10/31/08 — Walnut Creek Police Department says goodbye to Staps and hello to Barrett

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Walnut Creek Police Department says goodbye to Staps and hello to Barrett

By Anessa Myers
Published in News on October 31, 2008 1:46 PM

Ken Barrett - new chief

WALNUT CREEK -- Delisa Staps has stepped down as the Walnut Creek police chief, a post she has held for the past six years.

Sitting in her former office at the Village Hall this week, she reminisced about her time on the job.

Some of it was good, some not so good. That is the nature of law enforcement.

But the good far outweighed the negative, she said.

She recalled the time she tried to track an alligator that had been reported in Lake Wackena. It turned out to be a false report but her co-workers kept putting toy alligators on her desk. And the time she staked out the country club, looking for thieves, and sat on a mound of fire ants.

Over the years, Mrs. Staps has had to deal with everything from people stealing golf carts and driving them into Lake Wackena to helping the Wayne County Sheriff's Office catch burglars.

"Everybody has their niche. Mine is when we did have to go and get somebody. I loved the thrill of the chase. I loved getting that bad guy," she said.

On one occasion, she and other officers had to go to Jacksonville to arrest a man who had stolen a 900-pound safe from a resident's home.

"We got most of the property back," she said.

Other good memories include organizing the Crime Watch years ago with just nine members and seeing it grow to 17 block captains and dozens of members.

Mrs. Staps said she realized when she started as chief that she couldn't do it by herself.

"I needed eyes and ears of the community, and I needed to build that relationship," she said.

She also was responsible for starting the first Community Emergency Response Team in Wayne County, something that many residents are a part of. And she was the one who worked to get the village its first marked police car and its own building for the police department.

"We used to have to fit, three of us, in a room about the size of my office," she said.

When she came to the village, officials worked out of a room in the Village Clerk's house, patrolled by a park ranger who tried to do it all.

"Public safety was not at the forefront of the village at all. We went from a minimal presence to our own building. Residents think it is important," Mrs. Staps said.

The job wasn't always easy. She said she knew early on that the village didn't have a ton of money to spend on the police department.

"I thought -- every year, I needed to pay for myself," she said.

So she started writing grants for things like vehicles, part-time help, radios and a records management system.

Still, for her, the bad memories stick out in her head just as much as the good ones.

There were times that she had to knock on parents' doors and tell them that their child wouldn't be coming home, or tell a wife that her husband had passed away.

"You hope that you've made a difference in someone's life. ... You get to know the people, and you want to be the one to give them bad news. You don't want a stranger to do that," she said.

It's different working with a community the size of Walnut Creek than working in a larger city or the county, she said.

"You see people die everyday, but it doesn't affect you. We know the people here. It affects us," she said.

Mrs. Staps got the job after working part-time for two years, helping the village ranger.

When he got ready to retire, she helped in the search for a new chief.

"I helped him interview all these people, and we did all this leg work," she said.

Then, at a village council meeting, the members went into closed session.

"When they came out, (Police Commissioner) Danny Jackson shook my hand and told me congratulations. I found out that the council unanimously voted me the new chief. I didn't even want that job, but when five men tell you that you can do something, you want to prove them right," she said.

So it was only fitting that she be around Wednesday morning to congratulate the new chief.

Former Pikeville Police Chief Ken Barrett, a veteran officer with more than 20 years of experience, will be the village's new chief. He and Mrs. Staps are long-time friends.

"I'm going to be real honest with you right now. We have been looking out for each other for a long time," Barrett said.

"I learned everything I know from him," Mrs. Staps said.

"Yeah, right," Barrett replied, laughing.

Barrett said his first steps as the new police chief will be to meet with village officials and get organized. But he hopes to maintain the good that his friend has started going.

"I hope you let him go as far as he can with (making the police department better)," Mrs. Staps told village Administrator Lou Cook.

After all the laughs and congratulatory handshakes, and even some hugs, Mrs. Staps is moving on. But she knows that the village and the people in it will always be a part of her life.

"We are really going to miss her," Cook said.