Taking the helm of Austin’s finest: APD Chief David McKichan brings 21 years of experience to the job

Published 7:06 am Saturday, March 16, 2019

David McKichan may have been sworn-in as the new Austin Police Chief less than one month ago, but his 21 plus years of experience have made for a smooth transition.

A native of Platteville, Wisconsin, McKichan moved to Aberdeen, South Dakota, in middle school. He attended Moorhead State University and took his skills training at Alexandria Technical College. He applied throughout the state before being selected by the APD, starting on Dec. 1, 1997.

“I started as a patrolman, which is what all new hires come in at,” he recalled. “I elected to work an overnight shift, which at the time was 11 at night until 7 in the morning, later transitioning to a 10-hour day, 10 at night to 8 in the morning. I did that for approximately eight years before I was promoted to detective.”

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In 2010, McKichan assumed the role of captain, a position he held until his appointment as chief.

Each step was a learning process for him.

“Spending eight years as a patrolman, I’ve been a part of the union and was union president,” he said. “I understood what the call loads are and what types of calls you go on. Working overnights, I dealt with a lot of individuals under the influence. We worked in the dark and I knew the importance of communication, working with your partners, including other law enforcement agencies, because at 3 in the morning, when things go sideways, there are only so many of you and being part of a team greatly enhances your ability to serve the public.

“The same with having been a detective, I understood how to work with the County Attorney’s Office and understood more in depth how the court process works,” he added. “Having been captain for eight years, there was a lot more hands-on work with personnel matters and it gave me an understanding of how our department works with other city departments, the city council and the community at large.”

McKichan believes openness through community groups like Leadership Austin and events such as the annual Citizens Academy help foster better relationships with the community.

“I think we have built a lot of good rapport with our community,” he said of the APD. “I will try to pass the torch on to (other APD staff) to get them out and involved in the community. We’re certainly looking for potential groups that feel having a law enforcement voice in their membership would be important. I would like to encourage the officers to join and be a part of the community.”

McKichan said that the APD anticipates hiring a new captain, lieutenant and detective this year. Though he has participated in the hiring process in the past, he did not fully appreciate the weight of the decisions until now.

“As captain, I was able to counsel the chief on some of those decisions, but it is a vastly different chair to sit in,” he said. “We have five candidates that put in for detective that are all phenomenal, but obviously we only have one spot, and as excited as I am about the process and as excited as I am knowing that someone will get to take the next step in their career, I am mindful of the other four officers who have put their time and effort into seeking that position who aren’t going to be able to fill that role for us at that point in time. Communicating their importance to us within the process is just as important as working with the person that is ultimately promoted. Those are decisions you don’t really appreciate until you’re the one making them.”

As time goes on, McKichan hopes to continue taking the proper steps to keep the APD operating efficiently.

“Our profession does evolve,” he said. “Certainly, we have difficult things we have to do in our profession. We do have to make arrests from time to time and we do have to use force at times in making those arrests. We do face a lot of challenges. Our officers have to make difficult decisions, sometimes in a matter of seconds, and I want them to have the right tools to make those decisions. Our city council has been fantastic in understanding our workloads and supporting our needs. We’re always trying to make changes that make sure we’re operating at peak efficiency.”

McKichan said he hopes to continue to be a liaison between the APD and the community.

“For me, it’s been a very positive experience being here in Austin with my family,” he said. “I’ve always seen it as a growing community and we want to look at ways we can do things better.”