief, she has implemented policies and strategies that have strengthened the Department and steeled our shared resolve to create a safer, stronger Milwaukee. I am personally thankful for her commitment to the citizens of Milwaukee and the high professional standards she has established within the Department. She has clearly raised the bar."

Ald. Robert Donovan: "I'm saddened by the news that Police Chief Nan Hegerty will retire at the end of her term this November. I have enjoyed a lengthy and positive working relationship with the Chief, and have a deep and abiding respect for her. I consider her a wonderful leader and a terrific lady.

"Although you might say we haven't always seen eye-to-eye on some issues, I have always known her to be forthright and committed to doing the best job as our Chief. Although I am confident that history will show her to have been a solid and steadying force for the department, she inherited many problems and was dealt a hand that wasn't exactly ideal for any chief executive. Though some of those much-publicized problems may have marred her tenure - through no fault of her own - I believe she has served our city to the best of her ability and with the utmost in integrity and ethical standards.

As we search for a new chief this year, we would do well to make sure that person embodies many of the fine qualities found in Chief Hegerty."

Ald. Michael McGee, Jr. echoed his colleagues' good wishes for Hegerty, but added: "I would really like to see the Chief resign earlier than November. With the current climate of violence in Milwaukee, we can't afford to have a lame duck chief heading our Police Department.

"With morale in the department at an all-time low, we simply cannot afford to have the safety of our citizens put at risk by an atmosphere of complacency."

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milwhowie | Jan. 8, 2007 at 5:11 a.m. (report)

Darn...........we shoulda cloned Harold A. Breier, appoint him and bring some safety back to Milwaukee streets! Nan Hegerty was good and decent despite Tom Barrett. I wish her well in the Pelosi "Howdy Doody Peanut Gallery." My sane choices, after 45 years with the Milw. PD, for Chief includes Inspector Ed Liebrecht, Dep. Chief Brian O'Keefe and Jim "Why would I want to return to Milwaukee?" Warren.

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