Princeton Police Chief Brian Payne has announced his resignation effective Sept. 30. Payne, 55, is retiring from law enforcement after 35 years in the profession.
The council did not pass a motion to advertise for applications to add an officer to fill a vacancy created by one of the current officers becoming the chief. City Administrator Mark Karnowski advised the council wait on that in case it doesn’t work out to hire someone from within the department to be the new chief.
Karnowski had told the council there is an benefit to opening the applications right from the start to anyone, including from outside the department. That is, if an applicant from within the department should be chosen, they would have additional credibility from having beaten out candidates from beyond, Karnowski explained. The council didn’t seem to think that would be an issue.
Council Member Dick Dobson led the discussion that led to the decision to take applications from within the department. The only problem with opening the applications to the outside, Dobson said, is that right now the officers on the department are all working so well together.
“If you bring someone in new, you have no idea where that will go,” he said.
Also, if the new chief is chosen from outside, it could result in a current officer deciding to leave.
Council Member Jules Zimmer, who was once was a patrol officer in the Princeton department, Mille Lacs County sheriff and the North Branch police chief, agreed.
Small police departments offer only so many chances for advancement, so openings for higher ranks are “coveted positions, whether it is chief or sergeant,” Zimmer said. If the officers know they might have a chance of attaining a higher department position in the future, that is a way of retaining them, Zimmer added. He said his opinion is that by reducing that opportunity, some officers would go elsewhere to work to advance their career.
Council Members Victoria Hallin, Thom Walker and Mayor Paul Whitcomb agreed.
Zimmer said that if applicants from within didn’t work out, the city could expand the application options.
When it was time to accept Payne’s resignation, Dobson made the motion by saying he was doing it with regret.
“I hate to lose him,” Dobson said of Payne, and called Payne “a real asset.”
“Brian (Payne) and I go back a long way,” he added.
Hallin seconded the motion, saying she was doing it “sadly.”
After the motion passed, Whitcomb thanked Payne for his service, and Walker led the council and people in the audience in applause.
Payne said retiring at this time is part of his long-range plan that he set when he went into law enforcement at age 20. His eligibility for a pension began at 30 years in law enforcement, and his being able to draw on it when he leaves the police chief job will give him the financial security to explore some other field to work in, he said.
Payne added that the resignation has nothing to do with his job satisfaction, explaining that he enjoys working as head of the police department serving the city of Princeton. Leaving with that kind of feeling about the job is “exhilarating,” he said.
Payne’s first eight years in law enforcement were in Howard Lake, Wright County and Zimmerman. He started on the Princeton Police Department as a patrol officer in 1987 and worked his way up to sergeant. He became the city’s police chief in May 2007 with the retirement of then Police Chief Dave Warneke.
The department has 11 officers. Besides Payne, Backlund and Frederick, the members are K-9 officer Jason Cederberg, Ryan VanDenheuval, Kristi Kuyper, Nicole Josephes, Eric Minks, Arnie Soden, Alex Dehn and Matt Mullins. Two of the department’s officers also serve as school liaison officers.