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Hundreds honor city’s long-serving police chief

West Fargo Police Chief Arland Rasmussen, right, shakes hands with West Fargo City Commissioner Mark Simmons during Rasmussen’s retirement ceremony Thursday at the Cambria Suites & Conference Center in West Fargo. Photo by Nick Wagner

When Arland Rasmussen woke up Monday morning marking the first day of retirement after serving nearly 20 years as the West Fargo police chief, it was the first time in more than four decades he didn’t need to holster a weapon and head off to work.

The man who had faithfully dedicated himself to law enforcement since 1972, a time when he had to drive his own car as a sheriff’s deputy squad car, said Monday that it might “take a couple days” to get used to retirement. But, he was quickly acclimating to the new laid-back life.

“It’s great, absolutely love it,” Rasmussen said on Monday afternoon.

Rasmussen’s affable nature, which helped the department more than double in size during his tenure, also brought recognition to the city and built long-lasting friendships, from those in the justice community to regular residents. Rasmussen’s impact and beloved persona – which included a reputation for April Fool’s joking and the ability to brandish a red corrective pen at any minute report mistake – were evident at a retirement ceremony held last week.

Hundreds filled the Cambria Suites & Conference Center in West Fargo on Thursday to honor Rasmussen.

“It couldn’t have been better,” Rasmussen said. “I really, really appreciate all the work that went into (the program) and everyone that came.”

Gifts from representatives of the city, police department, Bureau of Criminal Investigation, and state delegates were presented to Rasmussen for his dedicated service. The gifts ranged from beautiful plaques, to a street signed embossed with the Rasmussen moniker (Rasmussen has was a staunch advocate of numbering all streets) to a stuffed mouse that was an inside joke from a fellow BCI retiree.

North Dakota Lt. Gov. Drew Wrigley also presented Rasmussen with a photo of himself.

While the photo from Wrigley was presented as a joke, the former U.S. Attorney seriously recognized Rasmussen’s innovative service that led Wrigley to prosecute one of the first cases of child pornography in the state.

Wrigley said Rasmussen turned in evidence he had assigned an officer who was recovering from an injury to track an online predator. Wrigley said the investigator spent many hours online documenting a suspect’s movements and while the evidence Rasmussen brought to him was primitive at the time, it would lead to one of the first successful online sings his office would prosecute.

Rasmussen started his career as a Cass County Sheriff’s Deputy in 1972. In 1981, Rasmussen was involved in the infamous 1981 shootout between two out-of state outlaws and area law enforcement on the Red River Bridge in Fargo.

When Rasmussen began as the West Fargo Police Chief in 1195, the department was staffed with 16 officers and the city population hovered just above 10,0000. Instead of taking over a sleepy department, as he said he expected to at the time, the job would be filled with tough cases and local and national news attention focused on policies Rasmussen proposed.

One of those cases, Rasmussen said is one of the toughest came in November of 1995, just months after he took office.

Cheryl Tendeland, 50, was shot and killed while sitting in her car by a group of teens.

Later that same year, Rasmussen drew national attention to the city after proposing a teen curfew for the city. He was invited to be a guest on the New York City-based program, “News Talk Television” which aired on cable channels.

In 1999, the city almost lost Rasmussen to Fargo when he became a finalist for the Fargo Police Chief position.

The biggest change Rasmussen said he saw to law enforcement over the years has been the increased use of computers.

Rasmussen said he decided to retire not because of health, age or department issues, but rather because he wanted to spend more time with family.

He and his wife Verna Rasmussen, who retired earlier this year from the West Fargo School District, have three adult children.

However, he soon discovered he wasn’t ready to step away from public service entirely, filing for candidacy to the Cass County Board of Commissioners in April.

After winning the June 10 primary, Rasmussen will advance to the November election.

As part of his detailed department design, Rasmussen hoped the city commission would appoint Assistant Chief Michael Reitan to the post.

Reitan was appointed by the city commission as police chief in late March.

An official date for Reitan’s swearing in was not scheduled as of press time.

Wendy Reuer

Wendy reports for The Forum and West Fargo Pioneer, where she is also assistant editor. A University of Minnesota Morris graduate from North Dakota, Wendy started her career in television news and entertainment in Minnesota and at CBS in Television City, Calif. before working at newspapers in Minnesota and North Dakota. 

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