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New roles bring new priorities to police department

Josie McAlister pinned her husband Randy McAlister's badge on at the April 18 City Council meeting where he was named the new Cottage Grove Police Captain. Katie Nelson / RiverTown Multimedia 1 / 2
Brian Franck was sworn in as Cottage Grove sergeant by City Administrator Charlene Stevens at the April 18 City Council meeting. Katie Nelson / RiverTown Multimedia 2 / 2

COTTAGE GROVE — New promotions among police department staff are bringing new ideas to the forefront and allowing space for newer officers to share their vision.

Pete Koerner moved into the public safety director's seat back in February when Craig Woolery retired, leaving a captain position up for grabs.

Randy McAlister, a detective sergeant until April 16, was sworn in as the new captain at the April 18 City Council meeting. Brian Franck will fill his sergeant vacancy.

McAlister has brought specialized knowledge to the department on sexual and domestic violence as well as threat assessment over the years.

"Randy loves researching," Koerner said at the council meeting. "He's one of the most passionate men I know. Whether it's threat assessments or domestic abuse, when he goes into something it's full bore."

McAlister said he hopes to hand down his insights to the rest of the department.

"A lot of institutions ... have an expert in an area and when they leave it goes away," he said. "We need to institutionalize it."

McAlister has worked in the department for just over 20 years, and has recently been visiting the Minnesota State Capitol to discuss school safety and threat assessment.

Franck will be back in the patrol ranks, this time as sergeant, starting in June. He's spent the last few years as a school resource officer at Park High School, a role he said he'll miss.

"(When named sergeant), the first thing he said is, 'I have to finish the school year,'" Koerner said.

Franck has worked in the department since 2009, when he left the Washington County Sheriff's Office for Cottage Grove. Before he started a career in law enforcement, he served active and reserve duty as a U.S. Marine.


Koerner said there were four candidates for captain job and eight that applied to become a sergeant.

"It's exciting and it's difficult," he said. "That shows our department is moving in the right direction and (officers) want to be involved."

All areas of the public safety department have been undergoing changes in the last few years, with fire moving to 24-hour shifts, police moving 11-hour shifts and fire staff all being trained as firefighter/EMTs.

Koerner said with so much change, they "need to take a moment to celebrate that change, but also think about the next one or three years and our strategic planning."

With several promotions and retirements in the last few years, and more to come, the department has taken in several new officers, bringing new ideas with them.

Koerner said command staff is taking some time this year to consider the ideas they bring forward and to start planning which directions the department wants to move forward.

Some will be easy to implement, he said, but some could take more time as they need budget consideration from the City Council.

There will be interviews in the future to decide who will become the new detective and the new school resource officer.