Meet Zionsville’s New Chief of Police Michael Spears
As a kid growing up in Brownsburg, Mike Spears’ little league baseball coach was a policeman, and there was something intriguing to the youngster about seeing his coach serve the local community in a law enforcement capacity.
“He really inspired me, and I thought even back then that being a policeman would be an interesting way to spend your life and career,” Spears says. “Growing up in a town that is similar to Zionsville, I thought it would be great to serve a town that size.”
Spears adhered to his childhood aspiration through middle school and high school, and by the time his college years rolled around, he began applying to local police departments by age 21.
“I met a lot of policemen in college who were going to school through a federal grant called the Law Enforcement Education Program,” Spears recalls. “There was a lot of encouragement and inspiration around me to pursue it. Indianapolis was the first department that gave me an offer, so I joined there and enjoyed it from the beginning.”
After joining the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department in 1982, Spears proceeded to rise through the department’s ranks for the next 38 years. He held every rank in the department, including assistant chief for seven years, chief of police for five years and, most recently, deputy chief responsible for the performance and policy division starting in 2018.
When Spears learned of the opportunity to serve as Zionsville Police Chief, he was intrigued by the idea of returning to a small town setting similar to the one he grew up in.
“What I enjoyed about my small patrol area during my time with the Indianapolis police was the ability to get to know the people, the business owners and even the officers on a close, personal basis,” Spears says. “As I progressed through the Indianapolis department, finding myself with city-wide responsibilities, that connection with people was significantly reduced. So when I saw the opportunity in Zionsville, I thought it would be great to get back to connecting with people.”
Spears proceeded to research the Town of Zionsville extensively and speak to Mayor Emily Styron about the state of the town.
“I was impressed with Mayor Styron’s vision for the growth and the safety of the town right away,” Spears says. “She and I share a lot of the same concerns about ensuring that the community has a safe environment and the police officers are supported and developed. After talking with her, I was even more excited about the opportunity.”
Spears officially took over as chief on March 31, succeeding Robert Knox, who served as chief for eight years during a career of 35-plus years as a police officer.
Spears says he plans to speak with every single ZPD officer individually during his first year as chief, to gain a clear understanding of each officer’s goals and needs for training, equipment and better serving the town.
“The important thing for the officers here to know, and the public to know, is although I worked in Indianapolis before, my intention is not to bring Indianapolis to Zionsville but rather to become a part of Zionsville and assimilate into the community,” Spears says. “I want to support the town and way of life.”
Spears also plans to speak with residents and local business owners about their needs and desires for improving Zionsville and to offer his encouragement and assistance.
“The coronavirus has obviously delayed the process of getting out in the community and talking to the public, but it’s something I plan to do when the time comes,” Spears says. “When we come to the people, it helps break down barriers and improves relationships.”
Since stay-at-home measures were rolled out to combat the spread of the coronavirus earlier this year, the Zionsville Police Department has taken several measures to ensure the safety of officers and those they interact with, including the use of protective equipment such as masks and gloves for patrol officers and remote required training for officers as well.
During his first year, Spears also plans to undertake a review of the department’s current policies.
“We want to make sure all the policies are contemporary and are consistent with best practices of departments throughout the country,” he says. “It won’t be a policy review to be critical of current policies but to ensure that the officers receive the best direction and the best set of operating instructions they can.”
During his time away from the police department, Spears enjoys spending as much time as possible with his wife of 38 years, Sharon, their kids – Nicole, Danielle, Michael and Ryan – and their nine grandchildren.
“There’s a satisfaction that comes with helping other people – it doesn’t happen every day, but it happens frequently enough that it keeps you motivated and really reminds you why you chose this line of work,” Spears says of his nearly 40-year career. “That’s true particularly for people who otherwise can’t help themselves.”