Sights set on Austin

Published 6:08 am Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Editor’s note: This is part one in a short, three-part series that will profile the three candidates for Austin’s police chief opening. Thursday’s article will focus on Det. Brian Krueger. The order of the stories is random and does not necessarily reflect a particular candidate’s chances.

Jeff McCormick has bounced around southern Minnesota since he began his law enforcement career more than 20 years ago, and he now has his sights set on Austin.

McCormick, who is currently the chief of police for the Cannon Falls, Minn., Police Department, is one of three finalists for the same position in Austin.

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“It sounds like the department is a very good department,” he said. “I’m quite excited about the possibility of leading this agency.”

For the veteran officer — McCormick began his career after finishing college in Mankato in 1989 — being a chief has become a natural fit. He has been Cannon Fall’s chief since 2007, and before that, he served as chief in Chatfield, Minn.

McCormick said he’s really enjoyed the leadership roles.

“I really enjoy being a police chief,” he said. “It’s rare that the same thing happens every day. (And) I still get to go out and talk to community members.”

But McCormick is ready for a new challenge as a police chief. Namely, that means taking over a larger department in a bigger city — Cannon Falls has roughly 4,000 people, while Chatfield has roughly 2,400. Austin, by comparison, has more than 23,000 residents.

In Austin, McCormick would be replacing Paul Philipp, the longtime chief who retired in January after an internal complaint was filed against him. Details of the complaint have not been made public, though Philipp has said that it involved alleged “misconduct.”

The former chief said in a written statement released in January that the allegations were “largely untrue and unfounded,” and the city concluded the investigation without taking disciplinary action in February.

Despite the inglorious end to his career, Philipp was still generally well respected by fellow officers and the community, and McCormick said he’d want to continue that legacy.

“Certainly, the first thing I’d look to do is to get a feel for the way the department operates,” he said. “Day One, I won’t necessarily know all the dynamics. It’s a matter of meeting with as many people as I can.”

McCormick said he could see himself sticking with law enforcement for quite some time. Though he started with just a recommendation from peers and some influence from 1980s TV cop dramas, he has become enamored with what he does.

“As a career, I have not been disappointed in law enforcement,” McCormick said. “I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.”

The Cannon Falls chief also said he could see himself continuing that career in Austin. During his recent visit, McCormick said he noticed a city that was very welcoming and one that would be a great spot for his outdoor hobbies, which include photography.

“My wife and I came down to look at Austin before the interviews. We were very impressed,” McCormick said. “We love quite a few things about the community.”