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Indiana Community Gets First Police Chief in 30 Years

December 04, 2002  | 

Woodburn, a small northeast Indiana city, recently celebrated the inauguration of its first police chief since the early ‘70s. Kristopher A. Rice, 35, was sworn in as Woodburn police chief in late July. Rice is a former reserve officer from the Allen County Police Department, where he served for nearly 10 years.

The new chief is pleased with his responsibilities and the job he’s done so far. “The first month was trying. I worked from 15 to 18 hours a day,” he said. “Along with the extended shifts, the biggest challenge was being away from my family. I have two teenagers and a four-year-old.”

Rice’s diligence and hard work has begun to pay off. “We had lots of burglaries, auto thefts and vandalism and made several arrests, but the crime rate has since dropped 99%,” he said.

Previous to Rice’s appointment, Woodburn had spent in excess of $60,000 a year contracting with Allen County police officers to patrol its small city. Complaints from Wood-burn residents over the response time to their calls prompted Woodburn officials to hire an officer full-time.

Rice has settled into his position and has established a rapport with members of the community of approximately 1,500 residents. “I’ve made contact with many of the younger people,” Rice said, “before, they knew when the police were around and when they left. Now I’m here all the time, so they really can’t get away with anything.”

Rice recently swore in three reserve officers to act on his behalf when he’s scheduled a day off. Brad Parker, Shane Neuhaus, and Ronnie King, each in their late 20’s to early 30’s, are reserve officers from the New Haven division. Although the reserves share some of the same powers as Rice, they serve on a voluntary basis and are not paid.

Rice continues to interact with the Allen County Sheriff's Department and the Indiana State Police.

“If and when I needed time off, the Indiana State Police would cover my area at no charge. They’re great people to work with,” he said. New Haven Police Chief Mike Sweet said the Woodburn community reports good news about their new chief of police.

“I’m hearing good things,” said Sweet. “Rice has settled into the position very well. County police officers are saying that he’s doing a wonderful job.”

Sweet worked with Rice during his tenure at the Allen County Sheriff's Department and recalled Rice’s initiative.

“He not only served on our reserve program, but he was a fireman for New Haven and drove for the ambulance,” said Sweet.

Rice is very optimistic about his future as Woodburn chief of police.

“I’d like to hire another full-timer in 2004. That would make two full-timers and three reserves,” he said. “Right now that’s my biggest goal.”

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