Dubuque’s police chief to retire; national search firm to be hired soon

Dubuque’s police chief is retiring later this month, and a national search firm will help city officials identify candidates to succeed him.

Chief Mark Dalsing is retiring after 32 years of service with the Dubuque Police Department, the city announced Tuesday morning.

Dalsing joined the department in September 1989 and has served as chief since February 2010. He informed city officials in 2020 of his plans to retire when he became eligible this year, according to a press release.

His retirement will become effective Sept. 25.

Dalsing told the Telegraph Herald that he would not comment immediately on his retirement.

Mayor Roy Buol said he was sad to see Dalsing depart.

“He moved the Police Department forward in many ways,” Buol said. “He is a very engaging individual with a lot of knowledge about policing.”

Buol said Dalsing both engaged and educated the department’s personnel on topics such as equity.

“We have a much better Police Department today than before he was hired,” Buol said.

City Manager Mike Van Milligen said Dalsing’s tenure has resulted in a department that reflects the chief’s values of integrity and compassion.

“Mark has had a tremendous commitment to equity and community engagement, and he has acted on those commitments,” Van Milligen said. “In the 1990s, when community policing was introduced to Dubuque — a lot of people refer to them as the ‘bike cops’ — Mark was one of the original community policing officers.”

But the actions of Dalsing and the atmosphere in the department have been called into question. In 2019, then-Capt. Abby Simon, the highest-ranking woman in the department, sued the city and Dalsing on the grounds of gender discrimination, harassment and retaliation.

In May of this year, City Council members approved a $1.8 million settlement with Simon, though the settlement agreement stated that the payment was “not an admission of any liability” by the city.

Today, Van Milligen also cited Dalsing’s involvement in the city’s approach to improving cross-cultural relations — known as intercultural competency — as an example of his positive influence.

“Then, five or six years ago, Mark created what he called the ‘Chief’s Forum,’” Van Milligen said. “Community leaders from across the spectrum would meet with Mark on a routine basis and discuss issues that would help move the department and the community forward.”

Van Milligen said Dalsing’s commitment to safeguarding the community can be illustrated by a crime-clearance rate of more than 90%.

“That’s double the national average,” Van Milligen said.

Van Milligen said Dalsing’s leadership in the department also contributed to a 32% reduction from 2015 to 2020 in the most serious types of crimes — referred to by law enforcement as “part 1 crimes.”

“Mark has put together a tremendously talented team in our Police Department and put in place processes for officers to perform at their highest levels,” Van Milligen said.

The Police Department staff level is budgeted for about the equivalent of 122 full-time employees for the current fiscal year, according to the city. Of those, 112 are sworn officers.

Dubuque County Sheriff Joe Kennedy said Dalsing “has really treated me well” since Kennedy took office in 2017.

“He became a great resource for me after being elected sheriff and someone I could count on to give me advice and sometimes help reel me in when I got upset about something,” Kennedy said.

City officials have initiated the process to replace Dalsing.

In June, the city issued a request for proposals for executive search firms to help find candidates.

The release states that a search firm will be selected soon and the goal is to choose a new chief by the end of this year.

“There will be opportunities for the community to participate in that process,” Van Milligen said.

Assistant Chief Jeremy Jensen will serve as interim chief until a permanent replacement is found, according to the release. Jensen has served with the department since March 1994 and was promoted to assistant chief in December 2017.