River Hills — Tom Rischmann worked his way up from dispatcher to police chief during his 33 years with the River Hills Police Department.
On June 27, he will retire from the police department, capping off a long career that started in 1980, when he was hired as a dispatcher. Seven months later, he was promoted to patrolman, and in less than five years, he was promoted to sergeant. After three years as sergeant, he was promoted to lieutenant in 1989, and when Chief Michael Downing retired in 2005, Rischmann was picked to fill his shoes.
River Hills is a unique community to police, in that it is zoned entirely residential, with the exception of a handful of schools and religious institutions. Many of the roads dead end to avoid through-traffic. With a department of 12 sworn personnel and five clerks, Rischmann said he has emphasized officer training that will prepare River Hills cops for almost any call that comes into the police station.
All River Hills officers are trained in CPR, for example, and carry electronic defibrillators in their squad cars. Rischmann said there has been at least one instance in which an officer was able to arrive to the scene of an emergency faster than the ambulance and fire truck.
"Our officers are all cross-trained because they never know what they're going to get called to," he said.
Rischmann, who started his career using a typewriter, has also seen his fair share of technological advances during his 33 years in the department. The high-tech consolidated dispatch center in Bayside, for example, allows officers to edit and view calls from within their squad car. In 2010, the police department converted its in-squad recorders to a digital system that automatically transfers information from the crime scene to an in-house computer.
Another unique aspect of River Hills policing is the emphasis on service and community involvement. When officers are not busy monitoring traffic on Brown Deer Road, Good Hope Road and Green Bay Avenue, the officers provide the added service of checking on certain residents' houses while they are on vacation. Last year, the police department performed 7,655 house checks.
Village Manager Christopher Lear said Rischmann's efforts are evident in the quality of his department and staff. A survey of River Hills residents conducted last year indicated that 96 percent of all surveyed residents were satisfied with the police department and its services.
"Our police department is very professional and service-oriented," Lear said. "Chief Rischmann insists on a high degree of training and professionalism out of his officers."
When Rischmann retires, Lieutenant Todd Dowie will fill in as acting police chief. After a six month probationary period, Dowie will be named the permanent police chief.
Rischmann said he has no special plans for retirement, but hopes to spend more time with his family – including his parents, grandsons and Labrador retriever. He also hopes to catch up on work around his house in Brown Deer, as well as his summer home near Rhinelander. He said he will miss interacting with residents and his fellow village employees.
"The thing I'm going to miss the most is the people, especially the employees here," he said.
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