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Jamal Simington Chosen As Next Bloomington Police Chief

Col. Jamal Simington during a community and media meet-and-greet.
Eric Stock
Col. Jamal Simington during a recent community and media meet-and-greet.

Illinois State Police Col. Jamal Simington has been chosen as Bloomington's next police chief, the city announced Wednesday.

Simington, a Bloomington resident, has been in law enforcement for 30 years. He is currently the State Police deputy director for the Division of the Academy and Training, a position he started in March.

Bloomington City Manager Tim Gleason said Simington impressed the entire team of city officials who met with the leading candidates for the job.

“Once the team got to meet him for the very first time, the bar was set extremely high and was very impressive right out of the gate and continued through to the very end,” Gleason said. “The Bloomington Police Department, the community (as a) whole, we truly are blessed he is going to be the next police chief.”

The other finalist for the BPD job was Springfield Police Chief Kenny Winslow.

The two finalists met with the public, city officials and the media during a session last week at the Government Center.

Simington said he believes in servant leadership to help build trust with officers in the department. “It will be imperative for me to work hard and build those relationships and with time, they will understand that I’m there to supplement, to add to the good of the agency and partner with them to take it to another level,” he said.

Simington's career in policing started in 1991 with the Kankakee County Sheriff’s Department. Previous assignments in State Police included the Ops Commander in District 21, the District Commander in District 10, and the Region III Commander for the State Police overseeing two investigative zones and six patrol operations in central Illinois.

Simington said he hopes a stronger community presence for police will help improve relations with the public, adding it's important for officers to provide a more personal touch.

“It will be tough sometimes, but if we can invest in proactive things and engage with the community, when things aren’t going well, that’s a deposit in the bank and perhaps that will lead to better relations, more open feedback from the community when crimes are occurring,” Simington said.

Simington, who is Black, added he wants to emphasize diversity, equity and inclusion, which he said he brings with him from Illinois State Police.

“That’s in how we serve the community. That’s also in how we recruit and diversify the organization,” Simington said.

Gleason said the department has not faced the challenge many other police departments have faced with officer recruitment and retention. Many police forces in central Illinois have experienced a slew of retirements this year as a new criminal justice reform bill takes effect. It puts a host of new rules in place for officers and greater legal safeguards for those arrested, including an end to cash bail starting in 2023.

Simington said law enforcement will have to adapt, possibly with more training, more patience and breaks from old habits.

“The profession now is being held more accountable than ever in the history of policing and that’s fine. We can function as a very professional organization, carry out the mission and protect the community with what’s in place,” he said. “That will be the challenge.”

Simington’s first day as Bloomington's chief will be Oct. 1.

His annual salary will be $157,500. Gleason said Simington, 48, has pledged a four-year commitment to the job. Simington becomes the department’s fifth leader since 2018 following a string of retirements. Interim police chief Greg Scott is set to retire Sept. 3.  He did not apply for the post after he had initially expressed interest in the job.

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Updated: August 25, 2021 at 7:21 PM CDT
Jamal Simington said he plans to make diversity one of his main priorities when he begins on Oct. 1. His annual salary will be $157,500.
Ryan Denham is the digital content director for WGLT.
Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.
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