More than 30 people were in attendance Monday, April 28 at Dillon Town Hall to witness Mark Heminghous take the oath of office and to welcome the longtime Summit County resident as Dillon’s new chief of police.
Prior to taking the oath, Heminghous addressed the crowd and reiterated his excitement in launching the next step of his career, while remaining in Summit County, which he has called home for more than a decade.
“This is the logical next step in my career,” Heminghous said. “I feel very fortunate I was able to receive this job and to continue to live and serve in this great county we have.”
Although Monday morning was festive and there was a feeling in the air that Dillon was officially embarking on a new era, Heminghous broke free from the crowd shortly after taking his oath to settle into his new office at the Dillon police station where he laid out his immediate plans for the agency.
With the Dillon Police Department operating below full staff, Heminghous said first on his agenda is hiring a new sergeant and two police officers to ease the pressure on some of his current employees. Second is creating a new culture, both within the walls of police department, as well as out in the community.
Part of creating a new culture is instilling an employee-first attitude, Heminghous said. If employees feel like they are being invested in, then they turn around and invest themselves into the community.
The second piece is creating goal-oriented policing based on logic, Heminghous said, meaning there are times when officers should cite a member of the public for a violation, but issuing citations doesn’t always bring people into compliance with the law.
“I want these guys to start asking themselves ‘what’s the goal’ in everything they do,” Heminghous said, referencing Dillon’s near constant battle with the public over parking tickets. “What’s the goal in issuing a parking ticket, what’s the goal in setting up that radar on (U.S.) Highway 6, how do you handle that contact with that person logically and do you issue a ticket under all circumstances, or are there times when all someone needs is a warning?
“We all know parking is an issue in Dillon, so let’s put it on the table, let’s bring the community in and let’s talk about it.”
Heminghous’ community policing philosophy may come as a breath of fresh air for local residents, but there’s also a matter of repairing relationships with Dillon’s neighbor to the north in the wake of a 2011 excessive use of force investigation and subsequent lawsuit between former Dillon interim police chief Brian Brady and the town of Silverthorne.
But Silverthorne police chief Mark Hanschmidt, who first worked with Heminghous while serving on the Summit County SWAT team, said Monday any bad blood that was lingering between the two towns washed down the river when Brady resigned in February.
“The bottom line is our officers know how to take the politics out of it and they work very well together,” Hanschmidt said. “Even though we had two chiefs and two town councils battling each other, our guys never lost sight of their jobs. They were still working very well together, which is a good lesson for all of us.”
As a gesture of that camaraderie, five of the 30 people who attended Heminghous’ ceremony were Silverthorne police officers.
Hanschmidt also was one of the new chief’s strongest advocates prior to Dillon Town Council announcing the appointment earlier this month.
“This is a good move for the town of Dillon and it’s good for the town of Silverthorne,” Hanschmidt said. “Mark isn’t afraid to stand up and do the right thing, even though we all know that can sometimes come back to bite us.
“I have a lot of confidence in Mark — he’s very professional and very ethical — and I’m excited to continue working with him in his new role.”