After serving as a police officer in the City of Washington Court House for the past 33 years — 17 of those as chief of police — today is officially the final day of Brian Hottinger’s distinguished law enforcement career.
Lt. Jeff Funari becomes the newest chief of the Washington Police Department today.
Other recent changes within the department’s administration include: the retirement of Lt. Russell Lowe, the promotion of Matthew Pfeifer (formerly a sergeant) to lieutenant, and the promotion of Jeff Heinz to sergeant.
In his letter of resignation, Hottinger wrote, “For the past 33 years I have been able to live my childhood dreams of being a Police Officer. I was hired by the City of Washington Court House on May 31, 1988 as a Patrol Officer, I was promoted to the rank of Sergeant in March of 1998 and in January 2004, to put the cherry on the top of my career, I obtained the rank of Chief of Police, which I have held for the past 17 years. As a Police Officer, it has been my honor and privilege to serve the community in which I grew up.”
Hottinger recently sat down with the Record-Herald to talk about his career and retirement.
Talk a little bit about your last year as chief of police. The year 2020 was certainly a memorable and challenging way to go out, not to mention your recovery from your accident. Note: Hottinger sustained serious injuries during a one-vehicle accident in September 2019.
How do you assess your final year as chief?
Hottinger: I have a different view on life today than I did before my accident. I look at things differently now than I did. Before my accident, I don’t know if I was ready for retirement. 2020 was supposed to be a good, fun year, and it was annoying. There were so many things that we wanted to get to do that we didn’t get to do. I still don’t know that I’m ready to retire, but I know that I have to retire. Part of me knows this is a young man’s game. I’ve done my 33 years, 17 years as a chief. It’s time to move over and let somebody else do their thing, put their mark on the world. It’s been a fun ride. I’ve done the best I can do for 17 years. I hope everyone is happy and content with what I’ve been able to accomplish. Lieutenant Funari will do a fine job as well.
Do you believe the department has a bright future ahead of it?
Hottinger: Oh, absolutely. See, I’m an old school police officer. Hands-on, pencil and paper, that’s my wheelhouse, that’s where I’m at. I’m big into handling traffic citations, traffic crashes, traffic is my thing. Everyone else really loves criminal, I like traffic.
For me, it’s all about honor, integrity, an officer’s word means something. Not that anyone else has a different view, but I know that I’m kind of old-school when it comes to that stuff. I do know that Lieutenant Funari is more technology-oriented, so he’s going to focus more on the technology side, which has not been a high priority for me. Each chief brings their own strengths and their own weaknesses, and we have moved forward with technology here, but not as far and as fast as say, the young generation thinks we should have. But I do believe it’s time to do that and Lt. Funari will do a great job with that.
Is there anything you want to say to the community as you leave the job?
It’s been an honor, it’s been a privilege. This is not a job, this is not a career, this is a lifestyle. And I’ve said that for years. For me, out of high school in 1982, I wanted to become a police officer. That’s all I ever wanted to do. I couldn’t do it at 18-years-old. So I went into the Marine Corps., spent four years in the Marine Corps. I figured a military career would do me well. I loved every minute of it. I got out, worked at a local factory for a year-and-a-half, took the test here, got hired in May of 88. This is all I ever wanted to do.
When you became a police officer was it ever your goal to move up in the ranks and eventually become chief?
I had no ambition of being the chief of police whatsoever. I loved working the street, I loved being a road sergeant. I blame Eric Hott for me being in this position. Eric Hott came walking in and I was working on the road schedule, and he said, ‘You need to take the test for chief.’ I said, ‘No, I’m not taking that test.’ Five minutes later he came back again and said, ‘Take the test.’ After four or five times, I told him, ‘If I sign up for the test will you leave me alone so I can get some work done?’ So finally I signed up for the test and I put it on the board. Several officers approached me and expressed their support, if you will. They were glad that I signed up. So then I paid a little attention to it, and my wife encouraged me to take the test. She’s a saint, to deal with me on a daily basis. I take work home with me and she lets me vent and talk. God bless her.
But I’m glad I got to take the test, I’m glad I did what I did. Now I get to see the entire spectrum. I was chief of police, not everybody gets to say that. And that’s really cool. But to this day I miss the street. Working the street is a young man’s job, and I’m not as young as I used to be. That’s where my heart really is.
Although you are retiring from the Washington Police Department, do you think you will ever pursue another job or opportunity in law enforcement?
When I retire from law enforcement and hang up my badge and gun, that’s it for me. I did my 33 years and I am going to find something else to do. I don’t know if I’m going to find a job or not find a job. Nothing has fallen in my lap yet. Initially, I’m not going to do anything. I’m going to retire for the first six months and take it easy. Laura and I are going to take it easy and hang out with our youngest son for a little bit, who is in the Marine Corps. She has to be back to work in August. Then when I’m home by myself and get bored to death, I might look for something to do, but I have no idea what that will be. Something that is low in responsibility and I don’t have to make decisions for the safety and security of 14,000 people. Something a little less impactful. We’re going to stay exactly where we’re at. I was born and raised in Washington Court House. That’s what makes this so special.
Reach Editor Ryan Carter at 740-313-0352.