Yankton chief of police Brian Paulsen has announced his retirement from the Yankton Police Department (YPD).
Paulsen told the Press & Dakotan Monday that, after eight years as Yankton’s chief of police, he will leave the department at the end of June.
"It was really some self-evaluation, looking and deciding what else I could do for the department," Paulsen said. "Could I continue to stay here and improve it or is it an opportunity for someone else to come in and raise it higher than I’ve raised it? I just felt that the timing was right for that to happen."
Paulsen originally came to Yankton in June 2010 after serving as the chief of police in Plattsmouth, Nebraska. He replaced Duane Heeney who had retired the previous year.
Yankton City Manager Amy Nelson told the Press & Dakotan that the city is already looking into the replacement process.
"The next step is really to identify an interim police chief," Nelson said. "The selection of a police chief is a careful and well-thought out process, as it should be. It will take some time, so I’m going to need to appoint someone to be the interim chief."
She said that officials, including herself, are still contemplating an interim chief and will announce a selection soon.
Nelson said that the city wants to make sure the search for a new chief is done correctly, and that the process could take some time before it even begins.
"Don’t be shocked if you don’t see a job announcement right away," she said. "I want to take some time and look at the job description, maybe refresh that, look at the announcement and refresh that as well."
She said the search will be conducted internally, locally, regionally and nationally and that the city would also like the public’s help in choosing a new chief.
"It’s going to be a very transparent and public process," she said. "I’d like to have some assistance from the community in that hiring process, from the organization and the (City) Commission as well."
The search for a new chief of police could take 4-6 months.
Nelson said, in the meantime, there will be no disturbance of service at YPD.
"I’m really confident in the folks we have — our officers and our support staff and our dispatchers," she said. "We have capable and well-trained folks to carry us through here as we move ahead."
Paulsen said a lot has been accomplished at YPD since his arrival in 2010.
"We have done a great job of improving the department," he said. "Training and education was huge. We’ve created some programs here in the community with that training — particularly with crisis intervention training and how we deal with those in mental health crisis. We weren’t doing a real good job and I felt that training was important."
The issuance of Narcan to YPD’s officers to help combat the ongoing opioid crisis was another significant accomplishment that Paulsen cited in the last eight years.
He also said the YPD made great investments in community policing in the past few years thanks to the Citizens Academy and Coffee With A Cop programs.
Nelson praised Paulsen’s dedication to education initiatives.
"During those years, he did a lot of training and education to help his own professional development as well as the development of the other officers," she said. "He was very forward thinking with the crisis intervention training and was a real advocate of melding mental health with law enforcement and the importance of that. That brought a lot to our department."
City Attorney Ross Den Herder told the Press & Dakotan Paulsen leaves the department a well-trained group.
"He did a great job of bringing back, and encouraging, training among law enforcement," Den Herder said. "He really turned the team into a sharp group of folks, and they do a wonderful job protecting the community. I think that’s going to be his lasting legacy."
Yankton Mayor Nathan Johnson has a unique perspective of Paulsen, having interacted with him both as a city official and as a journalist with the Press & Dakotan.
"I first met him while he was interviewing for the job eight years ago, and he has been nothing but kind and professional to me whether I was a reporter asking about a case or a commissioner inquiring about a policy," Johnson said. "Chief Paulsen put a focus on community policing and training our officers during his tenure. I’m particularly proud of the lead the Yankton Police Department took in the state regarding Crisis Intervention Team training, which provided our officers guidance on how to interact with individuals dealing with mental health issues."
Paulsen said he’s looking to shift to the private sector as his next move.
"There’s some other opportunities out there that I’m waiting to see what happens with them," he said.
He added that he feels the YPD is in great shape going forward.
"I think I’m leaving the department better than I found it," he said. "There’s a lot of things that were happening when I got here that we’ve changed for the positive. We’ve got a really, really good crew. We’ve got folks that are really willing to serve the community, and that’s a key component in any department. I’m proud of who we have here, who’s working here and what the future holds for them because we’ve got a good group of people who I think are going to keep the city safe for a long, long time."
Paulsen’s last official day on duty will be June 28.
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