SIOUX CITY | Reflecting on his 37 years of duty, Sioux City Police Chief Doug Young will unpin his badge with no regrets.
"I've had a fulfilling career from the bottom to the top," said Young, who retires Thursday. Sioux City Police Capt. Rex Mueller has been selected as the new chief.
Young, 61, joined the Sioux City Police Department in April 1980 after attending the University of South Dakota. He was elevated to his current post in spring 2009 after serving 28 years on the Sioux City force, succeeding Joe Frisbie, who retired.
"This is really the only job I've had ... ," Young said. "It’s been a good run. It’s nothing that I would have ever envisioned. All I have ever wanted to do is be a police officer."
Young gives credit for his aspirations to be in law enforcement to his childhood neighborhood.
"When I was raised in Elk Point (South Dakota), I had the sheriff of Union County live right behind me and then when he retired, the new sheriff lived across the street from me,” Young laughed in his nearly cleared-out office. “So I had a lot of influence from them. And I lived a block from the courthouse and I just realized law enforcement is what I wanted to do."
The job isn't just about catching "bad guys," he said. Sioux City's chief leads a 125-officer and 25-civilian employee department with an annual budget of about $19 million.
During his tenure, Young said he is most proud of how the department has expanded its community policing outreach and how that has positively affected the relationship between citizens and officers.
“I have enjoyed every minute of this job," he said. "What I am going to miss, is the people, obviously, that I have been working with, not only within the department but in city government and the citizens. I am going to miss a lot of that stuff."
A difficult part of the job entails managing crises within the agency and making sure his employees have the necessary tools needed to be successful in providing public safety. He added dealing with the day-to-day crime itself also takes a toll.
“I’ve seen a lot of things. I was a pretty naive kid when I came here. I’ve seen the good (and) bad in people. And it has been eye opening," he said. "But I realize there is a need for law enforcement and good law enforcement. That is really what has kept me here."
A moment he calls the toughest in his career was the crash-landing of Flight 232 on July 18, 1989, at Sioux Gateway Airport. Of the 296 people aboard the United Airlines jumbo jet, 184 survived as a result of the heroic efforts of the cockpit crew and first respondents on the ground.
"I was there and witnessed the whole thing. I was one of the first responding officers there on the runway," he recalled. "... We went out where the wheel actually collapsed and just witnessed the whole thing ... That's ingrained and that's in my mind forever."
To get through tough times, he advises, stepping back and thinking about the purpose of the job.
“You got to put things in perspective. Sometimes it is hard not to get emotionally involved in your investigation but for your self-preservation, you got to keep things in perspective and do your job," he said. "You got to, or you will tear yourself up. It’ll eat you from the inside out.“
Young is grateful for the extra help getting through those difficult times.
“I’ve had a great family life even through some trials and tribulations of law enforcement. It’s a tough job and it is tough on the family, so it takes a pretty tough spouse to be there through all of that stuff," he said of his wife LeaAnn. Aug. 16 marked their 37th wedding anniversary. They have two sons who are both getting married in the coming months.
"I'm still going to be busy, even if I'm not working," said Young, who is also an avid fisherman.
Mueller was approved by the City Council Monday to succeed Young, who said there will be a seamless transition, since Mueller, who oversees the department's Uniformed Services Bureau, has been fully involved in all of the agencies workings. Mueller, 45, who is believed to be Sioux City's youngest police chief, joined the force in 1996.
“I’ve known Rex Mueller his whole career. Even as a young officer I had the opportunity to see him in action at work and he became a leader," Young said of the Sioux City native. "I began to see his creativity and thinking and I knew that he would be a very good candidate for police chief if he so desired. I am very confident he will do a very good job for the department and this community."