LAPORTE — Tom Owens has gone undercover targeting drug dealers, and over the past decade he has been a patrol officer on the streets.
When not in uniform, he teaches self-defense techniques as a martial arts instructor and trains bank employees on how to properly respond to a robbery.
Owens was named police chief Tuesday in LaPorte, where he has worked for the past 26 years.
He got his start in law enforcement three years prior to that in New Carlisle, where he grew up.
"It’s such an honor. I’m really looking forward to it," Owens said.
He replaces Adam Klimczak, who announced his resignation Sept. 13 after more than five years as chief.
Klimczak cited plans to retire soon and pursue other career interests following the August departure of Blair Milo, who appointed him chief after she was elected mayor in 2011.
He’s staying on the department as captain for now, officials said.
New Mayor Mark Krentz said seven people from within the department sought the opening.
Krentz said Owens' enthusiasm and focus on attacking the heroin problem and other criminal activity gave him the edge.
"I think he’s engaging, and I think that stood out in the interview process," Krentz said.
City Councilman Roger Galloway said Owens will be effective in areas like attitude, visibility and reaching out to the community.
"They’re different personalities altogether," said Galloway, who had publicly disagreed with Klimczak at times over his handling of the department.
Owens said developing programs to curb drug activity and increasing the number of officers on the force will be among his top priorities.
In 1991, Owens said, he worked undercover to expose drug dealers. From 2000 to 2005, he was a detective for LaPorte County Metro Operations, now known as the LaPorte County Drug Task Force.
Part of his strategy is to work closely with task force members.
"In working together, we can implement some programs, some other avenues for reducing it and hopefully make a huge difference in it. That’s my goal," Owens said.