LODI — A wave of resignations has left officials at the Lodi Police Department to wonder how they are going to ensure public safety in the Columbia County city of just over 3,000 people.
In a matter of weeks, the department of six sworn officers expects to lose three, including both supervisors.
Police Chief Scott Klicko resigned from his position April 25. Patrol officer Michael Andrews has accepted a job at the nearby Sauk Prairie Police Department. His last day in Lodi will be May 13.
In a Facebook post Friday, Clintonville City Administrator Sharon Eveland said Lodi Police Lt. Craig Freitag has accepted a position as that city’s next chief of police. She said he will start his new role in the small northeastern Wisconsin city at the end of May.
Before Clintonville reached out to him, the Lodi Police Commission recommended appointing him as interim chief of police to fill the vacancy left by Klicko’s resignation.
However, Freitag also will be leaving Lodi and said members of the department felt confused by a lack of communication with city officials regarding the sudden changes.
Neither Lodi City Administrator Julie Ostrander nor Lodi Mayor Jim Ness could be reached for comment Friday about the wave of resignations.
Columbia County Sheriff Roger Brandner said he was surprised to hear of Klicko’s resignation.
“I knew Chief Klicko as a very dedicated and loyal police administrator. He cared about his community and Columbia County as a whole,” Brandner said. “He was part of a very talented group of local police chiefs.”
Brandner said Klicko helped launch Prevention and Response Columbia County four years ago, a group that organizes informational sessions about public safety concerns, especially the opioid epidemic.
He said Klicko “was passionate about reducing drug crimes and drug addiction in our community. He made a difference and made our county safer.”
Freitag said Brandner and his deputies likely will be asked for assistance more frequently while the local department is short-staffed.
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As for the officers who remain, Freitag said he is confident they will do everything they can.
“They are dedicated officers,” he said. “The current staff will continue serving the citizens of Lodi well.”
Freitag said he is concerned about the department’s immediate future because “the officers are unfortunately going to have to work a lot of overtime.”
Klicko said his resignation was for personal reasons.
“I needed to do what is best for my family. They are first in my life,” Klicko said of his resignation in an email.
The Daily Register has requested a copy of Klicko’s resignation letter from the city that was submitted sometime in April.
Klicko said he has been offered positions with other law enforcement agencies, but for now he intends to take a break, earn money through landscaping and might work part time as a police officer to maintain his certification.
“I have reverted back to my construction background and have opened a small tree removal, tree trimming and home maintenance business,” Klicko said.
In her news release, Ostrander said Klicko earned numerous awards and honors for his role in tackling drug abuse issues and building a K-9 program from the ground up.
There was no reference to the circumstances surrounding Klicko’s resignation or how quickly the city may act to replace him.
Freitag said the process to hire a new police chief could take four to five months.