Cristy Hamblin, longtime Cedar Rapids police sergeant and community outreach officer, retiring

She's been with the department for 34 years

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CEDAR RAPIDS — During her days on patrol, Cedar Rapids police Sgt. Cristy Hamblin’s favorite calls were also the most difficult.

Removing children from homes and responding to domestic abuse cases were never easy and were often disruptive to those involved, but Hamblin knew she was making a difference.

“I know for at least that night, they’re going to be safe,” Hamblin said.

Now, after 34 years of serving the public in a variety of capacities at the police department, including as public information officer and running the department’s community outreach division, Hamblin is retiring. Her last day is today.

Hamblin, 55, joined the force on Aug. 15, 1983, after hearing on the radio that the department was hiring. When she was hired, she was one of only five female officers, including one hired at the same time as her.

“It was very different back then because we were a novelty,” Hamblin said.

Hamblin said she never felt singled out because of her gender within the department but did encounter some sexism from the public. These days, Hamblin is proud to say female officers are widely accepted within the community.

“They’re not a novelty,” she said. “They’re just an officer, which is pretty cool.”

Hamblin’s time on patrol included stints in investigations as well as undercover work.

In one memorable case, Hamblin went to a bar and met with a pharmacist suspected of dealing pills. An arrangement was made to trade pills for sex, Hamblin recalls.

“I got the pills, but he didn’t get the sex,” she said. “He got arrested instead.”

‘EVERYONE KNOWS HER’

From the early days of her career, Hamblin was interested in interacting with the public. She remembers catching grief from a sergeant because she would often start her shift by playing kickball with kids at Johnson Elementary after school. What the sergeant didn’t realize is the kids would often give Hamblin useful information that could be used in investigations.

Hamblin was promoted to sergeant in 1993 and eventually shifted to crime prevention supervisor. During the Flood of 2008, she moved to the role for which the public will most likely recognize her — public information officer.

“It was good because you got to know a little bit about everything going on in the department,” Hamblin said. “It was challenging because the media asks a lot of questions.”

Hamblin’s son, Andrew, now a police officer at the University of Iowa, recalls his mother was often recognized wherever they went.

“You go to the store, everyone knows her,” he said.

‘NOT VERY THREATENING’

Sometimes, that could lead to confrontations. Hamblin remembers being confronted by a man out in public after the traffic speed cameras were installed. Rather than get defensive, Hamblin said she took it as an opportunity to educate the man on the cameras and their function.

“I’m really not very threatening,” she said. “You could look at me cross-eyed, and I’m still going to smile at you.”

Five years ago, Hamblin moved to the community outreach position where she manages crime prevention and the police PAL program. She represents the department at meetings and in initiatives such as Neighborhood Watch and the Citizens Police Academy. She oversees the distribution of stickers, keychains and books and attends community festivals.

“I’m the warm, fuzzy, feel-good department,” she said.

OUTSTANDING OUTREACH

Cedar Rapids Police Chief Wayne Jerman praised Hamblin’s “outstanding” work as the community outreach liaison, noting her efforts both before and during her time in that position.

“She recognized — the same as I did — the importance of community outreach and the importance of relationships,” Jerman said. “She already understood that and was practicing that. ... When Cristy leaves on Monday, the police department is going to have to step up the entire agency because of everything she has meant in terms of outreach.”

Jerman said Sgt. Laura Faircloth, who has been shadowing Hamblin for the past month, will take over the community outreach job.

FAMILY LEGACY

Though Hamblin is retiring, her legacy continues in law enforcement.

Hamblin married her colleague in the Cedar Rapids Police Department, Rick Hamblin, in 1985; he retired in 2003.

She has two children — Ashley Jay and Andrew Hamblin — and two stepchildren — Jenny Simoens and Adam Hamblin.

Ashley is an officer with the Iowa City Police Department, and Andrew is with the UI department, where Ashley’s husband is also an officer.

Ashley said she and her brother were never pushed into law enforcement and didn’t feel any pressure to fill their parents’ shoes. But, she said, her mother’s career has shaped her.

“I think her work ethic ... is the biggest influence for us,” Ashley said. “She works hard, and she cares about what she does.”

Hamblin said her children work in a different environment from when she started. The national climate has made police work a scarier profession, she said. But she hopes her work as a parent — teaching her children to respect everyone they encounter — will serve them well.

“You can still maintain that respectful attitude,” she said. “Even if you’re making an arrest, you can still be respectful.”

Hamblin said she plans to travel and spend time with her children and grandchildren after she retires. She also plans to continue doing volunteer work. One thing she doesn’t plan to do is take it easy.

“I know I’m not going to go home and be idle for all that long,” she said. “I’m just not one that sits for very long.”

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