Ride-along took master’s alumna to Chief’s job

What began as a police ride-along resulted in a career NPS Center for Homeland Defense and Security alumna Kimberly Petersen.

Petersen was named Police Chief in Fremont, California, effective the end of July and she credits shadowing a police officer, known across the country as a ride-along, for sparking her interest in criminal justice.

Having just graduated Stanford University with a degree in human biology, Petersen was weighing career options

“From that day on I was hooked,” Petersen said. “It was just something I knew I would love and it opened my eyes. It’s a career with purpose, you’re helping your community every day. I have never regretted it for a day.”

Kimberly Petersen

Since then she has worked in just about every division. Petersen began her career with the department in 1996, rising to the rank of Captain five years ago. Her experience includes Patrol and Investigations, Field Training, Range Instructor, Self-Defense Instructor and SWAT.

In taking on the chief’s position, she will oversee a department with 197 sworn officers and about 311 employees total. Current Fremont Police Chief Richard Lucero announced his retirement effective July 26, 2018, after 31 years of service.

“Kim has worked her way up through the ranks of the Fremont Police Department and possesses the tactical and technical knowledge of police work with the breadth of experience she’s gained over her 22-year career in Fremont,” City Manager Fred Diaz noted in announcing the promotion. “Kim has a high degree of intellect that will lend itself to Fremont’s unique community attributes and complexities. She’s also bright, creative, and articulate, all of which will serve her well as she leads the Department and community in the years ahead.”

Lying about halfway between Oakland and San Jose, Fremont faces the same crime and homeland security issued as neighboring Bay Area cities. As with most law enforcement agencies in the U.S., the crime fighting mission co-exists with terrorism concerns.

“We have to keep an eye on the international threats and on the homegrown terror threats,” Petersen said. “The challenge for all of us in law enforcement is detecting and intervening in advance. That is an enormously difficult task.”

With its closely entwined neighbors and a section of the Bay Area Rapid Transit system running through the city, collaboration is critical.

“That’s one of the things CHDS really taught me – the value of developing those cross-border relationships,” Petersen said. “We have strong bonds in south Alameda County. CHDS helped me realize how important those bonds are. It’s not just law enforcement. Close relationships are important with school districts and other city departments, like fire.”

The NPS-CHDS program was helpful in touching on emerging topics, exploring concepts such as Social Identity Theory, and provided insight into the workings of different professions and levels of government.

“I had no idea how much it would help my career but also my understanding of the world,” Petersen said. “At practical level it was extremely helpful for my critical thinking skills and writing skills.”