Waterloo’s new police chief is excited to be working in the top position of a career he’s wanted to be in his entire grown life.
“This has been a dream of mine,” Jeff Prosise said.
The 46-year-old Waterloo Police Department veteran was sworn into the role of chief last Tuesday. He succeeds retiring chief Mike Douglas.
Prosise, a Monroe County native who graduated from Columbia High School in 1991, said he wanted to be in law enforcement since he was a junior high school student.
“I knew when I was in seventh grade,” Prosise said.
Longtime Columbia police captain Jerry Landgraf served as an inspiration to Prosise as a youngster. Landgraf died in 2005 at the age of 62.
“I just was drawn to him,” Prosise said. “I thought, ‘Wow, that’s what I want to be.’”
Prosise, who starred in football, basketball and track at CHS, attended Fontbonne University in St. Louis and played basketball there before transferring to Southwestern Illinois College to earn an associate’s degree.
After college, Prosise was hired by St. Louis County Justice Services to work at the jail in Clayton, Mo., where he worked for 2.5 years.
“I was just trying to get my foot in the door,” Prosise said.
That’s where he met his future wife, Emily, who was also employed there at the time.
“We always say we met in jail, you know,” Prosise chuckled.
Prosise, who lived in Waterloo at the time, applied for an open patrol officer position in the Waterloo Police Department.
“They called me and offered the job,” Prosise said. “I thought, ‘This is perfect.’”
That was in January 2001.
About three years later, Prosise took the Waterloo school resource officer position and served as DARE instructor.
Eventually, a detective position opened up in the department and Prosise worked in investigations for about nine years.
As part of that work, Prosise represented the WPD as a member of the Major Case Squad and the Southern Illinois Child Death Task Force.
Being on those specialized investigative teams put Prosise on some high-profile cases.
“The (Chris) Coleman case never goes away,” Prosise said. “I mean, you never stop thinking about it.”
Following Jim Trantham’s retirement as chief in late 2016, Douglas moved into the chief’s position and Prosise was promoted to deputy chief.
“When I got to deputy chief, I really learned a lot,” Prosise said. “When Mike took over, he said ‘I’m going to let you basically run the administrative portion of the department.’ I’m grateful for that experience.”
Prosise thanked his father, Robert, for pushing him to work hard and be a leader.
Prosise remembers his father taking him to the first day of football practice as a freshman and urging him to go out for quarterback.
“I said, “I don’t think I can do that, dad. He said, go out for it. You can do it,” Prosise said.
Prosise ended up playing quarterback throughout high school.
“That position turns you into a leader and you become focused on leading people,” Prosise said. “I believe that just continued on in my life.”
When he began his law enforcement career, Prosise’s father asked if he ever wanted to be police chief.
“I said, ‘I think I would,” Prosise told his dad at the time.
Prosise remembers his dad telling him to work hard and “it will come.”
“I’ve truly always wanted to help people,” Prosise said. “It’s like my mission. If I’m working or even if I’m off duty and I see someone who needs help, I’m drawn to it. When I help people, I feel completed.”
In addition to his parents, Robert and Marcia, Prosise and his wife have two children: Jack, 13, and Elizabeth, 20.
Prosise said he wants to get the department up to full staffing before deciding on implementing such things as a school resource officer or K-9 unit in the coming years. There are 15 on the WPD force currently, with 17 being the desired total.
Sgt. Dane Luke has been promoted to deputy chief, Prosise added.
A main goal for Prosise is to get the department involved in the community.
“I feel like it’s rewarding, not only to the community, but self-rewarding,” Prosise said. “I think it helps (our officers) focused on the community more as they see the rewards.”
An example of this was a recent collection for Special Olympics at the Waterloo Schnucks that raised $9,000 for the organization.
“The community is so supportive of us. It really means a lot. We’re lucky to have this community we have,” Prosise said. “I want to keep giving back to them.”