The new Wauseon chief of police is a familiar face with 15 years on the force.
On the recommendation of Mayor Kathy Huner, Assistant Chief of Police Kevin Chittenden was appointed by City Council on Monday to replace Keith Torbet. Torbet, a 35-year veteran of Wauseon police, will leave the force to replace Dennis Richardson as the city’s public service director when Richardson retires Sept. 1.
One of three in-house candidates, Chittenden will be sworn in Aug. 5. A Wauseon police chief’s salary starts at $73,777.60.
Huner said Chittenden was recommended due to his years with the city, his dedication, and his knowledge of the job. “We felt he was the best choice,” she said.
A new assistant chief has not been named.
A Bryan native, Chittenden joined Wauseon police in June of 2004, after serving briefly as a police officer at Cedar Point amusement park in Sandusky, Ohio. He was promoted to detective in 2008, and to assistant chief in 2018.
“I’ve got some big shoes to fill, and I look forward to the challenge,” he said. He said he won’t make drastic changes in the department, “maybe just a tweak here and there.”
After graduating from high school in 1997, Chittenden attended the University of Toledo to study business law, “but the classes weren’t keeping my interest,” he said. He transferred to Owens Community College in Perrysburg, and graduated from the police academy there in 2003.
Recalling his father’s friendships with Bryan police officers, Chittenden said, “I just was kind of drawn to it.”
His law enforcement career in Wauseon began as an auxiliary officer, then became full-time a year later. An early challenge in the profession was “the reality wake-up call of the behind the scenes of how people live and react,” he said.
His aspirations of leading a police department arose about two years ago. “At that point in my life I started to think about the next point in my career, and it became something I was interested in,” Chittenden said.
He said the larger challenges as police chief may be the recruitment and retention of officers. He said recruitment is down nationwide, brought on by a reluctance to work a patrolman’s schedule and by the negative image of police the media can portray.
“With the popularity of social media, every move you make gets second-guessed immediately. No job seems to get as second-guessed as law enforcement. It adds stress to the job,” Chittenden said.
That isn’t as prevalent in Wauseon or Fulton County, where public support is much more apparent, he said, adding, “There are always people who are going to dislike us because of the nature of the job. Disrespect (here) is rare.”
Small changes may be made in the department’s day-to-day operations, but nothing that will affect the community, Chittenden said. “Chief Torbet is leaving me in a good position with a very good department,” he said. “He did a lot of great things when he was chief, and I hope to follow in his footsteps with a lot of great accomplishments.”
His position as a plainclothes detective in Wauseon for more than nine years gave him the added responsibility and the ability to work with other agencies and with businesses that will benefit his promotion to chief, Chittenden said. So will his camaraderie with other officers in the department.
“Because we are familiar with each other, for the most part they understand how I think and I understand how they think,” he said.
Chittenden said his only regret as a law enforcement officer is that he didn’t answer the call sooner.
“Maybe, I should have started a couple of years earlier,” he said.
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.