By ROD KING
For IN|FW Newspapers
NEW HAVEN — New Haven, as of mid-July, has a new chief of police. He’s Jeff McCracken, a 13-year veteran of the force. In addition, Mayor Terry McDonald announced that Sgt. Corey Smith was promoted to the position of deputy chief.
Chief McCracken said his first job is to get the department back up to full its complement of 21 officers. “Recent retirements have opened up four spots which we are presently attempting to fill,” he said. “We’re in the process of interviewing and hiring new officers now. They’ll start their field training here and when openings are available at the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy in Plainfield they’ll go there to complete a 16-week course. After graduating from the academy, they’ll return to New Haven and finish their field training before being certified to start solo patrolling.”
As to his new job, McCracken said, “I’ve only been chief a little over a month and am still learning what is expected of me. I’m a get in there and get your hands dirty kind of a person. In this position, I’m learning to stand back, watch and let my officers do their job. It will take some time, but I’m getting a better grasp of the job every day.”
“Frankly, I was surprised that the chief position suddenly came open,” McCracken said. “I had always hoped to advance to chief, but never thought it would come so soon. Retirements have opened a number of positions which means there will be a lot of learning going on in the department as officers take on new responsibilities.
“With young, new officers coming in later this year with new ideas and experiencing police work for the first time should make for an exciting time. I think everyone will feed off their energy.”
McCracken, a Fort Wayne native and High School graduate, worked in a machine shop until turning 21 and becoming a reserve officer with the Allen County Sheriff’s Department. He was with the county police for three years before coming to New Haven.
During his time with the New Haven Police Department McCracken has been involved in nearly every area within the department. He started as a patrol officer, was a member of the emergency response team, a detective, internal affairs investigator, voice stress operator, crash investigator, narcotics detective, field training officer and deputy coroner.
Last year he and Sgt. Brent Bolinger were part of the department’s move into utilizing drones in search and rescue efforts and to help measure crash scenes. They studied for their Federal Aviation Administration license, took the test at Ivy Tech and were certified to be drone pilots. “We were fortunate to be chosen to get in on the ground floor of this new technology,” McCracken said. “Both the Fort Wayne Police Department and the Allen County Sheriff’s Department employ drones.”
Even as a youngster McCracken wanted to be a policeman and was intrigued by the television portrayals of “Top Cops” and “9-1-1.”
“I’m excited to step into this new role, and grateful for the opportunity,” he said.
McCracken and Amy, his wife of 18 years, have two children. Austin is an eighth-grader at Woodlan Junior Senior High School and Kendra is a sixth- grader at Woodlan Elementary.