New Hobart police chief has big plans
By Karen Caffarini Post-Tribune correspondent March 16, 2013 10:57PM
Hobart Police Chief Rick Zormier, a Hobart native, is photographed after being sworn in at the Hobart police training room in Hobart, Ind. Friday March 1, 2013. | Stephanie Dowell~Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 18, 2013 6:46AM
HOBART — From his choice of captains to his plans to start a new youth program, the city’s new police chief, Rick Zormier, is already working to meet his objective of having a proactive and progressive police department.
“I believe most of the police officers weren’t looking for just a changing of the guard at the top. They were looking for an administration that could better help them and the community,” Zormier said in a one-on-one interview about 10 days into his new job.
His first move was to name two captains instead of one deputy chief, both in their 30s and, like Zormier, with college degrees. Zormier has a law degree from Valparaiso University School of Law, Capt. Paul Oliver has a degree in public affairs and Capt. Garrett Ciszewski has a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in criminal justice.
“Myself, Paul and Garrett are all of the mindset that we get more done when working with people,” Zormier, 42, said.
He said having post-secondary education is an asset, but added officers could also obtain that extra edge by excelling in required in-service classes.
For Zormier, part of being proactive means spending more time in the community--whether it’s by enhanced traffic enforcement, more routine contact with residents on a positive basis or by interacting with youth in a Community Athletic League that he plans to implement.
He said additional traffic enforcement doesn’t necessarily mean more tickets.
“It could be just a warning instead of a ticket,” he said. “If residents see us as more visible, they are more apt to call us if needed,” Zormier said.
To obtain more visibility, Zormier is placing more officers on the street and keeping less in the office.
He said he would like to see all 56 officers on the force and other city employees involved with the city’s youth in a supervised, controlled environment by participating in the athletic league. He said he would like games to be played in the gyms in the police/court/community building and in Brickie Bowl behind it. Zormier said he would like the activities available at no cost to residents.
He said there is grant money available for police athletic leagues and youth activities as a whole that he would pursue.
Regarding the department itself, Zormier said he streamlined the bureaucracy, believing there were too many chiefs before. He said there will only be one lieutenant, Lt. Jack Grennes, who is the public information officer, among other duties. Other lieutenants will return to the rank of sergeant and to patrol service or the detective bureau, he said.
Addressing the scandals that have hit the department recently, with one officer placed on unpaid suspension after being charged with theft and fraud on a financial institution and other officers allegedly involved in a towing scheme, Zormier said the department as a whole has to accept responsibility for what happened. But he said the department also has to move forward.
He said he’ll be establishing a set of expectations and written evaluations to ensure officers are meeting their expectations on the job.
Being the third police chief in a short period of time, does Zormier worry that his tenure, too, will be short?
“As long as I do my job, handle my responsibilities and do what’s best for the department and the community, I’m not worried,” Zormier said.
“As a second thought, if I’m not able to do the job, I should step down on my own,” he added.