Beginning in October, longtime Houston resident Tim Ceplina will be the chief of the Houston Police Department.

City Administrator Larry Sutton said Tuesday afternoon that Ceplina was appointed by the city council to succeed current chief Jim McNiell, who is retiring on Oct. 2 after five years in the position as he concludes a 38-year career in law enforcement.

“I’m so glad,” Ceplina said. “Jim has been a great man to work with, and I’ve learned a lot from him, but I’m really ready for this.”

Ceplina, 46, has been with the department for 22 years – the last 15 as a sergeant and supervisor. A 1986 graduate of Houston High School, he has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in criminal justice from Drury University. He is also a criminal justice and psychology instructor at Drury’s campus at Cabool, and owns and operates Spearpoint LLC, a company that provides instruction to employees of schools and other organizations about how to deal with the presence of an armed intruder.

“I think it’s a very good decision,” McNiell said. “You’re keeping an officer here with valuable supervisory experience who has served his community for a long time. Sgt. Ceplina is well respected in the community.”

“One of the things we’ll do is start planning for the future,” Ceplina said, “working with the city council and trying to make things better for citizens. We’ll further address things like the drug issue in Houston and Texas County and some of the other bigger issues we most often deal with.”

Ceplina said he feels the department has made significant forward progress since McNiell’s arrival.

“Our technology is far better, and we’ll continue to try to improve that,” he said. “With everything going on in the world today, you need to keep pace technologically. We also need to focus on continuing to upgrade our training and coming to terms with some of the things that are prevalent now in the cities that we’re probably going to be facing in the next five years or so.

“It’s coming – it’s just a matter of when, and when it gets here, we have to be ready.”

Ceplina said he’s happy with the staff he has been working alongside and will soon lead – Cpl. David Kidwell and officers Brad Evans, Dustin Hartman and Matt Woodmansee.

“I love these guys,” he said. “You couldn’t ask for a better group of people. They know what their job is and they know the citizens, and I think having me getting in there will make for a smooth transition.”

“I think that’s very important,”McNiell said. “It will keep morale up and the officers in the department were supportive of Tim. They’ll have to replace me with a new officer, of course, but there won’t be any big changes in the department.

“Things seem to run smoother when you promote a person who is capable of doing the job, and Sgt. Ceplina is certainly capable.”

Sutton said three candidates were interviewed for the position. Another was scheduled to interview, but opted to take another job. 

Ceplina is a former Marine, serving in Desert Storm and Desert Shield in the early 1990s. Already deployed, his unit was one of the first to enter Iraq.

Prior to joining the Houston Police Department, he was employed two years as a dispatcher, jailer-bailiff and reserve officer for the Texas County Sheriff’s Department.

“I think this will be a good thing for the city of Houston,” McNiell said. “Sgt. Ceplina is well qualified to lead this department, and I know the other officers are very pleased. This department will no doubt continue to provide the top quality service and protection that the community has come to expect.”

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