Kristen Ziman — Oct. 2009
Aurora Police Lieutenant Named Featured Alumna
Sugar Grove – One does not have to be an educator in a classroom to be a teacher. Anyone who shares her passion and knowledge anywhere is a teacher, and so Aurora Police Lieutenant Kristen Ziman certainly qualifies. In recognition of her efforts to educate both her colleagues and the general public about police work, and her years of serving and protecting the community, Waubonsee Community College has named Ziman its Featured Alumna for the month of October.
Ziman is one of those lucky people who always knew what they wanted to do with their lives, and the fact that her father, Hans Kjendal-Olsen, served as an Aurora police officer may have helped.
"I have wanted to be a police officer for as long as I had come into consciousness about choosing a profession," Ziman said. "Now that I connect the dots backwards, I realize my father influenced me a great deal…He would bring me to the police department as a young child. I was enamored by the uniforms and squad cars and everything related to police work. I loved how fast-paced the environment appeared to be and that appealed to me."
Ziman chose the fast track to becoming a police officer, starting with Aurora as a cadet just a month after graduating from West Aurora High School in 1991. Like other cadets, Ziman was required to enroll in criminal justice courses at Waubonsee.
"WCC opened my eyes to a new world of learning," she said. "My criminal justice courses rekindled my interest in learning and my grades illustrated this. I was suddenly carrying a high GPA, and it was my experience at Waubonsee that ignited the flame of learning within me."
That flame has continued to burn brightly. After earning an Associate in Applied Science degree in criminal justice from Waubonsee in 1993, Ziman has gone on to earn bachelor's and master's degrees in criminal justice management from Aurora University and Boston University, respectively.
Ziman has also spent time teaching, becoming a field training officer (FTO) early in her career, then spending five years as an FTO Sergeant.
"I became a field training officer because I wanted to contribute to the shaping and development of new officers," Ziman said. "I am the product of the knowledge and expertise of my field training officers, and their tutelage has allowed me to grow and develop my own style. We don't train police officers to create them in our own image. Rather, we give them the tools to do the job using their own skills and their own personality."
Ziman now uses her skills to shape the entire Field Training Program as its coordinator. It's a duty she takes very seriously.
"I often hear that our police department Field Training Program has a reputation for being very challenging," she said. "Nothing pleases me more. I take pride in the fact that our standards are very high. They have to be. The citizens of Aurora deserve competent and professional police officers, and it is our duty to provide them."
Ziman also feels it is her duty to provide information to the public about the realities of police work, the department's goals, and other important crime prevention and safety topics. Her pen has been her mightiest weapon in this mission as she writes a monthly column for the Beacon News."
Many citizens do not have interactions with the police unless it is for something negative," Ziman explains. "I have been blessed with the opportunity to use my column as a way of opening up the dialogue between the public and the police. Citizens need to see that our mission isn't solely to catch them doing something wrong…My column is a venue to give the public a perspective that they wouldn't otherwise have. I've learned that people criticize what they don't understand. Taking the time to explain why we do the things we do has proved to bridge the gap."
Ziman bridged the gender gap in 2008 when she became the first female police lieutenant in Aurora's history. In naming her to the rank, Chief of Police Greg Thomas said, "Lieutenant Ziman embodies the knowledge, professionalism and leadership abilities synonomous with the future of the Aurora Police Department."
Ziman may be making the future brighter for other women considering careers in criminal justice.
"My reaching the rank of lieutenant means that I have just created a vision for another female police officer who may not have considered it possible," Ziman said. "If I represent possibility to female patrol officers, I humbly accept that role."
Ziman has some words of advice for anyone who takes on the role of a police officer, no matter their gender.
"Those who are considering this profession need to know that it is not a job — it is a higher calling," Ziman said. "Choosing to be a police officer means you choose to accept the responsibility that comes when you place that badge over your heart…Despite [the] sacrifices, there is no other profession as noble as policing, and each positive impact you make, whether it be a community contact or putting a criminal behind bars, will serve to remind you why you answered the higher call."