Springfield Police Chief Kenny Winslow, the city's top officer since 2014, is retiring Jan. 28, he announced in a letter to city council members late Wednesday.
Springfield is the only police department the 51-year-old Alton native has worked for.
"It has been an honor and privilege to serve the citizens of Springfield," Winslow said in the letter. "I am humbled to have had the opportunity to work alongside all of you to make our community a safer place, while moving our department forward. The men and women of SPD are truly everyday heroes who go above and beyond on a daily basis."
Winslow's retirement comes as little surprise.
In August, Winslow acknowledged in an interview he was in the twilight of his career at the SPD. Winslow informed Springfield Mayor Jim Langfelder in December 2020 that he probably would not "be around here when the (municipal) election cycle comes around” in 2023.
Winslow was named interim chief in 2013 before being appointed to the position on a permanent basis by former Mayor Mike Houston in 2014. Langfelder opted to retain Winslow after he was elected in 2015, though he held "police chief forums" in all of the city's wards.
Reached Thursday, Langfelder said he was "99.9 percent" Winslow's successor was on the SPD command staff.
"I feel it's going to come from within," he said. "I'll interview mainly the command staff and make a determination based on that. That's why you build in succession."
Winslow told The State Journal-Register Thursday that he didn't have immediate job plans after retirement.
"I'm a little sad, a little scared, a little nervous, a little excited. This is all I've been doing since I was 23 years old," Winslow said. "I still care about the profession. I'm passionate about it."
Winslow said he wanted to work another "five or six years in the profession," adding it wouldn't necessarily be as a police chief.
In April, Winslow announced the formation of a gun violence task force. Among its tactics was reassigning some officers to investigate shootings and working to build strong cases against assailants.
The department also reimplemented its focused deterrence program, which takes a holistic approach to address gun violence.
"The gun violence is definitely a concern, and it always has to be top of mind," Langfelder said. "When it's all said and done, people want to feel that they're in a safe community and you have to give the resources to the police department to make sure you're at that expected level.
"Violent crime is paramount. That's always number one, to make sure your community is as safe as possible."
"When we needed to get tougher, our force did that," added Ward 10 Ald. Ralph Hanauer. "I think we have an excellent police force. The chief really has done a great job running a force that had to make some changes."
That work culminated in Winslow being named the 2021 Chief of the Year by the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police. The award goes to the chief who excels in his or her own department and provides extraordinary service to the association.
In 2018 Winslow received the President’s Award from the NAACP for Minority Recruitment and Community Engagement.
Last August, Winslow was a finalist for the top job in Bloomington, losing out to Illinois State Police Col. Jamal Simington.
In December 2020, the city of Franklin, Tennessee, a suburb of Nashville, announced that Winslow had accepted an offer to become one of the city's new deputy chiefs.
Winslow, who had not resigned his position in Springfield, decided to stay "after much consideration and deliberation with my family." He said being away from his in-laws, who live in Macoupin County, weighed in on the decision to stay in Springfield.
Winslow survived a vote of confidence by members of the Police Benevolent and Protective Association Unit No. 5 in late 2017. Eighty-nine percent of its voting members expressed they had no confidence in Winslow's ability to lead.
"That was tough on him," Langfelder acknowledged. "I know that. Nobody likes to hear that. When you're an elected official ... the family is the one who has to bear the brunt of that because the chief is used to the attack and the family isn't buffered as much. For him, he took that personally.
"I told him, 'Chief, don't worry about it. The only vote that matters is my confidence in you. I said I have my full faith and confidence in you.' He's proven it with the public and how he's run the department. He's top notch and Springfield was very fortunate to have him."
Ward 2 Ald. Shawn Gregory recalled when he worked with the Juneteenth Celebration, and before he was elected, standing up publicly in support of Winslow.
"I had never done that before because he had made that impact, I felt, in our community," Gregory said.
"He had eyes on the ground out there," said Blough, noting there were tense moments in the emergency operations center. "I think that two-way street (with law enforcement and the way protesters conducted themselves) kept everyone safe and kept calm heads and really showed you can go out and make an impact without having anything gets out of hand."
"For Springfield and the home of Abraham Lincoln and all of the history we've had – the 1908 Race Riots – anytime there's civil unrest in across our country, I think we can expect for citizens in our community to respond strongly off that history and continue to fight for justice and equality," he said. "Our city responded well with our protests in keeping everything peaceful, but definitely in making our voices heard. I think we handled everything well."
Ward 6 Ald. Kristin DiCenso said Winslow's successor is going to be walking into a rebuilding phase of the police department.
"The chief did push through some electronic updates, including ShotSpotter and (Flock) license plate reader technology, so he championed those causes," DiCenso said. "Rank-and-file officers are going to be looking for something different.
"Say what you will about Kenny Winslow. He's a good person. His heart's in the right place. Was this the smoothest of sailing for him? Absolutely not, but I don't think there's anyone in law enforcement today who would say it's been smooth sailing for anyone the last couple of years."
Ward Ald. 7 Joe McMenamin especially appreciated how Winslow "had to maneuver with reduced workforces during COVID-19. We appreciate his expertise and his service."
Winslow said his friends and peers told him he would know when the timing was right to step away.
"The timing is right for me," he said. "The department is in a good place. The succession plan is in place. Obviously, the mayor can do what he wants, but there are good quality candidates inside to choose from. I'm proud of our accomplishments.
"It's a good time to pass it off."
Contact Steven Spearie: 217-622-1788, email@example.com, twitter.com/@StevenSpearie.
This article originally appeared on State Journal-Register: Springfield Police Chief Kenny Winslow is retiring at end of January