By Rosemary K. Otzman
Belleville Police Chief Gene Taylor has decided to retire as of March 28.
Taylor has been police chief since April 4, 2005, after the Civil Service Commission recommended him to replace retiring Chief Paul Davis.
Chief Taylor said he turned in his retirement papers Feb. 22, the day after the cantankerous Civil Service Commission meeting that heard an appeal on health care benefits from Keith Boc, who retired Feb. 28.
Chief Taylor, 59, has worked for the Belleville Police Department for more than 36 years.
He said he was not pushed out, but it has been obvious to the public that he was in an unfriendly work environment after his demotion by City Manager Diana Kollmeyer in the fall of 2012 that was rescinded by the Civil Service Commission.
He was demoted, when he got back from a medical leave, allegedly for trying to find a way to get a patrol car fixed on time payments that wouldn’t have to be approved by the council.
Former Police Chief Hal Berriman returned to fill in as chief when Taylor was demoted to corporal and Berriman is reportedly going to be back to fill in until the city gets a new, permanent police chief.
Taylor hasn’t had a raise in more than seven years.
At the end of a May 2012 meeting of the Belleville Civil Service Commission, Chief Taylor asked for a pay raise, since he hadn’t had one in six years at the time.
“You may as well go out and spit in the wind,” replied City Manager Kollmeyer.
Retired Sgt. Bob Dawson and Taylor started work for the Belleville Police Department on the same day and the same shift in September 1977. Dawson retired about five years ago and came back to help on a few occasions.
Sgt. Dawson filled in for Chief Taylor after Taylor suffered a mild heart attack in March 2009 and had heart bypass surgery.
Chief Taylor said he will really miss his real bosses, the residents of the City of Belleville. Taylor is known for digging into his own pocket to help the needy in Belleville.
Besides sending turkeys over to those who are struggling to eat, he has bought disposable diapers for single mothers, and flowers for hospice patients. He has taken injured animals to his rural New Boston home to nurse back to health.
But, Chief Taylor says, if he will be known for nothing else, he will be known as the only Belleville Police Chief in history to bring an African elephant to town.
There had been a spaghetti dinner at Edgemont Elementary School that raised more than $600 to help pay for the elephant’s expenses, but Taylor dug into his own pocket for the rest needed.
On Earth Day in April 2010 he brought Laura, a 30-year-old elephant, to Edgemont School for the day to teach children of the community about the animal kingdom.
Taylor has been active with the Mothers Against Drunk Driving and has been active throughout the region representing Belleville in public safety matters.
In January, former Mayor Pro Tem Kay Atkins, owner of Threads ‘n’ Treasures quilt shop, presented Taylor with a quilt she made for him to thank him for everything he does for the community.
That quilt is on display at the quilt show that opened last Saturday at the Belleville Area Museum.
Taylor has been an enthusiastic promoter of flying the American flag on Flag Day each year and has sold and donated many flags to residents throughout the tri-community.
By Rosemary K. Otzman