For more than 40 years, Chief Curt Zieman has dedicated himself to serving his community. He will be retiring as El Dorado Police Chief in March of 2022.
“I’m a hometown El Dorado boy and I just wanted to serve my community and help people in the community the best I could,” he said.
Zieman began his career with the El Dorado Department of Public Safety on March 1, 1980. When he signed on to Public Safety, officers were first assigned to the fire division for cross-training in police and fire, then they decided which division they wanted to join.
“I liked fighting fire, but my passion was always with the patrol side of things,” he said.
Around August of 1980, Zieman headed to the Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center, then on Oct. 30, 1980 he graduated from the Law Enforcement Academy.
“My first shift on the street was Halloween night and I was on the midnight shift,” Zieman recalled. “It was a very busy night. When I went on the street in October of 1980, I pretty much was on the patrol side of things from then on aside from occasionally going back to the fire side for a week of training here or there. I was passionate about the patrol side and it seemed like a very good fit for me.”
After a couple of years on patrol, Zieman was promoted to lead man on patrol, then to Master Public Safety Officer. In 1995, Zieman remained with the police department when the Department of Public Safety was dissolved and he was assigned as a patrol sergeant to the El Dorado Police Department. Also, in 1995, Zieman went to Police Firearms Instructor School to become a certified firearms instructor for the department, one of three instructors for the department. He also became a range master in 2000. In addition, Zieman was promoted to captain of patrol, which was a watch commander of a shift. A few years later that position became a lieutenant position.
In 2009, Zieman was promoted to deputy chief, then on April 13, 2013 he began serving as interim police chief. On Sept. 20, 2013, Zieman was appointed as El Dorado’s new chief of police.
Throughout his years at El Dorado Police Department, Zieman has completed a variety of duties. “I enjoyed and really thrived at training new officers,” he said. “One of my favorite proverbs is give a man a fish and he will eat for a day; teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime. I always thought it was very important to give quality training to the new officers who came on board, and it was really rewarding for me to see all of those officers blossom into very experienced and well-trained officers.”
Other highlights of Zieman’s career have included working cases; the challenge of looking for evidence at a crime scene and putting the pieces together; and working traffic accidents and drawing out the diagrams of the accident.
“I enjoy working with people out on the street,” Zieman said. “It’s always been my philosophy to treat other people as you want to be treated yourself. I think it’s a good mantra to live by, and in most cases, it works for you when you are out working the street. The other thing is just trying to set a good example. I don’t ask my people to do something I haven’t done myself. It takes a heck of a commitment to be a police officer.
“I really get inspired almost daily watching the good work the people of the department do,” he said. “They’re good people; they’re well trained. For the most part, things go pretty smoothly. It makes you proud to see that stuff. It just makes you feel good to see the department progress and provide the citizens a good job.”
That includes seeing the department develop over the years. “A lot of firsts have happened here at El Dorado Police Department.”
Some of those things include in-car cameras 25 years ago, body cameras in 2009, being one of the first in the area to go back to black and white patrol cars and being one of the first to go to 12-hour shifts in this area. A lot of that is the norm now.
“I think El Dorado Police Department has been a leader in a lot of ways over the years,” Zieman said. “It has been nice to see the advancements.
“El Dorado is a very good place to work and have a career,” Zieman continued. “We’ve had a lot of good people over the years. What sets our officers apart in a smaller department is our officers are pretty well rounded. When they work a case out on the street, they usually work that case from beginning to end. If you’re able to bring that to a successful conclusion, that’s a good feeling.”
Zieman encourages others to consider El Dorado when looking at a place for their law enforcement career.
“El Dorado has always been a good department, a very professional department and I think we’ve always had a good reputation for years around the area and state; it’s a good community. It’s a good small-town feel, and I always tell people when we’re interviewing them that the police department really is like a big family, and we have the support of the citizens of the community.”
While Zieman could have retired several years ago, he said it’s hard to walk away. He had planned on retiring last year but with COVID and being short-handed, he wanted to stick around and help get the department through those challenging times. “You would like to leave on a high note. You always hear people say you will know when it’s time to retire. I think that time has come. I’m comfortable we’ve got a bunch of great people here in the department; very well trained; very dedicated people and they’re going to be just fine. This will remain an excellent quality police department.”
Zieman’s last day in the office will be March 25. A retirement party is planned for Zieman from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. on Friday, March 25 in the Commission Room at City Hall, 220 E. First. The public is invited to attend.