‘The privilege to serve’

Fort Dodge Police Chief Tim Carmody said had he been able to find time to write a farewell letter to the community he has served for four years, he would have titled it “the privilege to serve.”

“Because it truly has been an honor and a privilege to be here,” Carmody said. “I feel so very blessed by all the people in our department and by people in the community.”

Carmody, who will begin his new job as the Council Bluffs police chief on Sept. 2, is leaving Fort Dodge to be closer to family. He grew up in Omaha; his stepmother, in-laws and two sisters still live in that area.

“I wish I could have stayed (in Fort Dodge) longer, but family is important,” he said.

During his four years as the Fort Dodge police chief, Carmody said he is most proud of “the way we work together to make Fort Dodge a better place, not just in public safety, but overall.”

When he came to Fort Dodge, he said, “I was pleasantly surprised with what I found. The people truly make the difference in this town, especially when there is a common cause or a common vision. I think we have that now with the leadership in the department and the leadership in the community.”

Initially, he said, he didn’t have a solid game plan.

“When you walk in the door, what you see from the outside … is not what you are going to find when you open the package,” Carmody said.

“When I started working on the assessment within the department and the community, I found that they all wanted change, but they all had their own definition of what change looked like. One of the first things we needed to do was set some goals and a common vision. Part of that was rebranding the police department.”

Among the most visible changes was replacing the white police cruisers – which didn’t look much different than the white cars driven by the Webster County Sheriff’s Department – with distinctive black-and-white vehicles that clearly identify them as belonging to the Fort Dodge Police Department.

But rebranding went much deeper.

“I learned that there were some dark clouds that followed us,” he said. “We all have history, and it’s important to recognize that history, especially if you want to improve it, and I think we have improved it.”

However, he was quick to point out, it wasn’t a one-man job.

“This isn’t about me,” Carmody said. “I helped them see what was possible. We created the vision, and we went in the same direction together.”

Part of his job was to set clear expectations for the staff.

“What I found was that people wanted to do good work, and they did good work, but some of that work doesn’t come to light. So much goes on behind the scenes,” he said, which is where Citizen’s Academy comes into play. The free eight-week course allows community members to “see what really goes on in law enforcement and how we work together, how much collaboration, cooperation and coordination goes on in this community. It’s amazing, and it should continue to grow.”

Under Carmody’s leadership, a school safety program expanded to include public and private school systems throughout Webster County, including Iowa Central Community College, “to help leaders within those schools be better prepared to make decisions in critical incidents as a team.” The Bank Watch program, which is similar to a Neighborhood Watch program for financial institutions, “brought businesses together to coordinate with each other, to work with us, to do crime prevention, to help us better investigate crimes.”

“I really want to thank the community, because we really wouldn’t be able to do the things we’ve done without people coming forward, without the trust and the faith that we’re working as hard as we can to make Fort Dodge a better place.”

Carmody said that too often “people still think we can solve all crime, and we work very hard to solve all crime, but we have limitations too. We’re human, and helping the community learn the human side of law enforcement and how hard our people work is important too.”

The people who work for the Fort Dodge Police Department “come to work every day, and they put their vest on and they pin their badge on with commitment and passion that they are going to step between those who would do harm and our community. They are the protectors. They do good work every day.

“When we allow a person who does not hold up those traditions, who does not have that integrity, when we do not hold them accountable, it’s a slap in the face to the good work everyone else does,” he said.

Carmody said he believes his legacy has been to help refine the foundation of law enforcement that was already in place in the Fort Dodge Police Department.

“We have a strong foundation now, and I am absolutely confident the staff that is going to be here will carry on those new traditions and continue to build this community to the potential it has,” he said.