Captain Brian Cheney takes the helm at regional State Patrol headquarters in Detroit Lakes
There’s a new captain in town, and he’s a man of many colors.
Captain Brian Cheney took the reins of the Minnesota State Patrol District 2900 in Detroit Lakes earlier this month, bringing with him 18 years of experience as a city police officer, a sheriff’s deputy and a highway patrol trooper.
“I’ve worn blue, brown and now maroon,” he said from his office in Detroit Lakes.
The road that led Cheney there wasn’t always without bumps and challenges, but it’s one that’s taken him straight to his calling.
The guy next door
Growing up in the small northwestern Minnesota town of Warren, Brian Cheney had some men to look up to.
Not only was he impressed by a state patrol officer that lived next door to him, but he also came from a family of public servants.
“My dad and my grandpa were both really involved in the volunteer fire department,” said Cheney. “My dad taught classes there… I think I got this from them.”
By “this,” he means the drive to volunteer and work within public service.
“I always knew I’d do something like firefighting or paramedics or law enforcement,” said Cheney, who at one point or another has done them all.
Although he was leaning towards being a firefighter, he knew there were few paying jobs for fulltime fire fighters in greater Minnesota.
“And I knew I didn’t want to leave — this was my home,” he said.
So right out of high school, Cheney left for Hibbing, Minn. to purse his career in law enforcement.
After graduating from the police academy there, he quickly landed a job in Grand Forks as a sheriff’s deputy.
It was 1996 and his first year in law enforcement would prove an interesting one as the 1997 spring flood welcomed him to the job. His uniform was brown, just like nearly everything else in Grand Forks that hard, trying spring.
After one year, Cheney made a hop, skip and a jump across the river into East Grand Forks where he also jumped into the police department there.
For the next eight years, his uniform color would be blue.
“I was exposed to different types of calls — from simple thefts to homicides to domestic and neighborhood disputes…” said Cheney. “There’s such a broad spectrum of issues you deal with as a police officer.”
Although Cheney says he liked and learned from both his jobs in the other sectors of law enforcement, he would still make one more jump.
“I came to the state patrol in 2005; out of our candidate school I got stationed in the Ada-Mahnomen beat, which is part of this district,” said Cheney, who rode that beat with ease.
“It was a natural transition for me because I had always been pretty involved with traffic enforcement,” he said, adding that although the different arms of the law have similar goals, they also have unique job duties.
“I’m glad I made the jump (into the state patrol) but I’m also glad I have experience as deputy and police officer,” said Cheney. “Just the people contact and learning those communication skills.”
Cheney was transferred to the Detroit Lakes office for a short amount of time before moving over to Moorhead.
Although there are different stations in the district, Cheney remained with District 2900 the entire time.
The large district runs throughout several counties, including Becker, Clay, Normal Mahnomen, Otter Tail, Wadena, Douglas, Wilken, Grant and some of Todd County.
Over the past 10 years as a state trooper, Cheney has seen the good, the bad and the ugly sides of his job.
“It’s hard when you go to those fatal crashes, especially when they’re kids, but really when they’re anybody,” he said. “…having to go and knock on somebody’s door and tell them that their loved one has been killed in an auto accident is something that affects you.”
Cheney says things like that still affect him, and driving by certain spots in the area where he has dealt with fatal injuries often results in those memories popping up.
But outweighing the bad is the good.
“The variety of things that you can potentially deal with in a day… nothing is ever the same,” said Cheney. “I could be sitting here in my office one day and 30 seconds later running to a call where somebody needs help. It’s the way things change and the high pace of it all that I like.”
And Cheney’s supervisors obviously liked him.
Cheney was promoted to lieutenant in May of 2012, after which time he began a supervisory role in the Detroit Lakes office again.
But with longtime captain Bruce Hentges retiring, Cheney would soon find himself at the top of his district.
A new hat
It’s a title that takes getting used to.
“I still haven’t gotten used to hearing it,” laughed Cheney, who took command July 9.
Some 36 sworn officers and two office staff now work under Cheney’s leadership, and while state patrol policies and procedures will obviously remain the same, his is a style that is all his.
“I lead by example,” he said. “That’s always been the way I’ve done things. I don’t ask anybody to do anything I wouldn’t do.”
With two trainees set to graduate in the 2900 district in two weeks and a staff of experience that is already set in place, Cheney is excited for the next chapter of his public service career.
And as he gets settled into his new office and his busy work life, he stays balanced with a busy and fulfilling personal life as well.
Cheney still lives in Moorhead with his wife, Janelle, a department of corrections probation agent whom he met when the two of them worked in Grand Forks.
Together, they two law enforcement officers stay busy keeping their own troops in line — a son and two daughters.
And while he’s tossed around the idea of moving back to Detroit Lakes for his new job in the big office, Captain Cheney says for right now he’ll likely stay right where he’s at… ready for what comes at him next.