Capt. Joe Balles of the Madison Police Department's South District is set to step down and retire in January after 32-and-a-half years with the department.
Balles started as an intern in 1982 and was hired by former Chief David Couper in 1983, along with current Madison Police Chief Mike Koval.
He will wind down his duties at the South District next week, allowing Lt. John Patterson to take his place.
“I’m going to miss the people I work with every day,” Balles said. “I feel like the department and community have given me much much more than I’ve been able to give in service.”
The 54-year-old said he’s had a lot of different assignments and a “fantastic” last seven years in the South District, but he decided he wanted to retire when he was still young enough to explore one or two more opportunities in his career.
That starts with him hopping on a plane to Seattle to help implement recommendations from President Barack Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing.
Those recommendations include a focus on building trust and legitimacy, community policing and adjusting to technology and social media.
Balles said he will be working with a team of people in the Seattle area to put together a strategic planning process for implementing those recommendations.
“It’s good stuff, a nice kind of transition out of being in day-to-day operations,” Balles said.
He also plans to start a Madison community policing nonprofit organization with four other MPD retirees. The plan is to support community policing efforts, neighborhood officers and any department efforts to work in the community, like hosting a movie and pizza night for kids.
“Right now, inside government, it’s very difficult to find money to do that kind of stuff, but those little bitty projects go such a long way,” Balles said.
The group is filing 501(c)(3) paperwork and will start taking donations in the first quarter next year once it is up and running. They will take applications from officers and approve projects for them to do.
Balles said there are some “big challenges” ahead for law enforcement, but he’s glad to be a part of the work.
“I think we’re going to be much stronger. I think we’re going to build. I think there’s tremendous opportunities here for us, particularly for building more diversity inside of our police departments,” Balles said. “That is first and foremost.”
Beyond continued involvement with policing, Balles said he will “do the usual things that people do.”
“Number one, take better care of yourself,” he said.
He will also stay involved with community organizations like United Way of Dane County and Simpson Street Free Press.
“It’s been a fantastic ride,” Balles said. “I just look forward to winding down here.”