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Sunday, March 3, 2024

IPS hires first African American female police chief

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When Tonia Guynn became a part-time dispatcher at the Indianapolis Public Schools Police Department (IPS PD) over 30 years ago, she worked in insurance full time and only intended the dispatching job to be an extra source of income.

However, Guynn fell in love with her job, moving up the ladder to full-time dispatch and then becoming a police officer. 

In July, Guynn was appointed as the interim chief of police. Guynn is the first African American female chief of IPS PD. Guynn replaced Chief Stephen Garner, who retired.

“We benefit from her institutional knowledge as well as a fresh set of ideas and approaches to more effectively collaborate with principals, community leaders and all those we serve,” Ahmed Young, IPS chief of staff and general counsel, said. “IPS is lucky to have a leader in Chief Guynn at the helm of IPS PD.”

After starting as a part-time dispatcher, Guynn accepted a full-time dispatching job from IPS PD. Then Guynn became an officer, serving for almost 20 years. During her career, Guynn was based in Emmerich Manual, Arlington and Crispus Attucks high schools. 

“My favorite memories involve the students,” Guynn said. “Being assigned to a high school, being there four or five years and being able to watch a ninth grader that I had a relationship with transition into a senior.”

Capt. Bridget Lewis, who worked with Guynn for 20 years, described the new chief as someone who leaves her office door open and is willing to make time for others. Lewis believes this personality trait makes Guynn a good leader whose affability will spread to other IPS PD officers and students. 

“That should trickle down to the students by way of the officers, and the attitude and the demeanor they carry throughout the district,” Lewis said. 

While Guynn’s position is temporary, she plans on pursuing the permanent job. A cornerstone of Guynn’s tenure will be interacting with students. Guynn recognizes the visibility her position comes with. 

“I can’t think of enough positive words to say how proud I am to serve in this position and to be a role model for young Black females to know you can enter into an entry-level position and with dedication you can rise to the top to be chief of the police department,” Guynn said. 

Guynn plans to implement student resource officer (SRO) training to all officers, including herself. The training will provide IPS PD officers with counseling skills, allowing them to be a mental health resource for students. Guynn believes the training will help students build trusting relationships with police officers.

“SRO officers work more in the sense of mentoring and counseling, so I want to make sure we can all have that specialty training, so we can serve students in that role when we are not policing,” Guynn said. 

Contact staff writer Ben Lashar at 317-762-7848. Follow him on Twitter @BenjaminLashar.


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