Gabrish named interim chief

Police captain will lead department during search for Wenten’s successor

Joseph Gabrish
Ozaukee Press Staff

Capt. Joseph Gabrish was named interim Grafton police chief Monday to succeed Chief Charles Wenten when he retires next month.

“I’m looking forward to working with the Village Board and the people here to make this a safe community,” Gabrish said. 

The Police and Fire Commission met in closed session before selecting Gabrish, who was recommended by Wenten. 

Village Administrator Jesse Thyes said the commission interviewed Gabrish, who was the only candidate, before making its decision. 

“Capt. Gabrish has a lot of institutional knowledge that he can bring to that acting chief role, which will help maintain a level of stability during this transition period from Chief Wenten to a new chief,” Thyes said.

Thyes said the commission will schedule another meeting in the next couple weeks to determine the hiring process for a full-time chief. 

“This will be a very important hire for the village,” Thyes said, noting state statutes require the commission to handle the hiring process.

Gabrish said he has not decided if he will pursue the permanent position. 

“Once the process has come out, I will reflect upon the process and make a determination. At this point, I have not made a decision,” he said.

Gabrish joined the department as an officer in 1993 and became second in command in 2007. Prior to joining the department, Gabrish was an officer with the Milwaukee Police Department for nearly 11 years. 

Gabrish is also the chief of police in the Town of Trenton, where he lives. He started the Trenton Police Department in 1997. 

Since joining the Grafton Police Department, Gabrish has earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees and received a staff-and-command certificate from Northwestern University.

As interim chief, Gabrish said, he is considering updating uniforms but wants to keep day-to-day operations status quo. 

“It’s not fair for me to make decisions for the department for the next 20 years,” Gabrish said, noting he wants to listen to input from officers and the community.

Wenten will retire from the department Sept. 21 to pursue a new career in background investigations. 

“The stars just aligned. I have an opportunity at different employment that falls within my wheelhouse,” Wenten said.

Thyes said the Village Board will formally accept Wenten’s resignation at its Sept. 16 meeting.

Wenten joined the Grafton department as chief 16 years ago, succeeding Howard Thiede. He was previously a captain for the Village of Brown Deer Police Department for 13 years. 

“My whole experience in Grafton has been stunningly positive. I’ve done quite a bit of reflecting, and the decision to move on was probably the most difficult decision I made in the past 16 years,” Wenten said. 



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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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