Union Township welcomes new chief of police

Lt. Terry Zinzer of the Union Township Police Department will begin more than a new year on Jan. 1. The 29-year veteran of police work will also begin a new assignment as Chief of the Union Township Police force. Former Chief Tom Knox will make his decade-old retirement official with the switchover from 2005-2006 and a switchover from Chief Knox to Chief Zinzer.

“I’ve been with Union Township since 1986 and spent the nine-and-a-half years prior to that in Hamilton County,” said Lt. Zinzer. “I think I’ve wanted to be a policeman ever since I can remember. I think it’s not being confined behind a desk that appealed to me. Whenever you see that police car, you want to know where it’s going to. Also, I have a general desire to get involved and help people. Being involved and helping people with their problems is important, and I’ve always professed that belief. We tell our subordinates that we need to get involved in people’s problems. That’s why they call us, we need to get involved and see it to the end.”

Zinzer, whom Chief Knox credited as one of his “go-to guys” during his 10-year tenure at the department, will assume command of the department with the weight of a professional and respected police force behind him. Knox came to Union Township 10 years ago with the mandate from Union Township to professionalize the force. Zinzer was one of the three officers from that force that Knox said made the professionalization possible. Zinzer said that he learned well from his former chief.

“Working with Chief Knox has been a learning experience,” said Lt. Zinzer. “He is undoubtedly a professional. He came to Union Township with an agenda of professionalizing this department and he did that. Before he ever took office, he reviewed our policy and procedures, so when he came here, he hit the ground with his feet running.”

Zinzer said that his experience under Knox will translate into the continued smooth operation of the department. Since Zinzer is already aware of the operating procedure, the changeover is expected to take place without a hitch, and the presence of a pair of qualified officers will make Zinzer’s command team whole from day one.

“This is kind of a unique position for me, and I’m excited about the opportunity,” said Lt. Zinzer. “Having worked under Chief Knox as long as I have, you won’t see much change. He’s put us on a professional path, and I don’t see us making many changes. I’ve worked under him and studied under him, and for that reason I think everything will be status quo. Everything will be easier too because of the people I’m bringing up behind me. Lt. Scott Gaviglia and Lt. Sue Madsen are very qualified. I’ve worked with them for the past few years when they were sergeants, and they know how the positions will work. There is nobody downstairs that is not qualified to move up. Having them behind me will make them much easier.”

Recently, Zinzer, a Williamsburg resident, was elected to the local school board, a position he will also begin to fill on Jan. 1. Zinzer, who said that he expects to split his time easily between the two, sees a big advantage with his police career paired with school board work.

“I think I’ll bring a lot to the school board as far as leadership and discipline,” said Lt. Zinzer. “After 29 years of police work, I consider myself a very disciplined person, and that never hurts any organization.”

While Zinzer expects to leave most of the force’s procedures in-place and un-changed, he did say that he has a few ideas of how to tweak procedure concerning Union Township’s number one problem: traffic.

“I think the biggest direct challenge, at least short-term, is the traffic problem,” said Lt. Zinzer. “That’s always been a problem, and I have plans for that. I’d like to bolster our traffic units more. I think in general, all departments have to preserve their image. Right now, Chief Knox is leaving us with a most professional image, and we’re not going to wander from that on my watch. Public perception is the most important thing to a police department. Once a department loses its integrity with the public, it’s finished. You need to maintain the integrity of the department.”