Lincoln police officers — and four former police chiefs — filled the City Council chambers Monday as the council unanimously approved California native Teresa Ewins as the city's newest police chief.
Council Chairman James Michael Bowers read a letter from the Lincoln Police Union endorsing Ewins and said officers he’s talked to personally have all supported Ewins as police chief.
“It was unanimous from several officers I spoke to. They’re excited, they’re energized,” he said. “You’re the right person at the right time.”
Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird introduced Ewins, saying her commitment to community policing and supporting officers, to diversity, equity, inclusion, transparency and accountability made her the “consensus candidate” by the department and community.
“I am finally here,” Ewins said to the council. “LPD has been nothing but gracious. I thank them for making me feel comfortable. I think the transition will be seamless. I really do.”
Ewins, 55, a commander with the San Francisco Police Department, was one of four finalists and among 31 applicants for the job to replace Jeff Bliemiester, who left for a job in the private sector.
She’s the first woman to lead LPD, the highest-ranking LGBTQ officer with the San Francisco department and the only one of the finalists who had never before pursued the top job at a major police department.
Ewins, who will start her new job Aug. 30 and must still move to Lincoln, played soccer at Sonoma State University and first started with the San Francisco Police Department when she was 30.
During her 26-year career there she has worked in field operations, investigations and special operations. As a commander she oversaw five of the 10 district stations with about 900 officers — nearly three times the size of LPD.
The other finalists included Ramon Batista, former police chief in Mesa, Arizona; Darryl McSwain, police chief for the Maryland-National Capital Park Police in Montgomery County, and former Lincoln police Capt. Genelle Moore.
Former Lincoln Chiefs Bliemiester, Jim Peschong, Tom Casady and Allen Curtis sat in the front rows of the chamber as the mayor introduced Ewins — the first police chief who didn’t rise through the ranks locally since George Hansen in 1975, who also came to Lincoln from California.
A few speakers addressed the council, including Jane Kinsey, who represents a local watchdog group. She said the community and police department weren't given enough choices, and Ewins' selection illustrates the mayor's determination to bring "West Coast, liberal ideas" to Lincoln.
Lincoln resident Roy Helm countered Kinsey, saying he supported the choice and hoped Ewins didn't think Lincoln in general is close-minded.
Acting Police Chief Brian Jackson also added his support and that of the department.
In comments to reporters after the council’s approval, Ewins said it felt surreal to be at this point.
Her first priority, she said, will be to get to know Lincoln and the department, visiting all the stations and meeting with the men and women who work for LPD to see where it is as a police department.
“We’re at a high level as a police department,” she said. “It’s important to see where we can go, how we can raise the bar further.”
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