Pagenkopf is new chief

Newly appointed police chief Jennifer Pagenkopf signs her oath of office at her desk. Her appointment was effective Thursday, May 14.

Jennifer Pagenkopf is the newly appointed Oregon Police Department chief effective Thursday, May 14.

The Police Commission met that day to discuss the status of the vacant police chief position, according to an OPD Facebook post, and voted to permanently appoint Pagenkopf to the position she’s been serving in an interim role since Brian Uhl left for a position in the Green Bay area in February.

Her salary increases from $101,543 to $109,513

“She signed her oath of office this morning,” the Facebook post reads – the text above a picture of a smiling Pagenkopf at her desk.

Pagenkopf told the Observer last week her goals as chief still include meeting with OregonCARES and the Oregon Area Wellness Coalition to further establish the department’s presence as a community policing force – though COVID-19 has slowed that down a bit, she said.

She also continues working to restore relations with Oregon’s school district and plans to tackle community issues of diversity and mental health, Pagenkopf said. That will likely mean encouraging officers to tackle traumas associated with being on the force and attending Diversity and Inclusion Council meetings, to start.

When the restrictions from the COVID-19 pandemic begin to lift, she said, a focus will be providing the OPD with implicit bias training in partnership with the Madison Police Department.

Pagenkopf had been a lieutenant with the department since 2015 and was with the department for a decade before that.

The Oregon Village Board had considered recommending the commission make Pagenkopf’s interim tag permanent April 20, but it decided against making any recommendation.

While some trustees praised Pagenkopf’s work, others said there needed to be more community involvement before they felt comfortable providing a recommendation. Those who were hesitant acknowledged her qualifications for the role but said constituents wanted more transparency from the department.

The board had publicly scolded Pagenkopf’s predecessor last fall for his handling of negotiations with the school district over a contract to station a police officer at the high school and for his conduct relating to a stop of a juvenile he made personally. The previous chief, Doug Pettit, retired in 2014 while under investigation by the Department of Justice for mishandling funds relating to off-duty security at a nightclub. He died in 2015 while still under investigation.

The Police Commission appointed Pagenkopf to interim chief Feb. 13 – the same day former chief Brian Uhl served his last day. That appointment came after he had been hired as the director of safety for the Village of Ashwaubenon, where he presides over the municipality’s police, fire and emergency medical services departments.

The Village Board recommended Pagenkopf for the duty at its Monday, Feb. 3, meeting.

“I’ve had the privilege of serving this community for 15 years,” Pagenkopf told the Observer on Valentine’s Day. “It’s the highlight of my career to be the acting chief.”

Email Emilie Heidemann at emilie.heidemann@wcinet.com or follow her on Twitter at @HeidemannEmilie.