Dan Donath, a 25-year veteran of the Bloomington Police Department, was named the city's next police chief during an announcement Wednesday at City Hall.
"He was the obvious choice," City Manager Tim Gleason said.
Donath, 50, joined BPD in 1994 and most recently served as assistant chief. He was co-interim chief during the search process for a new chief. Former Chief Clay Wheeler retired in June.
Donath was chosen from among over 60 applicants who were vetted by a search committee of city and community leaders. The other finalist was Parkland College Police Chief William Colbrook, a retired Illinois State Police captain who began his law enforcement career in Pontiac.
Gleason said a consistent trait he heard from co-workers and others who worked with Donath was his high character.
“Some of the comments I heard about Dan was that he was a man of integrity, he is a great neighbor, he is a man of his word, he is a great family man,” Gleason said.
Donath, a Farmington native, admitted he was a little surprised when he found out Tuesday he was chosen.
“It’s hard to absorb and think about that when I started by career 25-and-a-half years ago that I would be in this position, because it wasn’t my goal,” Donath said. “My goal was just to come in and work hard and try to do a good job and make a difference. That approach led me to this position.”
Donath said he plans to conduct a full review of all department policies and procedures to say what could be improved. He gave the department an 85 rating on a 100 scale and said he’s like to take it up to 90 to 95.
“One hundred percent perfection does not exist,” he said.
One policy goal he outlined was to expand the department’s community policing efforts.
“There’s some things I would like to do, I would like to work on our community policing aspect a little bit, I’ve got an expanded view of that,” Donath said.
Donath said he considers himself open-minded and prefers face-to-face communication, traits that he said will help him foster strong relations with the public.
“I’m not a big email person because a lot can be lost in the translation of an email. I like to talk to people and understand where they are coming from and what their perspective is,” Donath said.
Donath demurred when asked what he thought the public’s perception of the department is. He said the only way he can quantify that is through its social media engagement.
“We get a lot of support from the community. When he put stuff out on social media asking for some help on something, we get a great response,” he said.
The City of Bloomington created a group two years ago to improve relations between police and the public. The Public Safety and Community Relations Board has fielded few complaints about alleged officer misconduct. It’s chairman Art Taylor, served on the police chief search committee.
“We’ve got a running relationship with him so there’s a great deal of familiarity there and look forward to him as chief and what he will be able to bring to the community and the voice that’s he’ll be able to share with all of us,” Taylor said.
Donath has served as a BPD liaison with the PSCRB. Taylor cheered his call for bolstered community policing.
“That says to me we are in a very good place,” Taylor said. “The ways of policing in the past are just that, the past. The police have to have a presence in the community and listen to what the community is talking about. There’s segments of the community that don’t always feel that positive about the police.”
Donath added he would like to expand on an officer wellness program at the department.
Donath said BPD has already tried to improve on physical wellness by promoting workout routines and healthy diets, but he wants to add programs that address mental and financial well-being.
Donath said officers face a physically and mentally demanding job, especially since they now have to work until 55 to collect a pension.
“We are under the microscope, everyone’s watching and you’ve got certain people that like to play the gotcha games, so it’s a very stressful environment,” Donath said. “I see these two things going on, you are going to have to work longer but you are going to have to work in a more stressful environment. That’s not good for a human being for any of us.”
Donath said he’s not sure what that might entail, but said he’s open to meditation and yoga, something other police departments have done.
Donath said he’s already reached out to counseling services in the community, though he added the financial programs won’t likely start until next year.
“Any human being can find themselves where they don’t care of their money or they don’t plan for the future and then you find yourself in a position where that creates stress in your life,” Donath said. “I’m trying to destress officers’ lives as best I can because the job itself already creates a ton of stress.”
Donath will be paid $151,000, which is less than his predecessor Clay Wheeler’s salary of $155,940.
Donath assumed the duties of police chief following a private ceremony Wednesday, with a public swearing-in ceremony Sept. 9.
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