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Madison Police Department spokesman DeSpain to call it quits in January

Madison Police Department spokesman DeSpain to call it quits in January


Joel DeSpain, Public Information Officer, (left) and Madison Police Officers, Alexandra Nieves Reyes and Lore Vang, is pictured in 2018 during a Coffee with a Cop meeting at Warner Park Recreation Center.

As Madison looks for a new police chief, the Police Department also will be looking to replace another familiar face. 

After 13 years on the job, police spokesman Joel Despain has decided to call it quits after the beginning of the year. The department has already posted his job opening.

"The hope is that somebody new can be brought in and can cross train with me for a period of time before I leave," he said. 

DeSpain's departure comes as the city seeks a permanent chief. Interim Chief Vic Wahl has served in that position since September of 2019, when former Chief Mike Koval abruptly resigned. 

A former WISC TV news reporter, DeSpain has long been a mainstay on local news stations and is known for occasional witticisms in his incident briefings, oft-quoted in local news accounts. 

He said his plan had always been to retire at 62, which will be next year. An avid hiker, he said he plans to hit some of the world's epic trails while he still can, and possibly do some writing and volunteer work. 

"At 62, I can get a lifetime pass to the national parks, where I like to spend a lot of my time," he said. 

He said the timing makes sense for the department as well. 

"There's going to be a new chief coming in," he said, "so it seems like the right time."

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Steven Elbow joined The Capital Times in 1999 and has covered law enforcement in addition to city, county and state government. He has also worked for the Portage Daily Register and has written for the Isthmus weekly newspaper in Madison.

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