UPDATE: Dresner named interim police chief; search to begin for permanent replacement

Friday, June 13, 2008 | 6:10 p.m. CDT; updated 3:16 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Thomas G. Dresner

COLUMBIA — Capt. Thomas G Dresner, a 24-year veteran of the Columbia Police Department, was named interim police chief Friday, replacing Randy Boehm a month after he announced his retirement.

Dresner will take the helm starting July 2 and will be paid $79,965, City Manager Bill Watkins said.

Highlights from Dresner’s professional experience

October 1999 to present Commander of Special Weapons and Tactics team. Tactical commander on scene for 60-officer SWAT contingent that managed the Neo-Nazi march at MU in March 2007 October 1998 to present Captain, Commander of Administrative Support Division. Supervision of all support services for law enforcement agency of 152 sworn; command of Computer Operations, Evidence Unit, Fleet Operations, Equipment Custodian, Records Units, station masters, and typists; supervision of $17 million annual budget. December 1996 to October 1998 Sergeant, Supervisor of Personnel Development Unit. Background investigation for all recruit officers, orientation and assignment of recruit officer field training and orientation coordination and implementation of in-service training for all officers and inter-jurisdictional training coordination; supervisor of all training for all departmental employees; field training officer selection process and coordination of all departmental instructors. 1993 to 1998 Arrest Team Leader of Special Tactics and Response Team. In charge of six-man squad assigned to inner perimeter and suspect control in hostage and barricade suspect situations. 1993 to 1998 Training Coordinator of Special Tactics and Response Team. Monthly training scenarios for 23-member team; firearms instructor with emphasis on special weapons; building entry, mass arrest, riot and civil disorder control, vehicle assaults, tactical team movement. 1984 to 1993 Police Officer. Field training officer, firearms instructor, armorer, property unit detective, trainer in intoxicated driver detection.

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Watkins said Dresner brings many years of valuable experience to the table, including stints as acting chief.

Dresner has been a captain for 10 years and is currently the one with the most seniority.

Dresner said he is taking the helm of an organization facing a “mood of uncertainty” as the department faces change with a new leader. While he has served in the role of acting chief before, Dresner acknowledged that it is difficult to predict how his tenure as interim chief will compare with those as acting chief.

An acting chief is used when the chief is gone for a period of time; interim chief fills a vacancy between appointed chiefs.

He plans on “being a lot busier,” especially with handling numerous meetings with the City Council, community boards and other meetings with residents.

Watkins said the fact that Dresner is respected by his colleagues made him a good candidate to head the department while the city prepares to launch a search for a permanent replacement.

While the chief’s office upstairs is “very nice,” Dresner plans on remaining in his office “with all my stuff.” Stuff includes four framed pictures his late father, a wildlife photographer, took in Colorado, one of which shows Dresner and his wife horseback riding with the mountains in the background.

Dresner earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from MU in 1982.

Dresner said his decision to go into police work was solidified by the journalism school.

“As a journalist, I had to stop at the police line tape,” he said.

Stopping at the tape wasn’t enough for Dresner. He wanted to be in on the intricacy of being on the scene.

“I was intrigued by the complexity involved in police work; it challenges me,” Dresner said. “I like that no two days are the same and the scope from small problems to large problems.”

Boehm will retire July 1, and he will begin a new career in the private sector as manager of security for MU Health Care on July 7, according to an earlier Missourian report.

An interim rather than permanent chief was named because Watkins wanted to conduct a formal and professional search to find a permanent replacement for Boehm, said Toni Messina, the city’s director of communications.

Messina said Watkins plans to name a permanent chief by the start of 2009.

The search for a permanent chief was not started sooner because Boehm resigned only a month ago, Watkins said.

In addition, the advisory committee organized to pick the permanent chief has not met yet, Watkins said. The 17 committee members were appointed by Watkins and includes neighborhood associations, residents of the First Ward, an ex-mayor, a representative from MU and a representative from the MU law enforcement program.

The committee will collaborate with a consulting firm. The call for hiring consultants, which is the first part of the process, will go out Friday or Monday, Watkins said. He said the committee will meet to choose a firm after the city receives materials by a July 31 deadline.

The public will also be involved in choosing the permanent chief, probably in the form of public meetings, Messina said.

Dresner said he has no interest in being the permanent chief. He said Watkins didn’t want the interim chief to also be interested in being permanent chief.

Missourian reporter Marty Swant contributed to this report.

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