Chief Michael Spears Steps Into His New Role Amidst the COVID-19 Crisis
The Town of Zionsville announced the hiring of its new chief of police, Michael Spears, last month after Chief Robert Knox retired after 35 years as a police officer and eight years as chief of the Zionsville Police Department (ZPD).
Spears, currently a Carmel resident, joined the Indianapolis Police Department (IPD) in 1982 and served as the assistant chief of the department and as the chief of police. In his most recent role with Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD), he served as a deputy chief responsible for the Performance and Policy Division.
Getting to Know Chief Spears
A major part of what attracted Spears to the position of chief of police at ZPD was the “small town” setting that Zionsville offers. A fan of small towns and Zionsville in particular, Spears shared that he was raised in a small town and enjoys serving smaller communities.
“Not to sound like John Mellencamp but I grew up in a small town,” Spears said. “I grew up in Brownsburg, not too far from Zionsville. I enjoyed living in a small-town environment and the ability to know the people, businesses and schools on a personal level.”
Early in his youth, Spears said he knew law enforcement was his calling.
“I was influenced [as a kid] by a police officer who was also one of my Little League [baseball] coaches,” Spears shared. “He would speak with me about it, and after a while, I thought that a career as a police officer would really be interesting and a rewarding way to spend my life.”
In 1982, Spears joined the Indiana Police Department—currently the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department—as a beat officer.
“My first assignment [with IPD] was on the Southside of Indianapolis,” Spears recalled. “I was assigned to a ‘beat’—a smaller geographical area. What I enjoyed about that [assignment] was the ability to get to know the citizens of my area on a personal level. I got to know what their problems and concerns were. When you get a chance to help solve a problem or to protect those who can’t protect themselves, it is very gratifying.”
Spears added that he also got to know his fellow officers well and developed strong bonds with them.
“As I progressed through the ranks, I had a variety of assignments,” Spears stated. “I’ve worked every division and held every rank, but as I moved up to positions like assistant chief and later chief of police, I found that the ability to have those close relationships with people in the community and throughout the department became more challenging. I was working with 1,000-plus officers and the City of Indianapolis, and through the [county] consolidation, those numbers grew significantly to 1,700 officers and almost a million people in population.”
Spears added, “I continued to enjoy spending time with the crime watch groups and the officers, but I found it was getting harder to get all around the city [of Indianapolis]. What really appealed to me about this position [with ZPD] was that I get to return to that environment where I can get to know everyone in the department and the town government. I can get to know the citizens and business owners. In my opinion, if that doesn’t happen, then I’m not doing [the job] correctly. I think that type of interaction is invaluable and is the best way to make a difference and serve a community.”
A Call to Action During Unprecedented Times
Spears is working on developing trusting relationships with the town’s government, stakeholders and within his own department during the most challenging times our town has ever faced. He stressed the importance of developing that kind of relationship with the residents and businesses owners to ensure that the quality of service and care the town is used to receiving from ZPD under former Chief Knox’s watch continues while he is chief.
“Zionsville is a beautiful place and wonderful community,” Spears said. “It has very little crime, and we want to keep it that way. Having the support of and the input from the citizens is important in our efforts to reduce crime and keep people safe because they are a force multiplier. Who better to know if something in a neighborhood seems out of the ordinary than the people who live there who know their own neighborhood and neighbors? We want people to know that when they call us [to report suspicious activity or a crime], we take those matters seriously. People sometimes wonder if they should call the police, and my response has always been, ‘You absolutely should call us.’ It doesn’t matter how they contact us—phone, email, coming to us, us going to them, anonymously—the point is that they trust us enough to contact us. We then have the responsibility to take that input and put it into meaningful action.”
Protecting Zionsville During the COVID-19 Crisis
The safety of the town as a whole is at the forefront of ZPD’s priorities and daily task list. Spears has ensured that the department is fully functional and operating without disruption during the COVID-19 situation. Spears is collaborating with Mayor Emily Styron as everyone works through a very fluid and evolutional situation.
“Everyone working together is what makes safety and protection [efforts] successful,” Spears emphasized. “We all have the same goal and interests in common. I am impressed with Mayor Styron and think that she has a very sincere commitment to doing everything she can to improve the success, strength and economy of the town. I also feel the department is doing things the right way to ensure the safety of not only Zionsville residents but of the police officers and first responders as well.”
Spears concluded, “We want to make certain, that as the [pandemic] situation evolves, we’re able to respond to it properly. I don’t think police services should suffer because of the virus. Instead, we are finding innovative ways to perform our duties that allow business to continue, allow the citizens to have the same ability to interact with their police officers—although a little bit differently right now. The Zionsville Police Department is fully operational and is responding to any need that you have.”