Fox Point — After 18 years as Fox Point's police chief, Tom Czaja has decided to retire.
Czaja's retirement caps off a 39-year career in law enforcement. He started his career in 1975 as a patrol officer with the UW-Milwaukee Police Department. After three years, he took an officer job with the Whitefish Bay Police Department, where he quickly worked his way up to sergeant, and then again to lieutenant — a post he held for 13 years.
Czaja, 60, informed the Fox Point Police Commission on July 30 that he would be retiring effective Aug. 6. He said he made the decision to retire because he wanted to spend more time with his wife. They've already planned a road trip to Canada and the east coast.
"It's been an honor serving the residents of Fox Point and working with the finest law enforcement professionals in the world," he said. "You just know when it's the right time, and this is the right time for me to retire."
The Fox Point Police Commission appointed Chris Freedy to the position of acting police chief on Aug. 6. Freedy was previously serving in the role of acting captain, due to the retirement of former police captain Gerald Lamm in May. Czaja said he has worked with Freedy to show him the administrative ropes of leading the police department.
Steve Kravit, the president of the Fox Point Police Commission, said the commission is still determining how, when and who to choose as the permanent police chief.
Fox Point may be a quiet, residential village, but Czaja has seen officers in harm's way during his time in North Shore law enforcement.
In 1994, while working in Whitefish Bay, Czaja witnessed Glendale police officer Ronald Hedbany die in the line of duty. An armed robber shot him after a robbery at Marine Bank on Capitol Drive near Port Washington Road. Czaja was in the helicopter with Hedbany when he lost his life.
Czaja was also at the scene of two other officer-involved shootings, including a 2009 bank robbery at Community Bank on Port Washington Road at Good Hope Road. The River Hills police officer involved in that shooting was not injured. He also saw his officers in harm's way in 2011, when an armed robbery at Riverpoint Shopping Center ended in a shootout on Libby Lane. No officers were injured in that incident.
"An officer-involved shooting is something no chief wants to go through, and in a 15-month period I went through two of those," Czaja said.
Czaja's time as police chief was also somewhat unique in that he served as Fox Point's interim village manager following the resignation of former village manager Susan Robertson in December 2012. He pulled double duty as police chief and interim village manager for roughly seven months until current village manager Melissa Bohse was brought on board in July 2013.
Although he is retiring from Fox Point, Czaja plans to continue his involvement with the Wisconsin Chiefs of Police Association. He is currently the chair of the association's training committee, and he has been asked to serve as the chair of the association's retired chief committee next year.
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