The Minnetonka Police Department announced Monday they have appointed University Police Chief Joy Rikala to head their force. Rikala will leave her University post on April 12.
The selection process to find a new chief will commence in two weeks, Rikala said, refusing to speculate on who would take her place.
She has led the department for six years and is the first female at the helm. Only four other women have police chief positions in the state, she said.
“This is a wonderful professional opportunity,” Rikala said. “It’s difficult to leave but I think we have accomplished a lot of great things these past six years.”
As director of public safety for the department, Rikala will be responsible for both the police and fire departments. Rikala will be responsible for 72 full-time employees and 87 part-time employees. Minnetonka has a population of 52,176.
At the University, Rikala oversees the safety of 80,000 individuals daily. Only 5,000 residents live on campus, however.
Minnetonka City Manager Dave Childs said Rikala was chosen from a nationwide pool of applicants. Childs said Rikala’s experience in an academic environment will lend itself well to her duties in Minnetonka. He said her expertise in technology put her ahead of other candidates in his eyes.
“She has a good vision for community-oriented policing,” Childs said. “She has very positive community relations skills.”
Before Rikala began her tenure with the campus police, she worked with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension for 18 years. She earned degrees in criminology and management from the University of Minnesota-Duluth and Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota, respectively.
Rikala said she looks forward to taking Minnetonka’s police department to the next level.
“I’m walking into a really good department,” she said. “They have a lot of good resources.”
Those who have worked with Rikala said her departure will not go unnoticed.
Joe May, a retired University Police sergeant, said Rikala was the best chief of the five that he served under during his nearly 30 years with the University Police Department.
May said Rikala has never been afraid to take heat for policing initiatives that might have been unpopular at the time. A crackdown on campus binge drinking is an example of one such policy, which, though initially unpopular, was successful.
“Joy has done things on her merit,” May said.
Although he has not always agreed with her, May said Rikala has been able to lead the department without folding under political pressure unlike many career police administrators.