Life-long dream for new top cop
For Tish Olszewski, her new assignment as commander of the Colorado Springs Police Depart-ment's Gold Hill Division underlines the fulfillment of dreams dating
back to childhood days in Pennsyslvania.
“Ever since I was a little girl I knew I wanted to be a police officer,” she said. “When we'd play cops and robbers as a kid, I always wanted to be the cop.”
As far as the Westside is concerned, this is where she started working as a CSPD patrol officer 25 years ago, right after earning a criminology degree from the Indiana University of Pennsylvania. So working this area again “is like coming home,” said Olszewski (pronounced Ol-CHEF-ski).
Unfortunately, an initial message to the division's residents has to be one of lowered expectations. With reduced manpower, Gold Hill is no different than other commands in the city, in advising the public not to expect police to respond on “cold” calls (after a crime has happened and the perpetrators are gone). A big part of the problem is that detectives who used to work property crimes have to spend much of their time now investigating violent crimes, the commander elaborated.
Nonetheless, people are encouraged to report crimes such as burglaries or break-ins. This puts them on record and also helps police see if any patterns are developing, Olszewski said. For instance, a year ago, police were able to make an arrest after a rash of car break-ins at trailheads on the Westside and Cheyenne areas.
In past years, Olszewski said that police “have always prided ourselves on the support we get from the community.” Now, with the budget cutbacks, “we have to work together and be a team,” she said. In conjunction with this, she invited people to volunteer for Gold Hill's Citizen Advisory Committee. (For more information call crime prevention officer Bob Harris at 385-2117.)
Another dimension to Olszewski's assignment to Gold Hill is the aspect of her being a female station commander. When she was promoted to that slot in the Stetson Hills division two years ago, she became just the second woman in city history to achieve that highest civil service rank. (The first was Charlotte Buckley, who made captain - the same rank as commander is now - before retiring in 1989.) “I'm extremely proud of that,” Olszewski said.
When she was hired, 22 women were sworn officers on CSPD, according to a police historian Olszewski has talked to. Now there are 86 (out of 650 total). But she also pointed out that through her career - including promotions to sergeant in 1993 and lieutenant in 2003 - she never felt discriminated against. In fact, she feels fortunate to have been assigned a wide variety of policing areas (patrol, major crimes detective, drug prevention, training academy, internal affairs, sex crimes, gangs, vice and narcotics). She also helped her own cause by obtaining a Master of Arts degree in organizational management in 1997.
After 25 years, she still feels comfortable offering opinions to the department's higher-ups without any fear of backlash. “We've worked the streets together,” she said. “We have trust between us. We've built that up over the years.” For example, she and Deputy Chief Pete Carey “went through the police academy together,” Olszewski said.
Her lateral move from Stetson Hills to Gold Hill in January was part of a PD realignment which included Commander Kurt Pillard - who had led Gold Hill since a year before the new station opened at 955 W. Moreno Ave. in 2006 - getting his wish to move back to Investigations.
Becoming a commander had been another part of Olszewski's dream in becoming a cop, she revealed. Now that she has attained that level (twice), “maybe I'll get a chance to move even higher,” she added with a grin.
Westside Pioneer article