After just 18 months at the helm of the Vincennes Police Department, Chief Robert Dunham will retire next month, Mayor Joe Yochum announced on Monday.
Replacing him will be Sgt. Jon Hillenbrand, a former detective who now serves as a school resource officer.
“Bob has done an amazing job,” the mayor said, “and while I hate to see him go, I do understand. And I’m excited for him.
“Jon is always upbeat and smiling. He has the years of service under his belt, and he’s great out in the community, so I’m excited, too, that he’s here to take over the position.”
Dunham was sworn in in the fall of 2019, just before the pandemic struck. He was, however, no stranger to the job. He first retired as city police chief in January of 2009 under then Mayor Al Baldwin after being with the department for 24 years.
Former police chief Dusty Luking announced his retirement in October of 2019 amid a then-active FBI investigation.
Luking, a 23-year veteran of the VPD, had been placed on leave in August of that same year after, armed with a search warrant, officials with the Federal Bureau of Investigation descended on VPD headquarters at 501 Busseron St.
The department was left in turmoil, and the mayor asked Dunham to step up and take over.
On Monday, Dunham said he believed he’d “accomplished what I set out to do.”
“Things here are back up to standard,” he said, “and we’re through many of the problems they had been facing.”
The Indiana State Board of Accounts in January of 2021 pointed to nearly $32,000 missing from the VPD’s vault as a reason for the FBI investigation; that money is still reportedly unaccounted for.
Luking, too, was accused in the report of using police funds to purchase a laptop computer for personal use and in the general misappropriation of money.
He has not, however, been charged with a crime.
Dunham, upon taking over, immediately added 24-hour vault monitoring cameras, and new locks were installed.
Access to the vault, too, is now documented and logged into a computer system, including the officer’s name and the date and time of entry.
All items in the vault have been inventoried and catalogued into the same computer system for better tracking and accountability, according to the report.
As such, Dunham said the department has “come a long way” in terms of improving internal controls, and the mayor agreed.
With much of that behind them, Hillenbrand said he looks forward to continuing reparation of the department’s morale.
“We’ve had a lot of turmoil lately within the department,” Hillenbrand said. “It has recently undergone a lot of changes, and I hope to bring a bit of calm. (Chief Dunham) walked us through the steps we needed to take to get through this difficult time, and I really just hope to continue on the path he has set us on.
“We are definitely on our way to brighter days,” he said.
Dunham, however, isn’t going far; effective July 13, after some vacation, he will retire and join the reserves, primarily acting as a school resource officer.
That, he said, is his “second calling.”
“The opportunity came about to be working in a couple of the schools, and I really enjoy that,” he said. “I always wanted to be an SRO, so when offered that position, I just couldn’t hardly turn it down.
“The root of our society stems from our children, and I think being able to be in an environment where I can allow children to see us as more than what they see at night means a lot.”
Dunham, too, said he saw this as an opportunity to allow “someone else to move forward,” and he compared Hillenbrand to himself many years ago.
“Not to pat myself too much on the back,” he said with a chuckle, “but Jon’s frame of mind, his administrative skills, his way of doing things, is a lot like mine. And when it comes to law enforcement, 90% of it is communication, so when you have those skills, too, and he does, then you’re way ahead of the game.”
Hillenbrand not only brings 18 years of police work to the table, including four years as a detective, but he also served in an upper management role at the Southwest Regional Youth Village early in his career.
He holds a degree in criminology from Indiana State University with a minor in business administration. He, too, is a certified firearms instructor and has served as a school resource officer for the last three years, primarily at Lincoln High School.
Hillenbrand said he was thrilled — and maybe a little scared — at the opportunity to step into Dunham’s shoes.
“I just want to make sure I do Bob justice; it’s a big responsibility,” he said. “But I know that with all my experience at the department, I’m up for the task.”
Hillenbrand will be sworn in as interim chief on Monday at the city’s Board of Public Works meeting, set for 5 p.m. at City Hall, 201 Vigo St.
He will then be named chief on July 13 when Dunham officially retires.