News & Features
Climbing the Ranks, Making a Difference
St. Louis County Police Chief Tim Fitch
St. Louis County Police Chief Tim Fitch is pleasantly approachable. He emerges from his office in Clayton, extending a hand and offering a few words of friendly conversation. As he walks back toward his desk, he points out his Fontbonne University diploma hanging on the wall. Fitch, who has worked his way up the ranks of the county police force over the past 27 years, began his career in law enforcement as an officer patrolling the streets. This Fontbonne alum has served at every level since then, earning the rank of colonel and becoming chief of police in June 2009.
Fitch is hard at work by 7:30 a.m. most mornings and has meetings, receptions or events nearly every night of the week. His schedule is full, but he can’t imagine his life any other way.
“I have a very understanding wife,” he grins.
He grew up in Cahokia, Ill., as one of eight siblings. At one point, Fitch thought he might become an educator, but courses in criminal justice at Belleville Area College — now Southwestern Illinois College — changed his mind. He finished his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice at Truman State University in 1983, then returned home, joining the St. Louis County Police Department in the same year.
“This is home,” he said. “All my family is here, and I’ve never had a desire to leave the area. St. Louis is both a big and small city. I can’t go anywhere without seeing someone I know — not a lot of places are like that.”
As Fitch’s career progressed, he realized that the skills and value offered by an advanced degree would benefit him, especially as he reached a management level. So he began looking for master’s programs that would suit his hectic schedule. He explored several other local universities only to decide on Fontbonne’s OPTIONS program.
“Fontbonne took the program seriously — it wasn’t a cakewalk,” he insisted. “For 18 months, I was holed up in the house, writing and researching. But the best part about the experience was the people I spent time with — I learned a lot from them. I still keep in touch with my fellow students.”
And Fitch feels that his master’s in management, which he received in 1999, gave him a strong advantage over the competition.
“When I competed for the chief’s job, there were 10 candidates, and I was the only one with a master’s,” he said. “I won’t say it got me the position, but it certainly opened some doors.”
He didn’t assume he’d become the chief of police — too much competition exists for a person to expect the position, he said. But throughout his career, he recognized improvements he’d make and changes he’d implement if he eventually had the ability to do so. And he didn’t waste any time once he actually did land the job.
“Crime is down 15 percent — we’re at a 20-year low,” Fitch said earnestly, leaning forward at his desk. “Our motto is to serve and protect, and our officers are doing a great job in the reduction of crime.”
During his first few weeks as chief, Fitch reevaluated the department, ordering reassignments to place 38 additional officers out on the streets. He’s proud of the programs he’s helped implement, like volunteer corps of citizens and police retirees who contribute their time and expertise to the department’s interior operation, saving taxpayers’ money and allowing active officers to focus on crime prevention. His next goal, he said, is to rotate people within the police department, thereby encouraging innovation and continuous improvement.
Clearly, Chief Fitch has already made an impact — on the force and on the community. With a broad smile and a friendly goodbye, he concludes the interview to continue his day ... and his life’s work.