After serving on the Caledonia Police Department for 24 years — almost five of it as the police chief — Toby Schey announced that he is retiring.

Schey’s last day at the department is Dec. 3. In the interim, Capt. Dan Warren will fill in as the Caledonia Police and Fire Commission search internally for his replacement.

At 54-years-old Schey is credited with turning around the department after former police chief Jeffrey Meier resigned over a financial scheme that involved paying police officer Curtis Schollmeier to do work for the department and not paying taxes on the income.

After taking over as chief in Feb. 2011, Schey trained officers extensively in crisis intervention to work with people who have mental illnesses, sent several officers to leadership training classes, and completed the work of having the department transfer their 911 dispatch center to a joint dispatch run by the county.

“I am going to miss Toby,” said Dave Wyatt, who heads up the Police and Fire Commission. “He is just a great police chief and he took a department that was somewhat in disarray and he turned it around to become a place where people respect each other.”

Bob Bradley, village president of Caledonia, agreed with Wyatt.

“He modernized everything. period,” Bradley said. “He brought people together because of his demeanor. He has the right personality to deal with people and he has a lot of respect for staff and the officers underneath him respect him. He is well trusted in the community.”

But Schey is quick to point out his department was ready for change.

“Not any one person can change a department,” he said. “Just because I am the leader I can take some of the credit, but it really was a team effort. A lot of them were looking for change and I facilitated it more than anything.”

Still, Schey points out that his department is still understaffed at 31 employees and that has taken a toll as the department has seen seven employees — detectives, supervisors and patrol officers — leave in the last year, which they have replaced all but one. And more change is coming. Next year the department will see five new staff members as they replace Schey, a patrol officer that quit during field training, a police officer that announced his retirement, and the village board just approved hiring two more officers.

Even with the two new hires, Schey has long advocated for hiring more.

The department has 31 patrol officers and supervisors, for a ratio of just over 1.25 officers per 1,000 residents, well under the FBI recommendation of two officers per 1,000 residents.

“It has been frustrating because it drains the supervisory staff,” Schey said.”If we get a call that needs a search warrant it ties up our supervisors and we have no frontline to manage them.”

Overtime has also been an issue because supervisory staff are often called in during their off time.

“We have pushed staff to the limit…. We just literally never leave the job,” Schey said.

Bradley acknowledged that given the current call volume and the type of calls officers are dealing with the department is short-staffed.

“Heroin is a huge problem in this community as it is in many communities, but we also live in a violent time,” Bradley said. “We’re going to have a special board meeting for Toby to give us a ‘state of the cop shop’ report.

“He’s going to tell us where he sees we are and where we are going… the board really needs to hear his opinion.”

Once the meeting is set we’ll publish the time and date of the special board meeting.

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Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for Patch.com, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.