In 1984, 23-year old Tom Weitzel joined the Riverside Police Department. It likely never occurred to him that he would spend the next 37 years of his life serving and protecting our village and its residents.
Three years later, on Aug. 12, at 3:15 in the morning, Officer Weitzel came upon a car parked on the street in violation of the village’s no parking ordinance. As he approached the car, one of the three men inside stepped out with a shotgun and fired. Officer Weitzel took the shot to the chest while only about 10 feet away from the shooter. Fortunately for him, he was wearing a vest, and that vest saved his life.
After recovering from the attack, Officer Weitzel returned to duty. He never talked much about the shooting – he still doesn’t – and that quiet and resolute courage is what all who know him have come to expect, and respect, in Tom Weitzel.
In the following years, Officer Weitzel advanced steadily through the ranks until becoming acting chief of police in October 2007, and then officially chief of police in January 2008. Now, 13 years later, Chief Weitzel has announced that he will retire on May 20.
Courage, compassion, decency. That is what Chief Weitzel has stood for from his first day on the beat in 1984. He has steadfastly been a leader statewide for law enforcement policies that have always put citizens first. That he has gained such widespread recognition from his position in a small village of 9,000 residents is a testament to his leadership and vision. His peers know a leader when they see one.
Under Chief Weitzel’s leadership, the Riverside Police Department has become an example of what community policing can and should be. The Riverside Police Department has been at the forefront of police reform and the broader movement for social justice long before they became the focus of nationwide attention. Why? Because it is the right thing to do, and that is the only reason that Chief Weitzel has ever needed.
Thank you, Chief Weitzel, for your service to our community and the larger ideals of fairness, equality, and justice for all. You will be missed, but your character and reputation will remain deeply embedded in the Riverside Police Department as an enduring reminder of what it means to serve and protect.
Your grateful village wishes you a long and enjoyable retirement.
Benjamin Sells, village president