Keeping the Post Falls Police Department connected to its growing community is a top priority for incoming chief Greg McLean.
When McLean started at the police department as a reserve officer in the late 1980s, the population of Post Falls, was just over 7,000. Now more than two decades later, the population has ballooned to approximately 36,000.
Despite the rapid growth, McLean said the police department still strives to provide personal service to the community.
McLean, 53, grew up in Montana, first Libby then Missoula, where he attended high school. Toward the end of his high school career, then-Missoula Police Department Chief Doug Chase came to speak to his class.
McLean was hooked on the idea of serving his community.
He decided to go to North Idaho College, where he could get an associate degree in criminal justice. While in school, he began working a part-time job where one of his co-workers encouraged him to become a reserve officer with the Post Falls Police Department.
McLean jumped at the opportunity. After a few months as a reserve officer, he was hired full time to do animal control in 1989. A year later, when a patrol position opened, McLean was hired as a full-time police officer.
“It’s not like a job where you sit at it and it’s the same every day,” McLean said. “Everything was different, every call was different.”
As the newbie on the force, McLean was assigned the graveyard shift.
“Somewhere around 11-11:30 the city streets just rolled up,” McLean said. “So it was just me running around Post Falls trying to stay awake.”
At the time, a whistle would go off each night to signal when the L-P Mill nightshift workers would go on break. McLean started stopping by to join them. At first, they gave him a hard time for being a cop, but quickly McLean said he could see that the mill workers were really good people.
“It got to the point where if I was late they’d sound the whistle again,” McLean said. “They’d sound the whistle until people probably started calling in trying to find out why the mill was sounding the whistle so much.”
Making time to spend with community members and listen to their concerns has been a key goal of McLean’s throughout his time at the police department.
For the last 10 years as a captain, McLean has supervised investigations, school resource officers, violent crimes taskforce members and code enforcement, among other things.
“We take every report that comes in so every person gets a phone call, that’s what I pride ourselves on right now,” McLean said. “When you call the Post Falls Police Department, you get a human being on the line.”
Even for something as small as a smashed mailbox, a detective will call the homeowner and update them on the case at least once, McLean said.
Due to this ongoing community outreach, McLean said he feels the department is “very supported by the public.”
McLean hopes to expand outreach efforts while continuing with programs like school resource officers, coffee with a cop and free movies in local parks for children.
As chief, he hopes to be visible in the community, attending events or just stopping by to have coffee with local retirees.
“The idea is to go and maybe have some coffee with them and just kind of listen to see what’s going on in their minds and what they’re seeing in our community,” McLean said. “I think a lot of times the elderly are overlooked and most of them have a lot of knowledge as to what they see and what is going on.”
At 53, with more than 30 years as an officer, McLean could have retired this year but decided to stick around and become chief, he said.
“I have a vested interest in this community and I want to see us continue with our relationship with the community,” he said.
Current Chief Pat Knight will retire on Aug. 31 . McLean was appointed to the position which pays $131,830 annually, earlier this month by Mayor Ron Jacobson and the Post Falls City Council.
“We are thrilled to promote Captain McLean to the position of Chief of Police,” Jacobson wrote in a statement. “Greg (McLean) is a highly qualified law enforcement professional and his understanding of procedural justice/community policing, coupled with his proven leadership, will continue to provide our citizens the superior service our police department is known for.”
McLean has worked with Knight for decades; the pair were the first motorcycle officers at the department back in the mid-1990s. Knight, McLean said, has fostered great morale among the 45 some officers and 40 additional staff members at the department that he hopes continues.
That culture has been noticed by city officials and was cited as part of their reasoning for appointing McLean.
“Being able to replace Chief Knight with Captain McLean will allow the department to continue the culture that has been created over the past many years,” Jacobson wrote.
McLean hopes his department will continue to live up to the advice of a former chief: “You treat the people you deal with how you would want your family treated.”
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