New West Fargo police chief plans policy review, engaging with community

Chief Denis Otterness has been in his role for nearly three days

WEST FARGO, N.D. — West Fargo’s new police chief Denis Otterness says he’s always known police work is his calling.

“I was one of those young kids that always dreamt about being a police officer and never really had aspirations to do anything else,” he recalled.

After nearly 29 years of experience in law enforcement, Otterness was sworn in as West Fargo police chief on Tuesday.

He says part of what makes this role special is that he gets to return to the city he served as a police officer for four years in the beginning of his career.

“Just being able to come back and re-establish some of those old relationships from some people, not only here in West Fargo, but with the Fargo Police Department, the Sheriff’s Office, Moorhead Police, Highway Patrol, and people that I’ve known and kind of grew up in law enforcement with.”

The city and department certainly look different than when he left them, and Otterness says he’s proud of how much West Fargo has grown over the years.

“Just in the short time that I’ve been here, for two and a half days, I am absolutely impressed with the police department, the things that they’re doing right now,” he said. “Obviously, I want to take a little bit of a deeper dive into looking at some of our training and policies, and some of the other things that are a little bit more of a hot button topic these days and under scrutiny.”

Otterness says he plans on conducting a comprehensive review of the department’s policies and to engage with the community the officers serve.

Meeting with groups like OneFargo and Black Lives Matter is a priority.

“One of the top items on my list is to get out with all of the different community organizations,” he said. “Whether they’re just based in West Fargo here, the business leaders, our faith leaders, and everybody else.”

As for equipping his officers with body cameras, Otterness says that’s a discussion he’s open to.

“We’re going to have to base that on what the community thinks about that, as well as our elected officials.”

For now, Otterness says it feels great to be back serving the community he once did more than a couple decades ago.

Otterness served as police chief at the Montana State University Billings Police Department for about two years.

Categories: Local News, North Dakota News