After more than three decades in law enforcement and 13 years as police chief in Riverside, I will be setting aside my badge later this month. Looking back on my career fills me with gratitude for many individuals and organizations.

First, let me say that the outstanding men and women of the Riverside Police Department deserve full credit for any success I have had. And in the people of Riverside, I could not have asked for a more supportive community. 

Some days, during the last year of COVID, food would just show up at the police station to feed an entire shift. Once, a few years back, my officers needed funding for Narcan kits, to save the lives of overdose victims. A resident of Riverside anonymously covered the entire cost.

I’m also thankful for the long partnerships that I’ve had with great organizations. As a member of the legislative committee of the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, I’ve enjoyed working on public safety issues that affect the whole state. I’m particularly proud of the Chiefs’ partnership with the NAACP in creating 10 Shared Principles designed to build trust between law enforcement and communities of color.

As Illinois co-chair of the organization Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, I am a deep believer in its mission to address the root causes of crime by funding proven programs for children. 

When I started as a patrol officer 37 years ago, I thought we could arrest our way out of crime. But over time, I started to see familiar names come across my desk in daily reports. I realized we were detaining the children of parents that we had arrested 20 years previously. 

I became aware that our cycle of crime and violence could be best prevented by investing in high-quality child care, preschool, afterschool and voluntary home-visiting programs for new families.

So, as I reach a good finish to a rewarding career, I applaud all efforts to create positive beginnings for the next generation and urge that do all we can to reach more children and families.

Thomas Weitzel, chief of police, Riverside