New police chief 'a good fit'Years ago, Roger Pohlman set a goal for himself to be a police chief by the time he was 52 years old. On Oct. 15, he officially reached that goal and did it with a few years to spare.
By: Sarah Gorvin, The Republican Eagle
Years ago, Roger Pohlman set a goal for himself to be a police chief by the time he was 52 years old. On Oct. 15, he officially reached that goal and did it with a few years to spare.
The 49-year-old is taking over the position vacated by Red Wing Police Chief Tim Sletten, whose last day will be today.
“The hardest thing is following a chief that’s been popular and did a great job,” Pohlman said.
But the outgoing chief has no doubts that Pohlman will fit in well.
“I’ve already seen the skills and qualities that will suit him well to lead the police department,” Sletten told the Red Wing City Council at his last meeting Oct. 22. “You made a good choice.”
Pohlman grew up on a farm in the southwestern corner of Minnesota. After graduating from the local technical college, he spent a couple years farming before joining the U.S. Air Force in the mid-1980s.
“It was a volatile farming time,” Pohlman said of his decision to try a different career. “I was always interested in the military,” he said, adding that he had a father and older brother who also served.
Over the next 10 years, Pohlman, his wife and two kids moved around the world as Pohlman was stationed first in Tuscan, Ariz., then Germany, Guam and Turkey.
With an eye to get out of the military after 10 years, Pohlman also made sure he took advantage of opportunities that would give him skills that could be useful in a law enforcement career later on. That included experience working with military customs departments, community bike patrols and gang task forces.
“I volunteered time to get experience,” he said.
In 1994, Pohlman was transferred to the Grand Forks (N.D.) Air Force Base. But two years later, when the Air Force looked to transfer him to Montana, Pohlman said he didn’t want to keep moving his now-adult children, Megan and Joshua, from city to city.
“I wanted to give my kids a stable platform,” he said.
Pohlman retired from the Air Force in 1996, joined the Army National Guard and took a position as a patrol officer with the Grand Forks Police Department.
Over the next 18 years, Pohlman held a variety of positions including neighborhood resource officer, patrol sergeant, department training sergeant and police lieutenant. In 2012, he took over duties for the department’s grant administration, public information officer and internal affairs.
It was Pohlman’s background in community policing and his experience as a public information officer that made Pohlman stand out Red Wing officials, Red Wing City Council Administrator Kay Kulhmann said.
“He has a great background,” she said. “Any organization would be lucky to have him as a member. He has a style that is very open.”
“I’m excited about the new police chief coming on board,” Red Wing Capt. Darold Glander said earlier this month. “I think he’s going to be a good fit.”
As police chief, Pohlman said he will draw on his past experiences, especially his time in combat during Operation Desert Storm and his 18-month deployment to Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“There’s a lot of things over that experience that shapes you. In Iraq, there’s no rhyme or reason to who was injured and who survived,” Pohlman said. “You really start to realize how precious live is and how so many things are out of your control.
“That’s shaped my desire to be in law enforcement and be in a position to help people,” he continued.
With only a couple weeks so far in his new position, Pohlman said he’s settling in and isn’t yet sure if he will make any changes to how the department is run. However, there is one thing he knows he wants to keep the same.
“I want to maintain the connection to the community that Tim (Sletten) started,” Pohlman said.
Part of that will be asking residents for their input on “what can be achieved or improved,” he said.
“He’s got a very nice, very charming, nice personality. He’s got a lot of character,” Kulhmann said. “He’s just a good person.”
Pohlman’s wife, Shelley, will join him in Red Wing in early November.