In the days following news that Brookfield Police Chief Steven Stelter had been ousted from his post, there has been little in the way of an explanation for why it happened.
What is clear is who pulled the trigger: Village Manager Keith Sbiral.
“This was my decision as village manager,” said Sbiral, who declined at this time to elaborate on his reasons for wanting to make the change.
Stelter reportedly is weighing a severance package that’s been offered to him by the village. Until that deal is sealed, no one wants to comment publicly on Stelter’s departure.
Reached on Monday, Village President Kit Ketchmark characterized the change as a “pending personnel decision” and referred all questions to Sbiral.
Likewise, Acting Police Chief James Episcopo referred any questions to Sbiral. Episcopo, the department’s lieutenant in charge of operations, said he was asked to serve as acting chief as he has done in the past whenever Stelter has been on vacation or out of the office.
“I wouldn’t read anything into that,” Episcopo said.
Not even Stelter knows the reason for his termination. On Oct. 30, he told the Landmark he was asked by Sbiral to resign on Friday morning but was not given an explanation.
“[Sbiral] didn’t say,” Stelter said. “They want to move in a different direction.”
Upset and in shock when he spoke to the Landmark on Oct. 30, Stelter protested that he had done nothing to spur the call for his sudden resignation.
“I’ve done nothing; there’s no wrongdoing,” said Stelter, who confirmed his termination was effective immediately. Stelter remained on the job until the end of the day Friday.
Stelter, 57, has been Brookfield’s police chief for nearly eight years. He was hired by Sbiral’s predecessor, Riccardo Ginex. Prior to coming to Brookfield, Stelter was a police officer for 28 years for the DuPage County Sheriff’s Police.
Ginex had nothing but praise for Stelter, who was brought in during a time of near complete overhaul inside village hall.
“I think he did an incredible job for the organization while I was there,” said Ginex, who is now village manager of Oak Brook. “I feel terrible. I thought he was a damn good chief.”
John Marino, a retired police sergeant, remembered that the police rank and file were not thrilled when Ginex hired an outsider to lead the department. However, said Marino, he earned the officers’ confidence.
“We were shocked eight years ago when they picked an outsider, but in my opinion he was a pretty good pick,” Marino said.
Stelter increased training opportunities for officers, particularly command staff. He, along with Episcopo and Lt. Edward Petrak, attended the FBI National Academy.
During Stelter’s tenure, Brookfield joined the West Suburban Drug and Gang Enforcement (WEDGE) task force and partnered with the U.S Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to assign one of his officers to that federal detail in exchange for a portion of funds seized as the result of successful drug case prosecutions. Money from that program recently went toward a complete renovation of the police department’s shooting range.
Stelter also engaged in public outreach by promoting a Citizens Police Academy, where Brookfield residents got intensive training in how police do their jobs. The academy’s alumni association raises money to purchase police-related equipment.
The Citizens Police Academy alumni have also raised funds for the annual Shop With a Cop program, started by Stelter in 2009. Each year the department gives several children $100 each and has a police officer accompany them while they do Christmas shopping for their families.
“It’s been a great eight years,” Stelter said. “The men and women of this department are excellent, and I’m going to miss them.”