Smithfield’s deputy chief retires after 25 years of service

Smithfield’s deputy chief retires after 25 years of service

SMITHFIELD – After 25 years at the Smithfield Police Department, Deputy Police Chief Robert VanNieuwenhuyze is serving his final month before retirement on June 30.

Born and raised in Smithfield, VanNieuwenhuyze (pronounced Van-new-en-heiz) said in the months following his retirement eligibility last September, everything seemed to line up for him with a new opportunity with a private company to work from home on law enforcement accreditation and policy writing, similar what he does in his current role.

Since 2010, during his final years as deputy chief, he’s worked as an internal affairs officer and accreditation manager reviewing complaints against department personnel, as well as managed state and national accreditation processes and written policies.

With the country’s current political climate and use of social media, he said Smithfield is a cut above the rest when it comes to officer interactions with the public. Considering the rise of citizen journalists, VanNieuwenhuyze said SPD continues to have very few complaints.

“Mostly, I’m going to miss working with the Smithfield Police Department because we pride ourselves as being professional agencies,” he said.

Over the past eight years, he worked to maintain state accreditation through the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, writing new policies and directives. The standards lower risks for having a poor public perception or lawsuits.

It’s challenging to explain the restraint the majority of officers use when dealing with the public, he said, as officers in some ways forfeit the right to free speech while the public records police interactions. He said he and the SPD are trained to be fair and objective, backed by the written policies he created.

“There are thousands and thousands of positive police interactions that occur daily,” he said.

VanNieuwenhuyze began in SPD in 1992 as patrol officer and detective, and worked the ranks holding many positions along the way. He said his favorite role was as detective division commander in the late 2000s.

He said he enjoyed the diversity, and found it interesting to investigate anything from a minor offense to homicide.

Of his hidden talent, VanNieuwenhuyze said he’d like to eventually work part-time, and pursue art. A car enthusiast, he has a background in graphic design, and uses different media to depict cars, especially police cruisers. He also does pet portraits.