It has been nearly three months since the has had a permanent chief of police.
In January, Gov. Mark Dayton appointed Maple Grove Police Chief Ramona Dohman commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety. She accepted the position and is currently awaiting formal confirmation at the state legislative level. Her last active day with the city was Feb. 25.
In the interim, Deputy Chief David Jess is standing in as acting police chief of the department he has been with for the last 26 years. Jess has been the department’s deputy chief of police since 2005. Prior to that promotion, he had numerous roles in the department as a patrol officer, investigator, patrol sergeant, emergency response unit commander and patrol captain.
Who will eventually land the police chief position permanently remains unknown.
City Administrator Al Madsen said the “quality leadership” of Jess along with Captains Keith Terlinden and Tracy Stille has allowed the city the time to move more diligently in filling the vacancy.
Dohman’s last official active day as Maple Grove Police Chief was Feb. 25, 2011. The City Council approved her request for a six month unpaid leave of absence until Aug. 31 “for exploration of a new career opportunity” at its Feb. 22 meeting. Jess was appointed acting police chief by the Council at the same meeting, effective March 1. Due to increased responsibilities, the Council also approved a five percent wage increase on his salary during his acting appointment.
The timeline for choosing a permanent chief of police has not yet been determined, according to Madsen. He said he anticipates the process will start in the “very near” future. Councilmember Karen Jaeger said it is likely the new chief of police will be hired "from within" after Dohman's leave of absence is done.
After the search process is completed, the City Council makes the final appointment.
Since Dohman left, no major changes have been put into place at the Maple Grove Police Department, Jess said.
“Most of the changes that have been made so far are items that had been discussed when Chief Dohman was here and I have decided to move forward with their implementation,” he said. “Right now, I am doing a lot of listening, observing and asking a lot of questions in order to identify those things that need attention.”
Since Jess absorbed the acting police chief role, a few items the department has moved forward with include the implementation of a forfeiture policy, updating the policy book and beginning a coordinated effort to work with Hennepin County Courts, Hennepin County Probation and chemical dependency counselors in a joint DWI Court project.
“Our role will be to perform random home visits with offenders who live in Maple Grove to insure they not are consuming alcohol and are working within the guidelines of their probation,” Jess said of the DWI Court Project.
Taking on the acting police chief position with his deputy chief role change hasn’t been without its challenges. The increased time demand was one of the biggest surprises, but Jess said the pace of the work along with the daily challenges “inherent to the position” has been a positive experience for him.
Another challenge, he said, is loss that Dohman’s 10 years of police chief experience she brought to the team. Because she believed in mentoring staff, Jess said he was prepared for the transition.
As acting police chief, Jess said some of his goals for the department include continuing to provide the city with a high level of service, working proactively to predict and prevent crime and increasing community outreach.