Archive for Thursday, February 3, 2005

New chief a familiar face in city

February 3, 2005

With 15 years under his belt in law enforcement, Steve Wayman could have thousands of stories to tell about memorable crimes he's investigated, colorful characters he's arrested and the like.

But when Lansing's new chief of police was asked this week to single out his proudest achievement on the force, it didn't have anything to do with crime.

Sometime around 1995 or '96 - "I'm awful with dates," Wayman says - he was teaching a class at Lansing High School as part of a police outreach program.

"There were 11 kids in the class," Wayman recalled in an interview. "Scott Donaldson was one of them; he was an interesting one to be around. He was always joking around, loud :"

Turns out that sometime during the semester, Wayman struck a chord with Donaldson. The student wound up graduating from LHS and enrolling at Washburn University, where he earned a degree in criminal justice. Now, Donaldson is on the police force in Bryan, Texas.

"He decided he wanted to be a police officer," said Wayman, a 1986 graduate of LHS "Whether or not I'm the one who made him decide to become a police officer, I don't know. But to get a hold of someone in high school and influence them some way to become a police officer, that's a pretty good feeling."

It's been a week full of good feelings for Wayman, who was promoted last week to the chief's post when John Simmons resigned to take the chief's job in Fairway. Although Wayman says the well-wishing, ceremonies and receptions have been nice, he's ready to get down to the job he was hired to do: Run the Lansing Police Department.

It's not as if he can't hit the ground running; he's spent his entire law enforcement career in the Lansing department. Wayman was hired in 1990 by Mike Smith, who since has left the department to become Lansing city administrator.

Wayman jokes that in his tenure on the force "about the only thing I haven't done is animal control. I don't know if that's a goal to shoot for or not."

Wayman says he has some ideas for change in the department, but says most people won't be able to see them. He'd like to see a bigger staff - "Who doesn't need more people?" he asks - but for now he's only contemplating hiring one person to fill the post left vacant by Simmons' departure. Such a hiring would bring the department to 14 officers.

Wayman is a proponent of community policing and says he wants people in the community to be able to easily approach police officers.

"I encourage citizens to stop and talk to officers when they're out and about," Wayman said. "They're real people too; they enjoy talking to folks when they're out."

For his own part, Wayman intends to keep his door open to the community that he has called home for his entire life.

"I can't address their concerns if I don't know what they are," he said. "There are all sorts of ways you can communicate with me, and it doesn't even have to be in person if you don't want it to be. Letters, e-mail, the phone, it doesn't matter. We're here to serve and help them with the problems they have."

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