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New Bainbridge police chief takes oath of office
“It is a privilege to come to city hall this evening,” Bainbridge Municipal Court Judge Kathyrn Carruthers began, “for a public swearing that is neither inconsiderate, illegal or unwelcome.”
And to a burst of laughter from the audience, that is how Judge Carruthers opened the swearing-in ceremony for Bainbridge’s new chief of police, Matthew J. Hamner.
Amid a crowd of police officers, city workers, family and well-wishers, Hamner took the oath of office Thursday, June 20, to become the island’s next top law enforcer.
He takes over a department that has been plagued for the past year and a half by resignations, lawsuits, internal investigations and low morale.
Hamner, who comes to the island with a 23-year career with the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, will now fill the shoes of former chief of police Jon Fehlman, who resigned last fall after an external investigation into alleged misdeeds. The department has also been faced with the resignation of Commander Sue Schultz, who left after a sex-discrimination complaint against her turned up empty; a $1 million settlement for the fatal shooting of a mentally ill man by the police; and continued discord among officers.
Despite the challenges he faced, Hamner was eager to become a member of the Bainbridge community and soon became a top contender in the competitive selection, which attracted approximately 60 applicants.
“The search process was extremely competitive, and we had numerous outstanding candidates,” City Manager Doug Schulze told the audience before the oath was administered.
“Matthew was identified early in the process as one of my top candidates,” he said.
But the city manager wasn’t the only one impressed with Hamner’s performance.
“I was sitting at home one evening going through the online interviews,” Schulze related. “My wife was working in another room. Less than five minutes into the interview that Matthew did, my wife came in to the room and said ‘That guy sounds like he’d be a great chief.’”
On Thursday night, Hamner offered his gratitude.
“First of all, I’d like to thank Doug’s wife,” he said, to another round of laughter.
“That’s me,” he continued. “I like having a good time. I think that life is something that we treasure and enjoy, every minute, whether we're working or playing or whatever we are doing.”
Hamner went on to thank the city manager, the council and “every single citizen on Bainbridge Island.”
“I know that you have put your faith in your elected officials, and that trickles down to who they pick as chief,” he said. “And so I, as your chief … promise to serve you to the best of my ability.”
And that is just what Hamner swore to do Thursday night.
“Oaths of office have been a precedent to holding civil and military offices of the United States since the founding of our country,” Carruthers said.
“The words contained in each oath are not casual or mere verbiage. The oath embodies the standards and values to which the public official aspires," seh said. "Oaths are best taken in the public arena, for the community bears witness to the oath, thereby affirming the standards and values contained in it.”
The emotional import of the occasion caused Hamner to pause to collect himself at two points in his address, but he went on to share a favorite poem with the audience, Rudyard Kipling’s “If.”
“He says in there to treat success and failure, two imposters, with the same standard and never forget that. So I entreat that today as our good days, like today — and it is a good day for my family and I,” Hamner said.
“But I know those imposters both have success and failure, never to take either one very seriously but to learn from them and do the best we can,” he continued. “So with that, I just want to thank you for the confidence that you have put in me to do this job and my commitment to you is to do the very best job that I can do so that you are satisfied with the service you get from the police chief and the police department,” Hamner said.
"The residents of this community have been absolutely the most welcoming, friendly kind," he added. "I keep waiting to wake up and find something bad and it hasn’t happened yet so maybe I am in an oasis.”