Why did you choose this profession?
I think there’s a couple of different reasons. The cliché answer
is you want to help people. For many of us that’s very true. If we weren’t into
working with others we wouldn’t be successful in this role. It really is about
interacting with other people and helping solve problems.
The thing that really truly drove me was it was a job where I could hold people accountable who chose not to hold themselves accountable. That really was a motivating factor. When I was a kid, like many kids, we would play cops and robbers. Then as I grew older, not that I was disinterested in law enforcement or the idea of it, but I wasn’t as interested and thought about pursuing a couple of different careers, one in aviation and one becoming a lawyer.
But then when I was a senior in high school, in order to get an “A” in social studies, you had to have so many hours of what they called community involvement. A friend of mine told me about a program at the police department where you could get credit by riding with the police officer. I joined it not realizing that it was a lot more than just riding along. It’s actually called an explorer program and it’s sponsored by the Boy Scouts.
It is an opportunity to learn about the different facets of a career, and after riding along I realized this is something that I really want to do. I switched gears. I was planning to go to college out of state and decided against that because in Minnesota we’re one of the few states where you have to have a college degree and it has to be from a school here in Minnesota. I switched and ended up staying here and continuing through to where I am now.
What are your primary responsibilities?
Leading and managing all areas of public safety for the city.
Whether it’s firefighting, law enforcement, or what we call emergency
management – emergency preparedness for manmade technological, or environmental
emergencies or disasters. We have two departments under one umbrella, Police
and Fire. Emergency Management is spread within those two departments. As the
director of public safety, I’m also the police chief.
It’s leading the way, making sure that we are strategic in our vision. Looking at forthcoming obstacles and trying to work our way around them, sort of predictive analysis. What’s happening on different socio-political realms and how are we going to navigate our way through that. Ensuring that we’re doing what the community wants and being effective and efficient in the services we deliver.
What is something most people don’t know about your profession?
People are surprised to learn about the amount of education that
is required. I think some people tend to look at law enforcement as sort of a
blue-collar career. I tend to think of it more as a vocation, more of a
calling. I’m biased, but I believe there is a lot of honor in the work that we
do. There is a significant amount of education and training that is required.
In Minnesota, even though we’ve had our issues that have made national and international headlines, we are far ahead of many other states in the training that we provide our personnel. We in our organization here in Plymouth with our City Council and city administration support, most of our discretionary monies go to training and building our folks to be the best that they can.
Another thing, we run a citizen’s academy every fall. It’s a twelve-week program where residents can come and learn about the Department. I don’t think they understand all of the different things that we actually do. We wear many hats. We are enforcers, we are social workers, we are chemical health professionals, mental health professionals. We are parents and in some situations, we are guardians. We are problem solvers, we might be plumbers, we might be mechanics. People don’t call us with good news. We are the only twenty-four seven social service agency that will come to your door. When you have an issue and you call us, we have an obligation to respond and to provide professional services.
What was it like when you first started?
It was great! I was getting paid to have as much fun as a person
could have. If they would have said to me when I was a new officer, hey you’re
doing a great job we love having you around but we ran out of money. OK, can I
We had fewer officers, and the city was not as fully developed. It is far more controlled now, and it is for good reason. We were younger, we had to make big decisions with not a lot of support and resources. Today there is more technology, more people, more resources. Back then, the challenge was really thinking on your feet because no two situations were exactly the same.
It was also neat to watch this city grow the way that it did. I was hired here in 1990. At that time, we just got to experience explosive growth.
What is your greatest achievement?
On a personal level, it’s raising a family. I think my wife and
I have done a good job.
On a professional level my greatest achievement is looking at the team that we have collectively amassed. We’ve got great talent in this organization. I couldn’t be prouder of the people that we have.
And it’s my job to take care of them because in turn they take care of their community. That’s how we carry out our mission. I take care of them they go out and do the hard work and we have success.
What are your greatest challenges?
I think right now what’s happening across the country as it
relates to the distrust that some have with law enforcement.
Last summer when the Dallas officers were ambushed and killed and the Baton Rouge officers were ambushed and killed, I have never seen that support and the outpouring of support from the community ever. I mean we’ve had nice things happen but people were filling up our lobby with baked goods and thank you cards and all sorts of tokens of thanks and gratitude. While that’s good we can’t rest on our laurels and believe that everybody is our fan. The challenge is trying to ensure people that we are doing legitimate work. That we’re transparent in our delivery and that we are going to protect people’s constitutional rights, their civil rights, their legal rights.
There are plenty of examples where law enforcement has made a mistake and they have either accounted for it or haven’t, which doesn’t help matters. Ninety five percent of what gets done across this country gets done really well and that’s not being reported, so that’s a challenge.
I think the other challenge is we are a very progressive organization. Our crime rate for a city of our size is incredibly low. And I believe that’s because of the great team that we have, and the great city planning that has taken place to build this community. The challenge is making sure that we don’t slip. Never taking things for granted, never settling for the status quo. How can we always be that sort of forward thinking entity trying to cut things off before they happen.
What is something most people don’t know about you?
I was actually in a made for T.V. movie when they used to have
those on the major networks.
Back sometime in the early ninety’s. They made a made for T.V. movie called She Led Two Lives. There’s a scene that was actually filmed in what is now the Crown Plaza Hotel. They were using the outside of it as a hospital and I’m parked in a squad car with my window down. And so, there’s a shot where two actors are coming out of the building and they walk past me. I was on the set all day helped them with a lot of things they needed. I think that’s kind of a fun little fact.
What changes have you seen in this neighborhood?
The city is becoming more complex. It’s more diverse. Even though I would say we’re in the middle to upper middle-class community, we still have people are on the lower portion of the economic scale. We have new Americans coming here either from Somalia or India or other places across the globe. We have a lot of emerging businesses that are pretty exciting, particularly in the med tech space. Again, it’s just becoming a more sophisticated and complex community.
WHAT CHANGES DO YOU WANT TO SEE IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD?
It’s hard to limit. Now, safer streets.
This has been a hard year for us. We have maybe one fatality a year and this year we have far exceeded that. We’ve had a couple of pedestrians struck and killed and we’ve had other passengers of vehicles killed in car crashes. All of them could have been avoided so the distracted driving, the impaired driving.
To me it’s just so incredibly preventable. If people just paid attention, drove the speed limit, used a cab service, it would really make a big difference. And if people weren’t in such a hurry. You see the commercials of is that text or call that urgent, the answer is absolutely not. We lose people in our community and communities all across the country every single day unnecessarily.
It’s not OK.
I wish people would become more angry at that information and would try to work collectively to find a way to reform. That is one thing I wish I could change, because innocent people just going about their business would be spared.
What are your favorite things to do in the neighborhood?
I always like a good restaurant of course and I don’t want to
name one and then not name someone else and get in trouble. We like the
restaurants, we like the park systems here.
Just sort of the quietness. We live on a cul de sac and we’ve been in the same neighborhood for a long time and it’s amazing how quiet it can be.
Certainly, we try to frequent the area businesses for our needs. The convenience of how the community is laid out is something that we really like.
Why do you think it’s important for people to shop local?
One of the things that allows for this community to thrive is
the fact that we have a strong commercial base.
We have a strong industrial park with businesses and we have strong neighborhoods. When you take your resources and plant them outside of the community, you’re taking away the support Of which you’re trying to achieve.
By spending money and spending time supporting those that are trying to make this even a better community, we all win. For me it’s common sense. We want to thrive, we want to continue to excel, and in order to do that we want people to do it here in Plymouth.