AURORA (FOX 32 News) - The City of Aurora is expected to make history Tuesday night. For the first time, a woman will be confirmed as Aurora's Chief of Police.
In an interview with FOX 32’s Larry Yellen, the incoming chief discussed some little-known and very emotional parts of her past.
FOX 32: Did you want to be a police officer from the time you were a little girl?
“Always. Yes,” said Kristan Ziman.
Ziman started as a 17–year-old police cadet after watching her father Hans, who was an Aurora police officer himself.
“As a police officer, he's the one that made me want to become a police officer. And he would take me in his squad, and that's where I became enamored of the profession,” she said.
At first, Ziman downplayed her role as a female trailblazer. However, that’s not the case anymore.
"I had such a paradigm shift, when young officers, young female officers, contacted me, ones that I didn’t even know, some even high school girls, to say "I want to be a police officer now, now that I can see that I can move up in the police department,” Ziman said.
Ziman will take over as Chief at a time when, nationwide, police conduct, especially police shootings, and are under a microscope.
FOX 32: Have you ever had to discharge your weapon?
“No, I have not,” she said.
In the wake of the Ferguson and Laquon McDonald shootings, Ziman doesn't see the need for any drastic changes in Aurora, just good training.
“I cannot emphasize that enough. Training, training, training. In de-escalation, that's how officers, they play like they practice. If we put them through real life scenarios, they're going to do the same thing out on the street,” Ziman said.
Another key, she says, is establishing trust. Cops like Lieutenant Joe Gliniewicz of Fox Lake make that difficult.
“This man, in one fell swoop, has managed to defy trust. Once again. And break it. And I have no tolerance for that,” Ziman said.
Gliniewicz's suicide strikes close to home for Ziman. In November, Zimans' father killed himself with his service revolver. It was the day after she interviewed to become Chief.
“He was an alcoholic for his entire adult life. And those demons catch up with you, you know? And I think that they finally did,” she said.
Ziman says her dad's death is a constant reminder that a police officers' job carries an awful lot of stress, sometimes too much.
“The things that police officers see, on a daily basis, maybe even in a career, are more than what human beings see in a lifetime. And I can think of all of the horrific things that I've seen over the years, and they play, in a reel, in my head, you know. And if you don't have a way to talk about that, to communicate that, and to keep those feelings manageable, you're going to implode,” Ziman said.
Ziman believes it demonstrates courage for officers to admit they’re vulnerable and need help with substance abuse or other personal issues. She wants the department and her officers to recognize that.
The Aurora City Council is expected to approve Ziman's appointment as chief at a meeting Tuesday night.