Aurora to name first woman police chief

  • Cmdr. Kristen Ziman is in line to become Aurora's first woman police chief.

      Cmdr. Kristen Ziman is in line to become Aurora's first woman police chief. Daniel White | Staff Photographer

  • Aurora Mayor Tom Weisner's has recommended Kristen Ziman to become the city's next police chief. Ziman was congratulated by Aurora Fire Chief John Lehman, right, on Thursday.

      Aurora Mayor Tom Weisner's has recommended Kristen Ziman to become the city's next police chief. Ziman was congratulated by Aurora Fire Chief John Lehman, right, on Thursday. Daniel White | Staff Photographer

  • "One of the strongest points I would say about Kristen is her ability to communicate effectively," Aurora Mayor Tom Weisner said.

      "One of the strongest points I would say about Kristen is her ability to communicate effectively," Aurora Mayor Tom Weisner said. Daniel White | Staff Photographer

  • Kristen Ziman is congratulated by Sgt. Liz Robinson-Chan, left, after being recommended by Aurora Mayor Tom Weisner to be the city's next police chief.

      Kristen Ziman is congratulated by Sgt. Liz Robinson-Chan, left, after being recommended by Aurora Mayor Tom Weisner to be the city's next police chief. Daniel White | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 1/7/2016 4:10 PM

A veteran Aurora police commander, Kristen Ziman, is in line to become the first woman police chief in the city's history.

Mayor Tom Weisner announced Thursday he will recommend Ziman to the city council for its approval on Jan. 12. He said he considered four internal candidates and made his choice after a process that included surveys, presentations and multiple interviews.

 

Ziman would succeed Greg Thomas, who retired in November, and oversee a force of roughly 300 sworn officers.

"Becoming Aurora's first female police chief is not the only way she has been a trailblazer, and I'm confident that her considerable talent will lead the department to new heights," Weisner said.

Born and raised in Aurora, Ziman has spent 25 years with the department, beginning as a "naive" 17-year-old police cadet in 1991 and rising through the ranks.

"I can't imagine being anywhere else," Ziman said. "To reach the pinnacle of my career and to go through the ranks in this organization -- I don't even know how to describe it. It just makes my heart want to explode."

Calling herself both a student and a teacher, Ziman said one of her first priorities would be getting a "pulse on the community" and restructuring the department's leadership. She wants to rewrite city ordinances to allow the chief to select candidates for deputy chief from not just commanders, but also lieutenants.

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The department currently lacks a deputy, and Ziman "intends to reinvigorate that position," Weisner said.

Ziman also said she wants to put more residents face-to-face with police. She acknowledged these are "tumultuous times" in law enforcement in the wake of excessive force cases, though she said "our police department hasn't suffered those blemishes."

"I think the community engagement is the most important piece of this puzzle," she said. "I've been pretty active in the community, but I feel a greater sense of responsibility to be out there even more right now."

The mother of four lives in Aurora with her family and sits on the boards of the Aurora YWCA and Breaking Free, a nonprofit group that does, among other things, addiction and family counseling.

If promoted, she also plans to keep up her Facebook and Twitter accounts, where she posts articles and studies related to the job, but also shows an approachable side ("I'm doing a donut cleanse," she declared in December).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

A graduate of West Aurora High School, Ziman served three years as a cadet before becoming a sworn officer in 1994. One of her first mentors suggested she take the sergeant's test and Ziman said she "did horribly."

"Even if you fail you continue to move forward," she said. "It also taught me to be bold, and that's exactly what I want to be going forward."

Ziman worked in patrol, field training, community policing and investigations as a domestic violence detective before becoming a sergeant in 2003. She was promoted to lieutenant in 2008 and to commander of the patrol division in 2010.

If the council approves her selection, she will step in the role immediately, making her the 28th chief in the history of the department.

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