Kentwood PD Chief Hillen retiring after 42-year career

Kent County

An undated courtesy photo of Kentwood Police Chief Thomas Hillen, who is expected to retire Nov. 1, 2019. (City of Kentwood)

KENTWOOD, Mich. (WOOD) — After more than 40 years in law enforcement, Kentwood’s police chief is retiring.

The police department said Monday that Kentwood Police Chief Thomas Hillen will retire Nov. 1 and spend winter in Florida with his wife.

“It has been a pure joy to spend these past 10 years with the Kentwood Police Department and I will greatly miss the family atmosphere.

“I’m humbled by the department’s achievements and feel grateful to have had the opportunity to work here and serve alongside the team. The officers care for the community, and the community cares for the officers. That is what makes it special to be an officer in the City of Kentwood; it’s just different here.

“Our success is attributed to our combined efforts, and I can proudly say this has been the perfect capstone experience of a profession I have loved,” Hillen stated in a Monday news release.

Hillen started with the Kentwood Police Department in 2009 after serving 32 years with the Kent County Sheriff’s Department, leaving there as the chief deputy. He became Kentwood’s police chief in November 2012 when Richard Mattice retired.

Kentwood Mayor Stephen Kepley credited Hillen’s leadership for helping drive down Kentwood’s violent and property crime rates to five-year lows.

Under Hillen, Kentwood police took a data-driven approach to curbing crime and traffic violations, launched a campaign aimed at stopping retail theft during the holidays, and added school resource officers to middle schools and an officer to the FBI Joint Terrorist Task Force.

Hillen also served as a leader or adviser for numerous law enforcement groups and programs, including the Kent County Chiefs of Police, Kent County’s Metropolitan Drug Enforcement Team and police academies at Grand Valley State University, Grand Rapids Community College and Kent Career Technical Center.

An undated courtesy photo of Kentwood Deputy Chief Richard Roberts. (City of Kentwood)

Kentwood’s mayor is expected to appoint Kentwood Deputy Chief Richard Roberts to the police chief post following Hillen’s retirement. The city commission will have to confirm Roberts’ appointment.

Roberts joined the Kentwood Police Department in 1987 as a police paramedic and has since served as a detective, field training officer and supervisor, road patrol supervisor, staff services bureau supervisor and detective bureau supervisor, as well as a member of the crisis negotiating team. Roberts became the captain of the patrol division in 2012 and deputy police chief in August 2017.

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