Retiring Police Chief Olin says he’s leaving department better than he found it

Leader praises officers and staff as he weighs next stage of career

Lawrence Police Chief Ron Olin passes by new department recruits at a press conference on August 4, 2010. On August 3, Olin announced he was retiring effective September 1.

Ron Olin, who is heading toward a Sept. 1 retirement as Lawrence’s longtime police chief, said Wednesday he was proud of the department’s accomplishments.

“This department is much better than I found it, and that’s exactly my goal,” Olin said. “We have a very strong command staff. We have excellent police officers. They police themselves.

“We have no problem with corruption. We have no problem with drug use. We don’t have problems with the big-city kinds of things that go on.”

Olin, who became chief in 1987, spoke to the media, dozens of department employees and others Wednesday, one day after his retirement announcement.

“Last weekend was the longest weekend of my life, and it was a very difficult decision that I came to,” he said. “I will not regret it, but at the same time it was a difficult decision.”

Olin — who has a doctorate and is known as a terrorism expert — said he typically receives one or two very serious opportunities to leave the department each year but had not been interested in them — until recently.

“I’ve got one possible opportunity now, and I’m willing to entertain that to the point of going ahead and doing retirement,” Olin said at the Investigations and Training Center, 4820 Bob Billings Parkway.

He did not provide specifics and said a decision has not yet been made.

“But I’ve had extensive discussions about it,” Olin said.

He turns 60 next month and said that, due to 39 years of experience, he’s worked seven years longer than the 32 years required to retire with full benefits under the state’s police and fire retirement system.

“It’s not like I’ve been eager to go out the door and abandon the department,” Olin said.

He also reflected on the changes the department has seen during his nearly four decades in service.

The city experienced tremendous social unrest when he came aboard as an officer in 1971. In prior years, the city had experienced riots and acts of violence and destruction, including the 1970 burning of the Kansas Union.

Events were so fresh that Olin and other officers wore protective helmets when they went on the street for several years.

“The whole society was just much different than it is today, and the challenge of the police department at that time was much different than it is today,” he said.

The department has also had to adapt to Lawrence’s growth and immense technological changes that occurred.

“The chief was brought up from the era of newly advanced law enforcement, and he just keeps thriving to advance law enforcement throughout his career,” Douglas County Sheriff Ken McGovern said. “It’s going to be a big loss.”

But McGovern said Olin has put the department in a strong position as he leaves. City Manager David Corliss said he expected to hire an interim chief within a week and complete a national search by the end of the year.

Olin, who will continue to live in Lawrence, said the department — which has 164 employees and a $13.9 million budget — was in a good position to move forward.

“I don’t really work here. These guys work here,” he said. “I have every faith in what they’re going to do. I’m not worried. I’m going to be safe in my home.”