No VPD Chief

Sun-Commercial photo by Jenny McNeece | Bob Dunham, 64, is sworn in by Mayor Joe Yochum as the new chief of the Vincennes Police Department during a ceremony on Wednesday morning at City Hall, 203 Vigo St. Dunham had previously served 24 years with the department, followed by another 10 years with the Vincennes University Police Department.

Mayor issues ‘executive waiver’ to allow his appointment

Clad in a suit and tie — and having already been at work for nearly two hours — Bob Dunham was officially sworn in as the city's new chief of police Wednesday during a brief, early morning ceremony at City Hall, 203 Vigo St.

“Today’s my official first day,” Dunham said proudly. “But really I've already been there for about two weeks doing things here and there.”

The new chief said he had clocked in a 5:50 a.m. “and I'm going back now.”

Dunham is no stranger to the job; he retired as city police chief in January of 2009 under then Mayor Al Baldwin after being with the department for 24 years.

He jokes that he was retired for “about1 hours,” because he reported for duty with the Vincennes University Police Department the very next morning.

He'd been there ever since, until the city found itself in need of a new chief.

“It's time to move forward at the police department,” Dunham said. “They've had some negative publicity lately. And I just think that I can help the city right now a lot more than I was helping VU.”

Former police chief Dusty Luking announced his retirement in October amid a continuing FBI investigation. Luking had been a city police officer for 23 years; he was appointed chief by Yochum in January 2012.

Luking was placed on leave in August after, armed with a search warrant, officials with the Federal Bureau of Investigation descended on VPD headquarters at 501 Busseron St.

City officials say it was the first they knew of any ongoing federal investigation, and they've been tight-lipped about anything they've learned in the months since.

It's the mayor's job to appoint the chief and assistant chief of police, but Dennis Kordes, a member of the Police Merit Commission, which handles the hiring and firing of all other police officers, said the mayor reached out to them for a bit of help in this process.

City ordinance is clear in who is eligible to be chief, and at least on paper, Dunham doesn't meet the criteria.

The police chief must have at least seven years of “continuous and immediate” service with the VPD, but Kordes said both the merit commission and the mayor thought Dunham the right fit for the job.

As such, the mayor issued an executive waiver, Kordes said, allowing Dunham to be hired despite not having been with the VPD for the seven required years immediately prior to the appointment.

It's a move, Kordes said, supported by the Indiana Chief of Police Association as well as city attorney Dave Roellgen.

Kordes also pointed to Dunham's extensive career with the VPD before going to VU as well as the fact there had been “no break in his law enforcement service” over the last 34 years.

Kordes said it weighed heavily on their decision, too, that Dunham was “above reproach” in terms of the ongoing FBI investigation.

“That played into it, of course, but it's really his experience,” he said. “I'm positive Bob will bring the leadership the department needs right now.

“He brings a wealth of experience.”

Yochum, too, said he looked to Dunham for the role in that he needed “somebody that could come in and be a leader, get (VPD) back on solid ground.”

Dunham's service, the mayor was confident, would be “for the betterment of the city and the VPD.”

And Dunham is ready and willing to take on the roll.

Despite being 64 years old, he's not eyeing another retirement just yet.

“I've always said as long as my health is good and I feel like helping, then I want to help,” he said.

For now, he said he'll do a lot of listening.

“As an incoming leader, you have to sit back and evaluate, communicate,” he said. “In the next month, I plan to meet personally with everybody on the department, get their opinions as to what is going well and what is going not so well.

I've spent a lot of time with (assistant chief Terry) Johnson, too,” Dunham said. “He's done a good job, and has really been helping me to prepare.

“But, as a new leader, you have to take time to evaluate, then move forward with the results of that evaluation.”

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