ONTARIO, Ore. — The City of Ontario Tuesday morning swore in its new Chief of Police Michael Iwai through the official oath of office ceremony in the Ontario City Council chambers.
Steven Romero, Ontario's former Chief of Police, announced he was stepping down in September of 2021 after more than two years in the role. Iwai joins the Ontario Police Department following more than 25 years of service with the Oregon State Police.
"It feels very surreal," Iwai said. "As a manager coming over from the Oregon State Police, it's going to bring some different challenges … So, it's not the title, it's just really more the responsibility, which is going to be much of the same, just taking care of the people that work for you and that you ultimately work with. I think the better opportunity as Chief of Police is I'll really get to interact with the community. State police is so large, we cover the freeways, interstates and highways. This is going to be more in confines within the city and being able to get to know the internal and external stakeholders. I'm really looking forward to that."
Prior to joining Ontario PD, Iwai served as a lieutenant with the Salem patrol office of Oregon State Police. Ontario City Manager Adam Brown announced Iwai as the new Chief of Police in November of 2021 following Romero's decision to step down.
On Tuesday, Iwai said his new title comes the same day as he retires from the Oregon State Police (OSP). Iwai said not only did he run the Salem-area command office with OSP, but he also ran the Albany-area command office with a background primarily in operations. Iwai said his more than 25 years of experience in Oregon will be utilized as the Ontario Chief of Police.
"Between patrol, fish and wildlife, criminal division and being able to run a station, that is something I have more than five years experience doing," Iwai said. "I really enjoyed it. Really a specialty background for me is what we call a 'drug recognition expert,' so we do drug evaluations on people that have been arrested for DUI. I've been a DRE since 1999 and I've maintained that certification pretty much my entire career. I'm also an instructor in that field, so I am looking forward to being able to utilize that skill to kind of help mentor and mold some of the officers of the city of Ontario that would like to do that."
Although Tuesday's oath of office ceremony is just the start for Iwai's career with the Ontario Police Department, he already discussed aspirations and his priority of getting to know the people of Ontario. Iwai also discussed the importance of the "internal people" finding personal success, in order to serve the community to the best of their abilities.
"I want the police department to foster relationships with the community so that we become part of the community," Iwai said. "I think community policing is a huge deal today that we don't do a good job of, not necessarily Ontario PD, it's the challenges for all the calls of service, trying to balance calls for service and then spending that time with community stakeholders. I've got some ideas that I would like to implement incrementally, it's going to take time though. Before I do any of that, I want to get to know the people that I'm ultimately working for, I want to get a clear direction on really what the city manager wants me to address - particularly the low-hanging fruit, but as far as organizationally, it's going to take a little bit of time, but I'm going to focus on the internal people. I want to make them better, I want to make them whole, I want them to worry about their health and their family, so they can go out and really take care of the community they serve."
A live stream of the entire oath of office ceremony Tuesday morning on the City of Ontario's Facebook page can be viewed below:
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