Arkansas City Police Chief Dan Ward is laying down his badge next month to become a charter boat captain at Table Rock Lake.
His last day in office will be Mar. 3. Ward was hired from the Lawrence Police Department in January 2014.
City Manager Randy Frazer said Capt. Eric Burr will serve as interim chief. That will give the city time to determine the process to replace Ward.
Ward joined ACPD after 28 years with the Lawrence department, including working in internal investigations.
A press release from ACPD said Ward made a significant number of changes during his seven years as chief.
The command structure was changed significantly by adding a second captain position. There are six female officers now; in 2014, females were only employed in administrative positions.
Ward also led the way for the addition of a Crisis Intervention Team officer focusing on helping people in a mental health crisis, the release states.
He also worked to increase the department’s outreach to schools and the public. Its motto is “Connecting with the community, it’s kind of our thing.”
The department during Ward’s tenure also has worked toward meeting accreditation standards through the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies.
The city commission recently agreed to hire a consultant to help complete that work due to limited personnel at the department.
Last summer Ward told commissioners that a shortage of officers led the department to cancel DARE Camp and National Night Out.
The staffing issue was related to issues such as new officers at the training academy, maternity leave and medical leave, he said.
In the release, Ward said making the decision to retire was difficult. He and his wife, Dena, feel at home in Ark City.
“When we first moved here we were apprehensive about how we would fit into the community and if we would be accepted,” he said. “We were welcomed with open arms and we received overwhelming support.”
His 35 years as an officer is three more than he intended, Ward said.
“I believe it is time to let the next generation of leaders take over the direction and management of ACPD.”
He called the ACPD team the most dedicated and passionate group he had worked with.
“The past seven years have truly been the highlight of my career in law enforcement because of the people within the organization and the citizens we serve,” he said.
Ward will be honored at the ACPD’s next Coffee with a Cop event, from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. March 1 at the Burford Theatre.
During his tenure, crime rates in Arkansas City reached a low of 38.2 crimes per thousand people in 2015, but increased to a high of 53.7 in 2017 before falling to 45.3 in 2019, the latest statistics available from the Kansas Bureau of Investigations. Those local trends largely reflect statewide trends.
Commissioner Duane Oestmann said that Ward had done a wonderful job and had turned the department into something in which the city should be proud.
Ward has trained his subordinates and trained them well, he added.
“I think anyone coming up from inside the department could do the job, but anyone coming in from outside will have some big shoes to fill,” he said.
Oestmann said that Ward was looking forward to his new duties as a charter boat captain.
“He’s been working on that captain’s designation for quite a while,” he said with a laugh. “He finally got it last fall.”
Commissioner Karen Welch said that Ward was the ultimate police chief and “can’t be replaced.”
“He set the goals, he worked toward the goals, and then they worked toward the next goal,” she said.
Ward’s annual salary is $98,446.40, along with a $960 annual cell phone allowance.
CourierTraveler Publisher David A. Seaton contributed to this report.