Geneseo Police share 2021 Annual Report with City

Beth Welbers
Geneseo Republic

Deputy Chief Gene Karzan loves statistics.  Every year he gets tasked with providing the City Council a year in review of the effectiveness of the Geneseo Police Department.

A 14 member force looking after a community of 6,500, the Geneseo Police Department is there not only to serve and protect, like the slogan says, but to recognize potential trouble and take care of it before it happens.

Under the leadership of Chief Casey Disterhof, Geneseo's law enforcement community boasts more than 296 years of combined experience in 2021.  Ranging between a high of 32 years, and the newest recruit coming on this year,  14 years is the median of experience per member. 

During the Covid shutdown, recruits were not attending the Police Academy, leaving a void in the availability of new officers to replace retiring law enforcement professionals.  Geneseo in that period managed to add four new officers, replacing ones that had left for other reasons, and Officer Mike Chavez, who retired from the department after 20 years of service. Of those placements, three were officers coming from other communities, bringing with them prior experience, Officer Brad Schulte was hired and sent to the Academy.  With the shortage of officers, and lack of available police academy openings, competition for officers is intense.

Geneseo invested $2,366,000 in their police department in 2021, down from $2,584,000 in 2020.  Of that figure more than half, $1,270,000 was spent in wages, pensions amounted to $$596,000, the second highest item in the budget. 

Pension costs are down, due in part to innovative actions by City Treasurer Jamie Matthews and then City Administrator Jo Hollenkamp, who bonded a large portion of the unpaid pension, creating an interest savings of an estimated $1,000,000 over the life of the bond.  Nearly $300,000 goes into health insurance.  The remaining $200,000 is divided up among the costs of operating the department.

Henry County Dispatch receives all 911 calls in the county, and then sends the call to local community dispatchers.   Of the 911 calls in the county,  Geneseo received the second most calls, surpassed only by Kewanee, not surprisingly, based on population distribution across the county. 

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Of 217 classifications, the top five local calls answered by the GPD are as follows:

  • Traffic stop                                              609 incidents
  • Follow up                                                 473 incidents
  • Officer initiated business checks        410 incidents
  • Assisting a citizen                                   401 incidents
  • Assisting an ambulance                        353 incidents

Reported incidents of violent crime and property crimes  are up in 2021, at 51, over a  five year low of 21 in 2020.  In 2019, 67 serious crimes were reported and handled by the Geneseo Police.  

Traffic collisions for the year 2021 revealed 158 investigated incidents, with 48 of those involving a parked vehicle, and 28 fixed objects, such as a tree or post. 

Age of driver also was analyzed, with the highest percentage (26.75%) belonging to drivers 65+, and the second group, (22.22%) belonging to drivers 16-24 years of age. 

Officers in Geneseo perform a variety of duties.  Uniformed Patrol Officers can be found taking care of routine patrols, answering calls, assisting citizens and maintaining a presence at events.  Investigations Division is comprised of one Sergeant, a Detective and a School Resource Officer.  The School Resource Officer, Det. Timothy Steines, is the main security resource for the school and is a certified police officer. 

On a wider basis, the Geneseo Police Department participates in the Henry/Mercer County Major Crimes Investigations Taskforce.  Sergeant Sleaford is assigned as an investigator and Deputy Chief Karzan as a supervisor.  The task force works in conjunction with other law enforcement agencies within the two counties to pool resources and work on homicides and other violent crimes.  

Officer Jamie Shoemaker and Detective Tim Steines participate with the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.  The Geneseo department joined with the task force in 2021 to address the technology related incidents of child exploitation.  The agency involves forensic and investigative elements, training and technical assistance, victim services and community education. 

The members of the Geneseo Police Department can be seen at community events all over town.  Whether they are directing traffic, staffing a booth at a festival, or just out and about being seen, the Geneseo Police Department are both in front and behind the scenes. 

Gene Karzin, left, Geneseo Deputy Chief of Police; and Jessica Damewood, at right, administrative assistant and dispatch supervisor at the Geneseo Police Station, talk with nine-year-old Lillian VanOpdorp at the recent National Night Out held at City Park in Geneseo. National Night Out is a family-friendly event held with the intent to build relationships between neighbors and law enforcement.