After a decade of serving the community, Centennial Lakes Police Department's (CLPD) Chief James Coan will hand over the reins to a new chief.
Twenty-seven people applied for the position. That number was narrowed down to 18, then six, then one. In a special meeting on Thursday, June 25, the police governing board approved a contract with James Mork to take over when Chief Coan retires next month.
“Ultimately, all six (finalists) were excellent. We had six quality candidates. Quite honestly, any of the six would be fine in leading our department, but I think Jim will be a very good fit for our department,” said City Administrator Patrick Antonen at the June 23 council meeting. “We like going with the name Jim,” he joked. “We have a great department and I think Jim Mork is going to keep Jim Coan's legacy going.”
Coan said he is happy for Mork, as it was a competitive selection process with well-qualified candidates.
“I am confident that Jim will be very successful here as chief. He has great experience and credentials for the job. More importantly, Jim Mork has the leadership style and demeanor that will make him a very good chief of police,” Coan said. “Jim is highly respected in the Fridley Police Department and I know that he will have the same great support and respect from within our department and from surrounding public safety officials ... I believe that the future of the CLPD remains very bright with Jim Mork as chief.”
Who is James Mork?
Mork has spent his entire career with the Fridley Police Department. He started out as a patrol officer in 1997 and has since held positions as a problem response team officer, detective, patrol sergeant and, most recently, the investigations division lieutenant.
He was born in Tokyo, Japan, but moved to the U.S. with his family when he was just 6 years old. He has a bachelor's degree in history from Bethel College and a master's degree in police leadership, administration and education from the University of St. Thomas.
Mork said he had an interest in law enforcement from a very young age. He toyed around with the idea of becoming a police officer in high school and college but decided he would pursue a major in history because Bethel did not have a law enforcement program at the time.
After graduation, he ended up working for a property management company, providing security for a luxury condominium complex. One day he ran into one of his college roommates, who was a police officer. Mork's friend strongly encouraged him to think about pursuing the career and even let him go on a ride along with him.
“I thought that would be neat. You are serving the public and every day is not a cookie-cutter image of the previous day,” Mork recalled. He decided to go back to school for his master's degree and was the first person in his family to pursue a career in law enforcement.
Mork explained that he and the Fridley police chief are around the same age and joined the department around the same time. “Our career is going to run about the same length ... So, when he would retire would be around the same time that I am going to retire. I knew that having a chief opportunity there just wasn't going to be a possibility,” he said. “If I wanted that challenge and wanted that opportunity to have that input on an organization, I knew I would have to go elsewhere.”
Mork didn't just pick anywhere, though. He wanted to be “choosy” about it.
“Having worked my entire career in Fridley, we share a radio channel, so I hear what is going on in that community all the time and I have gotten acquainted with some of the officers at training,” he said. “I know officers in the neighboring communities really well and I checked with them and asked what they could tell me about the department, and I kept hearing all of these positive things.”
For the past 23 years, Mork has established an abundance of relationships in Anoka County and is familiar with how the system functions. “We use the same radio channels, report rating systems, attorneys, judges, prosecutors ... I don't have to relearn all of that,” he said.
Plan for changes
Once Mork met Chief Coan, he said it was clear that Coan “has a heart for this” and has put in a lot of effort into making sure that he is leaving the department in a good place.
“I am very honored and excited to build off of what he has (built and) work with the community and the officers to develop the best department we can possibly come up with,” Mork said. “It is certainly a situation where I don't have to come in and tear everything down ... I want to take a very measured approach and make sure we are very clear on what the community is looking for, what the governing board is looking for. I think what they have going is very good, and we will tweak it here and there.”
Mork has the advantage of coming from a larger police department with a higher call volume. He has some ideas that have worked for Fridley that the CLPD may be able to implement, too. If something needs to be tweaked it will be, but Mork said he is not going to make changes just for the sake of change.
Mork will likely take over as chief in late July.
Lead Editor Shannon Granholm can be reached at 651-407-1227 or firstname.lastname@example.org.