By Sam Elliott
David Hofmann has been around police officers for as long as he can remember, and after a career spanning nearly 22 years he’s been involved in almost every facet of the profession.
As of Jan. 1, he’s taken on one of the few roles he hadn’t yet — he’s now the new chief of the Lawrence Police Department, and he’s excited to get started.
Hofmann began his career in law enforcement with the Muncie Police Department in 1994, but he’s been around the policing community his entire life.
“My dad, for as long as I had been alive, was an [Indianapolis Police Department] officer. So I was always exposed to policing and law enforcement ever since I was an infant, and even before that my mom’s dad came back from World War II and he actually climbed through the ranks and was the chief of police of IPD back in 1967,” Hofmann said. “It’s just always been part of my family tradition I guess. There were always police around when I was growing up. There were always officers around at family functions, on holidays — policing has just always been part of the fabric of my background.”
Police work wasn’t where Hofmann always thought he’d end up, though. He attended Indiana University to study journalism and telecommunications — and worked in a corporate communications setting following graduation — but, as he puts it, “I just didn’t like it.”
So he applied around and wound up a rookie officer in Muncie. He joined IPD three years later and spent the past 18 years there in a collection of different capacities.
“I became a field training officer, joined the dive team, got promoted to sergeant, was a neighborhood recourse officer, became a patrol rifle officer, when IPD and Marion County Sheriff’s Department merged to form one department (Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department) I was on the steering committee for that and part of that change,” Hofmann said. “I served a few years in the internal affairs office investigating complaints on officers. I got promoted to the rank of lieutenant five or six years ago and I was assigned to an officer wellness unit, which deals with officers who have either personal or professional problems that interfere with their work — officers who get in trouble maybe at work and we find out there’s a divorce going on in their lives or there’s some other issue affecting them personally. We try to help them become better officers and get out of trouble.”
Hofmann’s successful work with that wellness unit earned him national attention as departments across the country sought insight as to how IMPD was able to reduce officer discipline. It was also experience he thinks will continue to pay off in his new role as LPD chief.
“When you see the behind-the-scenes look at officers and their lives and what makes them tick and you can try to help them be better officers, what you have is a better police department and a safer community,” Hofmann said.
Prior to joining LPD, Hofmann spent the past two years as commander of IMPD’s southwest district — an 83-square-mile area that offered a little bit of everything, from densely populated urban neighborhoods to industry and farmland. It was the only district to see a reduction in violent and property crimes in 2015 and Hofmann’s experience there made him an attractive option for new Lawrence Mayor Steve Collier.
“As anybody will tell you that’s had a chance to meet him, he’s a home run. He’s got skills that are hard to find,” Collier said. “He’s got some great ideas and I think we’ve only seen the very tip of the iceberg with what a difference Dave will make with our department. We have a great department of police officers, so we don’t need fixes there, it’s just a matter of how Dave will run it and I’m looking forward to working with him.”
Hofmann said hearing Collier’s vision and goal for Lawrence is what made him think he’d be a good fit for LPD.
“I’m really grateful that the mayor and his transition team saw fit to choose me, an outsider — sort of,” Hofmann said. “I say sort of because I wasn’t a member of LPD when I got hired, but in another respect I’m not an outsider because I’ve lived in Lawrence for almost 19 years since we moved here from Muncie.”
And while Hofmann may still be adjusting to his new role following his move to LPD from IMPD, his professional goals remain improving public safety and making people feel safe.
“There are some new forms and the day-to-day routine is a little different, but it’s all policing,” he said. “Even though this Lawrence patch and badge look different than the other patch and badge I used to wear, our mission is the same — and the lights are still red and blue.”
Get To Know David Hofmann
Born and raised: Southeast side of Indianapolis
Education: Franklin Central High School and Indiana University
Life in Lawrence: Moved to Lawrence in 1997 — “We could have lived anywhere within Marion County and we chose Lawrence,” Hofmann said. “It’s a clean, safe community. We’ve loved it here.”
Family: Wife of 22 years, Jennifer; 18-year-old son, Tyler, and 15-year-old daughter, Anne, who both attend Lawrence North — “I think we’re a very typical, average Lawrence area family,” Hofmann said. “We’re community minded, we’re family oriented and we’ve chosen this area to raise our family and to get the best out of this community.”