Park Ridge gets a new police chief as Robert Kampwirth is sworn in

Nearly 100 city officials, family members, police officers and spectators filled Park Ridge City Hall Thursday night for the swearing-in ceremony of Robert Kampwirth as the new police chief of Park Ridge.

Kampwirth’s nomination received a unanimous approval vote from aldermen at the Sept. 5 City Council meeting. He had been serving as interim police chief since May, after Frank Kaminski retired as chief.

At the swearing-in ceremony, City Manager Joe Gilmore said Kampwirth had a “test drive” as interim chief because he got to navigate the city’s busy summertime season with its many festivals. “[Kampwirth] understands the department’s culture and has a vision to take policing to the next level,” he said.

Gilmore added that Kampwirth’s passion stuck out in the recruiting process. “He’s the only person I’ve offered a job to that answered with a bear hug,” he said.

Mayor Marty Maloney said “I think Bob might be the person who would say [he’s] never worked a day in his life. He’s worked for a community he loves, and he’s worked in a job that he loves.”

In a short speech after being sworn in by City Clerk Sal Raspanti, Kampwirth thanked his family, city officials and the Park Ridge Police Department for their support. He said, “I stand in a place that I thought I’d never be here. And mark my words, it’s because of everyone in this room. I really appreciate that. I couldn’t be here without you guys.”

Kampwirth told Pioneer Press/Chicago Tribune a day after he was sworn in his priority is to reestablish himself in the department in his new role. Kampwirth said, “I mean, I’ve been here for 29 years. So everybody knows me. They know me really well. But I want to make sure that I establish myself as the new chief to say that, ‘Hey, here I am.’ I am going to be looking at everything that we have from our organization from the top level now.”

Kampwirth said he wants the police department to play a role that will find solutions in the community, even when problems are not necessarily a police problem. “For example, let’s say the youth problems — youth gatherings and things like that. You know, they’re not necessarily causing a crime, right? But that ends up — we get calls for them around Starbucks, around Uptown area and everything else,” he said.

“What I want to do is work with the community to find solutions. I want to collaborate with community groups, community partners, and parents, especially if you’re talking about kids, schools, things like that, to work together,” said Kampwirth.

With the SAFE-T Act in place in Illinois and set to take effect Sept. 18, Kampwirth said he wants to stay on top of things professionally and to be transparent. The new chief said Park Ridge won’t see huge changes in the way it conducts policing because body cameras and other transparency measures have already been in place in the city. Regarding cashless bail, he said, “We’re still working on our procedures and policies and how we’re going to get through that and do that.”