Solomon taps Rathbun to succeed Col. McCartney as police chief

Warwick Beacon ·

A 24-year veteran of the Warwick Police Department who got to know Mayor Joseph Solomon during his work in Conimicut and in his role as Emergency Management Director, Major Rick Rathbun was sworn in as the new Warwick Police Chief yesterday afternoon.

Rathbun succeeds the former longtime chief, Stephen McCartney, who retired in December. Rathbun was sworn into office immediately following a vote from the board of public safety.

“This is probably one of the most difficult decisions I've made in office since I've taken office,” Solomon said during the swearing in ceremony, held at the police headquarters.

“During Colonel McCartney’s 20-year tenure, he built a department now filled with tremendously talented, dedicated and experienced officers and a command staff that has shown great integrity and professionalism,” Solomon said in a release. “Chief Rathbun has consistently demonstrated those qualities, along with tremendous leadership abilities and his commitment to protecting and serving our community well. Chief Rathbun and Deputy Chief Brad Connor are both dedicated and have longtime experience in law enforcement. I am confident that, as they work cooperatively together on behalf of our community, we will have the best police command staff in the state.”

Rathbun said he had several discussions with Solomon prior to his selection. He said as a rookie he dreamed of being chief one day, although the longer he was on the department the more he realized how distant that prize was.

“This is one of those moments where you sit back and you don't potentially see it coming and when it hits you, it hits you with the respect and the graciousness and the humility that it deserves,” Rathbun said after being sworn in by the mayor, and with members of the department lining the walls of the police community room.

Rathbun praised the work of retired Col. McCartney and said he intends to bring the department to “the next level.”

Asked afterward what he meant, Rathbun said he aims to build upon community policing and to develop a three- to five-year strategic plan.

In the release, Solomon noted that Rathbun’s leadership abilities have particularly come to the forefront since his appointment as EMA Director in August. Since taking on the role, the release notes, Rathbun has led the update of the City’s emergency response plan, and has coordinated citywide departmental operations during severe weather storms as well as other issues affecting public health and safety. During the recent collapse and subsequent repair of a sewer line on Sandy Lane, Rathbun spearheaded all of the logistics involved to limit the impact on both residents and business community.

“Throughout these incidents, Chief Rathbun demonstrated his ability to stay calm under pressure and effectively coordinate responses among multiple municipal departments in order to ensure that our residents were safe and impacts to the community were as minimal as possible,” Solomon said. “With several very qualified candidates, both within and outside the department, that I considered, the exemplary job he has been doing in his dual roles as Major and EMA Director was a deciding factor in my decision.

“I know he will continue to lead the WPD in the tradition of excellence our residents and business community – as well as other law enforcement agencies throughout the region – have come to know and expect from the City of Warwick.”

Prior to joining the department, Rathbun spent four years as an enlisted member of the United States Air Force in a military law enforcement position. He was sworn in as a Warwick police officer on June 27, 1995. He was promoted to the rank of sergeant in 2004, and served as the accreditation manager of the Inspection Services Division from 2006, until his promotion to lieutenant in 2010. By 2015, he had risen to the rank of captain, and was promoted to the rank of major two years later. He has served as the Administrative Bureau commander since last July.

Since becoming a member of the department, Rathbun has attended over 55 specialized school training courses, in a variety of areas including, but not limited to, firearms and bomb threat investigations, gang recognition, drug impairment, anti-terrorism, crisis negotiations, incident command, forensics, communications, sexual harassment prevent and threat and risk assessment.

Rathbun has also served as a department training officer, offering instruction in patrol operations, report writing, and in-field training officer certification at the Rhode Island Municipal Training Academy. He was a member of the Crisis Negotiation Team from 2006 to 2015, serving as its team leader from 2009-2015.

Rathbun earned his Master of Science degree in Administration of Justice/Homeland Security from Salve Regina last year. He also holds an Associate’s Degree in Law Enforcement from the Community College of Rhode Island and a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice from Roger Williams University. He has been awarded six second-class commendations, five third-class commendations, 21 recognition ribbons, and an honorable service recognition. He was also honored with the American Legion Outstanding Public Service Award and presently serves as vice chairman of the Rhode Island Police Accreditation Commission.

Rathbun said he aims to “maintain a drama-free department,” which he said is a testament to McCartney’s leadership and to the men and women of the department.