The City of Waukegan announced that Chief Wayne Walles is retiring next month after 29 years of service. | Photo: Waukegan Police Department

The Waukegan police chief is set to retire next month after 29 years of service and an interim police chief will take his position while the city searches nationwide for the next chief.

Waukegan Mayor Ann Taylor said Chief Wayne Walles intends to retire on February 20, marking 29 years of service to the city.

Walles served as the city’s chief of police for nearly nine years.

Walles graduated from Waukegan West High School in 1985 and attended Illinois State University on an Army ROTC scholarship, the Waukegan Police Department said.

He later joined the U.S. Army and served as a platoon leader in Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

Walles joined the Waukegan Police Department in February 1993.

“He was instrumental in the formation of the Waukegan Police Department canine program,” the department said.

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Taylor appointed Deputy Police Chief Keith Zupec as the interim police chief.

Zupec, who has 25 years of service, will perform the duties as police chief while the city searches nationwide for the next chief of police.

“I look forward to working with Chief Zupec to strengthen the Waukegan Police Department’s relationships within the community, improve diversity within the police force, strive to recruit more officers from within Waukegan, and rejuvenate Waukegan’s neighborhood policing efforts to keep our citizens safe,” Taylor said.

The mayor says increased police presence will be one of the primary focus areas for the department.

The city plans on increasing recruitment, moving officers from the desk to the streets and making organizational changes, Taylor added.

One of those changes is removing the rank of lieutenant and reclassifying current lieutenants as sergeants, which will help fill vacancies within the sergeant rank.

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Taylor notified Metropolitan Alliance of Police Chapter 771, a police labor union, of the change on Thursday.

“In the coming weeks, staff will work with the police union to discuss this transition and ensure the best possible police service to our community, resulting in a safer Waukegan in every one of our nine wards,” Taylor said.

“I want to thank Chief Walles for his long career in public service to our Waukegan community and for his service to our nation in the armed forces.”

“On behalf of the City, our elected officials, staff, and residents, I wish Chief Walles a happy retirement and many blessings as he makes this transition,” Taylor said.

“His commitment to the men and women of the Waukegan Police Department is only second to his dedication and respect for those he served in the community he was born and raised in. Congratulations Chief Walles on your outstanding career. The men and women of the Waukegan Police Department thank you!” the department said.

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