May 5, 2008

Meet Racine's seven newest police officers

(L-R: Dwight Meinholz, Ryan Smalkowski, Douglas Cecchini,
Richard Prince, Jessica Shapiro, Steve Jaskowiak and Michael Seeger

Shortly before 2:30 this afternoon, the Racine Police Department reached its full complement of 200 officers. The swearing in of seven recruits -- and the handing out of their badges, which officially marked the beginning of their law enforcement careers -- took place in the department's basement auditorium right after rollcall for the evening shift.

The seven are:

Officer Douglas Cecchini: A native of Racine, he is a graduate of Gateway Technical College with an Associate's degree in Police Science. He and his wife Sarah, have two children, Zach and Emerald.

Officer Steve Jaskowiak: He's from Milwaukee and has a Master's degree in Psychology from Marquette University. He and his wife, Kendra, have a son, Thurston.

Officer Dwight Meinholz: He's a Kansasville native and has an Associate's degree in Fire Science from Gateway Technical College. He and his wife, Renee, have three children: Austin, Taylor and Noah.

Officer Richard Prince: A Racine native, he was previously employed by the Racine County Sheriffs’ Department as a Corrections Clerk. He and his wife,Talia, have a son, Baron.

Officer Michael Seeger: A native of Mt Pleasant, he has a Bachelors’ Degree in Criminal Justice from UW-Platteville, and was employed recently with the Racine County Sheriffs’ Dept Water Patrol. His father, Wayne, is a retired Racine County Deputy Sergeant, and his brother, Nick, is a Racine Police officer.

Officer Jessica Shapiro: She is from Racine and has a Bachelors’ degree in Law Enforcement from Minnesota State - Mankato. She got the youngest start of all in law enforcement, having worked as a Police Department intern while still a student at Horlick High School.

Officer Ryan Smalkowski: He is a Caledonia native and has Bachelors’ degree in Criminal Justice and Biological Sciences from UW-Milwaukee. He and his wife, Tiffany, have a son, RJ.

They were sworn onto the police force by City Clerk Janice Johnson-Martin, after congratulatory remarks by Mayor Gary Becker and Police Chief Kurt Wahlen.

Becker noted that they are entering "a risky business," and thanked them for their service. "I'm looking forward to seeing you out in the neighborhood," he said.

Chief Wahlen emphasized the traits he wants the new recruits to bring to the force as problem solvers. "You must have compassion and integrity. You must deal professionally with everyone. You must play by the rules; shortcuts can lose cases.

"Don't lose heart," he said. "You will see things that will haunt you at night."

Police work, he said, "is all about relationships."

Lt. Jerry Baldukas, the department's training officer, explained to me some of what it took for these seven new officers to get this far. Besides a requirement that all applicants have 60 college credits, they had to pass an agility course test, a 54-page Police Officer Selection Test, drug tests, extensive background checks. (It didn't happen with this year's crop of 164 initial applicants, but Baldukas recalled one applicant who had an outstanding arrest warrant and was taken into custody during the agility test.)

In year's past, many police officers came from the military; not this time. But Baldukas isn't worried about their ability to deal with criminals: "Their gun, taser, nightstick and training -- those are the equalizer," he said.

"What we need are people who are good with other people; we can teach them the police skills," he said.

It will, however, be a long time before these new officers take to the streets. First, they have 13 weeks of training at Northeast Technical College in Green Bay, followed by two more weeks of localized training here. Then they begin five months of Field Training with other officers. They won't count for patrol strength, or handle cases on their own, in fact, until early in 2009.

"My daddy's a policeman!"
Officer Douglas Cecchini and his proud family.


  1. All"white"where are the new African-American recruits.

  2. I think we need a few illegal aliens too.

    Seriously, congratulations to these new police officers! You are the only thing that stands between honest, decent hard-working people and the thugs who are just trying to turn their lives around.

  3. I am surprised there were no African American officers hired. It seem that Racine is becoming more divided. Perhaps the answer is not how many new officers, but how this community can make a true commitment to bring about change.
    Our Mayor, Greg, David, Sandra, and few other feels so good about Obama, but do not emulate him in action and deeds. How have the above mention work to bring about better relationship between the races.
    Until there is a real commitment to make Racine a great place for all its residents, it dose not matter what color of skin our new officers have.

  4. As long as they don't come in with an attitude, we'll all be allright.

  5. I hope the city realizes that in addition to a $60,000 salary, each of these new officers also appear to have several children and that will only add to the expense of the city's health insurance for each one of these employees.

    Way to keep costs in line Wahlen!

  6. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  7. To Ken, it's Ken Lumpkin I presume? Tell me please, what exactly have YOU done to improve race relations in Racine in your former role as County Supervisor for all those years? Are you emulating Obama by distancing yourself from African-Americans who have a racist attitude like Reverend Wright? Obama has. How about you?

  8. I've heard this was actually the second group to be hired this year. Can anyone confirm that or provide information on the first group to be hired?

  9. Well this year I heard that 2 hires were african american...maybe the posts on here were read by some officials.LOL

  10. Steves my nephew I am so proud of what he's accomplished.
    Aunt Karen