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Posted on: August 21, 2023

West Fargo Police Department Chief Denis Otterness announces retirement

West Fargo Police Department Chief Denis Otterness announces retirement (PNG)

West Fargo Police Department Chief Denis Otterness has announced his retirement with an effective date of Friday, Oct. 6, 2023. 

“It has been an honor and a privilege to lead the West Fargo Police Department over the past three years,” said West Fargo Police Chief Denis Otterness. “It has been a highlight of my career serving alongside such a dedicated police department who remains committed to protecting and serving the community of West Fargo. It is truly bittersweet to begin and end my career serving the City of West Fargo.”

Chief Otterness was appointed as Chief of Police in September 2020. His law enforcement experience, leadership skills, and dedication to strengthening relationships throughout the community made him an ideal fit for the position. 

During Chief Otterness’ tenure, he has implemented new initiatives that have led the department in a positive direction. These include the addition of an enhanced cardiac screening program, body worn camera program, comfort dog program with West Fargo Public Schools, an ongoing Peace Officer Training program with Lake Region State College, and West Fargo’s first public transparency dashboard. 

Chief Otterness was also influential in the passing of House Bill 1279 to expand workers’ compensation coverage for full-time law enforcement and firefighters across North Dakota, the only state in the country to provide this level of coverage. 

Chief Otterness worked to strengthen relationships with the community, including the introduction of the Community Outreach Programs and Services (COPS) Unit and the addition of a Community Engagement Officer. 

In addition, the Community Service Officer (CSO) position was changed by Chief Otterness from one full-time position to multiple part-time positions to allow for further recruitment of criminal justice students, and those interested in law enforcement, to start learning the basics of law enforcement. A program that has helped recruit multiple officers to the department over the past two years. 

Chief Otterness led the department in developing new proactive community policing strategies, resulting in a consistent decrease in overall crime over the past three years. With over 29,000 calls for service per year, the department saw a consistent decrease in both Crimes Against Persons and Property Crimes as the city, and demand for law enforcement, continues to grow.

Chief Denis Otterness retires with 33 years of law enforcement experience in a variety of agencies. Chief Otterness was the Montana State University – Billings Police Department Chief of Police and Emergency Management Director. Prior to that role, Chief Otterness served the Bloomington Police Department from 1998 through 2018. He first started with the Bloomington Police Department as a police officer and worked his way up to Deputy Chief. Chief Otterness also served as a Task Force Officer with the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, adjunct instructor with Normandale Community College and began his career as an officer with the West Fargo Police Department.

Chief Otterness has a master’s degree in Public Safety and Law Enforcement Leadership from the University of St. Thomas, a bachelor’s degree in Sociology with a Criminal Justice Emphasis from North Dakota State University and multiple leadership certificates.

More details regarding the hiring of the next police chief will be made available at a later date.

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