Calling it a career: Noblesville police chief to retire in January

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A career in policing that spans more than four decades is coming to end in January, 2020 when Noblesville Police Dept. Chief Kevin Jowitt will retire.

The announcement came at the end of the day Aug. 19. Jowitt, who declined to give his age, said the decision to retire was not easy.

“I think a lot of it is that I stopped ignoring signs that it was time. There were lots and lots of factors to think about,” Jowitt said. “One of my old mentors, Jim Bradley, who was a retired (Indiana) State Police sergeant and was with the prosecutor’s office for years, he and I had lots of long talks. One of the things I remember him saying when he was talking about retirement is, ‘You’ll know when it’s time,’ and he was right.”

Kevin Jowitt, top center, with the Aug. 5, 1977 graduating police academy class at Indiana University. (File photo)

SHIFT IN POLICING

Jowitt was appointed NPD chief in May 2009 by Mayor John Ditslear. The second-longest serving chief in NPD history, Jowitt said the nature of policing has changed in the past decade.

“When I started as a police officer in the ’70s, it would have been absolutely unthinkable that a 13-year-old would bring guns to school and shoot people,” he said. “We’ve also had two situations recently that worry me a great deal – the robberies of the phone stores. We’re dealing with masked individuals armed with handguns who come in and immediately threaten the lives of the people in the store. I think that in a very general way, we’re seeing an increase nationally and in central Indiana of people that are willing to use violence to do whatever it is that they’re trying to do, so that’s a big change, a big shift.

“We’re living in a much more violent world.”

GROWTH OF THE DEPARTMENT

Today, the police department is approximately 30 percent larger in terms of manpower than when Jowitt started his career with the NPD.

“I think we are better trained and better equipped. We certainly have absolutely continued to attract great people who want to be Noblesville police officers,” Jowitt said. “I am especially glad that we have been able to diversify more in every demographic, because I think a diverse police department is a healthy police department. We’re accredited, not just initially, but we’ve been reaccredited and gone through the process twice now. That’s a big deal.

“It shows our commitment to professional performance and to follow our industry best practices. We’re very proud of that.”

But Jowitt said the overall approach of NPD has undergone a significant shift as well.

“In general, what we have been trying to do is to stop doing things because that’s the way we’ve always done them and start doing things that we believe are going to produce results,” he said.

Under his leadership, city crime rates have dropped more than any city Noblesville’s size in the state in the past three years. Jowitt also has implemented several programs, including problem-oriented policing teams, traffic and crime analysis units, Citizens Police Academy, National Night Out events, Coffee with a Cop and other intitiatives.

“When we have citizens academy classes. I always help teach that first night, and one of the things I always talk about is how policing is a social contract,” Jowitt said. “People give police officers, through the political process, a tremendous amount of power. We’re the only people in the United States that are legally authorized to deprive people of their liberty and, in extreme circumstances, to use force up to and including deadly force. That’s been the nature of the national conversation, and I think in a lot of places, there is some resentment among certain elements of the community and among police officers for this change. But the people have the right to question and the right to request consideration of change of the contract. We’re very fortunate in Noblesville in that we’ve got a tremendous relationship with the community.

“So, many of the things that are flashpoints in other places just really aren’t issues here, and for different reasons, but I think a lot of what we’re doing right now with community policing and community outreach is trying to build a strong bridge and trying to build trust so that if something should happen, there won’t be an automatic assumption that we’ve done something wrong.”

Noblesville Police Dept. Chief Kevin Jowitt pauses inside the Noblesville Public Safety Building on South Ninth Street. (Photo by Sadie Hunter)


RETIREMENT

Jowitt has lived in Noblesville for more than 35 years. He is married to Deb and has a stepdaughter, Crystal, the daughter of his first wife, Kim, a sergeant with the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office who died in 2014 from breast cancer.

Jowitt said he and his wife plan to stay in the area for a few years before moving to their home in northern Michigan.

“I’ve got an opportunity to teach at Indiana University. At least for a start, I’ve been asked to teach one (criminal justice) class in the spring,” he said. “My master’s degree is from the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at IU, and I’ve been asked to come back and guest-teach several times since I got my master’s in 2012. I really, really enjoyed doing that.”

Jowitt said he also has received other employment opportunities that are in the inititial conversation stage.

Outside of his career in law enforcement, he said he looks forward to having more time for hobbies like woodworking and building boats.

“People always say retirement is bittersweet, and it really is,” Jowitt said. “I’m very excited about whatever it is that’s going to come next. I’m in a really fortunate position, because if I don’t want to work, I don’t have to, but I don’t know if that’s me. I don’t know that I’m done yet. It’s time to move out of the nuts and bolts of law enforcement, but I suspect whatever I’ll do next will somewhat be in that realm.”

To ensure a smooth transition, Jowitt’s official retirement date is Jan. 31, 2020. Running unopposed, Noblesville Common Councilor Chris Jensen is set to be elected mayor in November. He is expected to make the appointment in 2020.


CAREER HIGHLIGHTS

May 1976-1979 – Hired as a police cadet to the Indiana University Bloomington Police Dept.

“The first assignment I had after we got out of our initial training was body-guarding Elvis Presley when he was at the (IU) Assembly Hall in May of 1976,” Jowitt said. “I got to meet him and shake his hand, so that was pretty cool. I also was assigned to the bench at IU home basketball games, so I was like 5 feet away from Bob Knight when he was coaching.”

August 1979 – Becomes a commercial insurance underwriter

January 1983 – Hired as a reserve deputy

“(Insurance) was not what I was meant to do, and I really missed law enforcement, so I became a reserve deputy with the (Hamilton County) Sheriff’s Dept.”

January 1985 – Hired as a full-time deputy with the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office

November 1995 – Hired to start an investigations unit at an insurance company

“Again, I started missing law enforcement, so I became a reserve officer in Cicero (in 1997).”

Indiana Association of Chiefs of Police President Jason Dombkowski, right, presents the Distinguished Hoosier Award from Gov. Eric Holcomb to Noblesville Police Chief Kevin Jowitt. Jowitt received the honor in 2018. (File photo)

January 2003 – Hired as a full-time commander with the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office

“Doug Carter had just been elected sheriff, and he brought me back to the sheriff’s department as commander of the investigations division.”

January 2008 – Hired as chief of police for the City of Westfield

May 2009 – Hired as chief of police for the City of Noblesville

Jowitt also has served on a number of boards and panels, including being president of the Indiana Association of Chiefs of Police in 2017. Jowitt was recognized in 2018 when he was awarded the Distinguished Hoosier Award, which is one of the highest honors that the Governor of Indiana bestows.

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