U police chief has 30-plus years of experience

University Police Chief Greg Hestness previously worked for the Minneapolis Police Department.

Kevin Behr

He’s a motorcycle enthusiast who does yoga. He uses Netflix and once had a couple of ferrets. He’s run the Twin Cities Marathon four times and studies Spanish.

University Police Chief Greg Hestness is a man with eclectic tastes. His job is to ensure campus safety, but students generally know little about the man on a human level.

During his tenure at the Minneapolis Police Department and University of Minnesota Police Department, Hestness has earned a reputation among his colleagues as a hard worker and a likeable guy.

Origins of a chief

Hestness, 53, was born and raised in Minneapolis and attended the University in the 1970s. He got a bachelor’s degree in sociology with a focus on criminology and deviance.

He landed a job as a patrol officer with Minneapolis Police in 1975 and logged 28 years of service, three longer than the typical retirement point.

“I was really reluctant to (retire),” he said. “I really liked the city and municipal work.”

Hestness had a variety of roles on the force, including homicide investigator, SWAT team member, precinct commander and deputy chief.

In 1990, he was in charge of research and development and was first exposed to computers.

“It was kind of a paperweight for the first six months,” he said. “Then someone showed me you could write memos on it.”

He spent nine years working seven days a week as deputy chief in the chief’s office – what he calls a “pressure cooker.”

When the position of University Assistant Vice President for Public Safety opened up in 2003, Hestness applied and got the job. One of his first challenges was to cut $360,000 from the budget. He combined the assistant vice president and police chief positions into the same job, cutting about $130,000. He’s performed both duties since April 2004.

“It’s a ton of work,” Hestness said. “I enjoy having gotten to the point in my career where I have the skills and relationships to make a difference.”

On top of his duties as police chief and assistant vice president, Hestness is active to the community. He is involved in many organizations, including Minneapolis’ Domestic Abuse Project and the Minneapolis Police Activities League.

In September, Hestness was one of three finalists vying to become Minneapolis’ next chief of police. The position ultimately went to Tim Dolan, in whom Hestness expressed confidence.

Hestness said he preferred to stay on as University police chief, but insisted that if Dolan wasn’t selected, the third candidate, Nicholas Metz from Seattle, wasn’t familiar enough with Minneapolis to become chief.

Barb Hestness said she did not support her husband’s bid to become chief of police.

“I wouldn’t speak to him for three weeks,” she said. “It’s such a huge commitment Ö a job that public is really hard on the family.”

Workaholic

Those close to Chief Hestness recite the same mantra: He’s a hard worker who perhaps tries a little too hard.

Barb Hestness said it’s hard when her husband works all the time, but that’s the way he takes on all of his jobs. It just happens to be his personality, she said.

Abby Holley, one of the Hestness’ two daughters, said her dad is an incredibly hard worker but overextends himself sometimes.

“It’s really important to him to not be just a figurehead,” she said. “It’s important to him to be friends with the officers under him and to know and make connections in the community.”

Chief Hestness’ friend, Bill Jones, worked with him for 27 years on the Minneapolis police force. Jones said the chief knows a little bit about everything and is very open-minded.

“Greg is an academic,” Jones said. “In the past, career cops and academics might not blend that well, but I think Greg does that very well.”

University Police Deputy Chief Steve Johnson said Greg Hestness is sometimes too nice, but praised his boss.

“Being an alumnus and a guy who breathes maroon and gold, I think he’s a great person to have in charge of public safety,” Johnson said.

Did you know thatÖ?

Greg Hestness likes to sing. To his dog. In Spanish.

Holley said her dad’s home persona is much different from what people may see on TV. He’s a lot “sillier” at home than at work, she said.

“He has a great sense of humor,” Holley said. “He’s not embarrassed by anything.”

The family has a phrase they use for him, “no tiene vergüenza,” which is Spanish for “he has no shame.” At Holley’s wedding reception in September 2003, her dad had the first dance all to himself. He performed La Bomba, a catchy Spanish dance similar to the Macarena, she said.

“It was very funny,” she said.

Chief Hestness said he met his wife of 30 years while he was in rookie school.

“I tell people I met her in detox and leave it at that. Let people wonder,” he said.

Barb Hestness said her husband loves to tell the story in large groups to get a laugh at her expense.

The truth, she said, is that she worked nights in detox and met him when he was doing community work.

Chief Hestness’ favorite movie is “The Graduate,” a classic film about a college grad having an affair with the wife of his father’s business partner.

“I always would have been torn about leaving Anne Bancroft for Katharine Ross,” the chief said.

Last summer, he and Jones took a motorcycle trip together to Baltimore to visit family. They avoided interstate highways, trying to stay on the country roads.

Chief Hestness said they wore all the protective gear and followed the speed limits, “pretty much.” When pressed, he gave a recognizable defense given by many speeders.

“You either obstruct traffic or go with the flow,” he said. “We generally abide by the local customs the best we can.”

Greg Hestness said it would be hypocritical for the police chief to go speeding around the country.

“We enjoy watching the scenery go by at a reasonable speed,” he said.

Future plans

Plans to retire are not in the immediate future, the chief said.

“I’ll be here a number of years if they’ll have me,” he said.

He didn’t rule out going back to school.

“I think it’d be fun to go to law school.”