RANSON — Ranson police Chief Bill Roper, who has led the city’s police department for 23 years, is retiring.

Roper, a member of the city’s police force for 40 years, will officially step down Dec. 1. Making his unexpected decision for health reasons, he attended a Ranson City Council meeting Monday to offer a few public parting comments about his retirement.

“Gentleman, it’s bittersweet,” Roper said in emotion-filled words thanking the city’s leaders he has served beside. “I’m moving on with my family. Those 40 years here—without you all wouldn’t have happened. I’m very appreciative as to what this city has accomplished and has done.”

“You guys have come along way,” he said. “Just keep it going. Show the respect to our community. Keep it up.”

Known as an easy-going and approachable figure who could keep a personal confidence, Roper, sporting a mustache and a gentle teddy-bear persona who played Santa for years during the annual Ranson-Charles Town community Christmas Parade, was known for his particular attention to safeguarding the city’s youth.

George Rutherford, a lifelong Ranson resident and a community leader and activist, praised Roper for his longstanding leadership in upholding respectful, relationship-based community policing. Roper’s law enforcement approach focused on practical and discreet problem-solving that effectively diffused and resolved countless conflicts before they escalated into more serious confrontations or arrests, Rutherford said.

“He was always willing to work with you,” Rutherford said.

Read the complete story in next week's edition of the Spirit

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