The speaker at the April 30, 2019, Norfolk Rotary Club meeting was Don Miller, the new Police Chief for the City of Norfolk. He started his career with the Norfolk Police Department back in 1990 as a patrol officer. He plans to stay here in Norfolk as the Chief of Police until he retires. Today, he introduced himself and spoke about some of the current issues facing police officers.


Don attended high school in Newell, Minnesota. He was part of an EMT program at the age 16 and was able to go on ambulance runs. He was able to see how the police operated at this time as well and became interested in becoming a police officer. He graduated high school and attended UNO for one year. He then applied for an officer position at the Lincoln Police Department where he was one of 1,000 applicants in competition for 10 jobs. He was not hired. He then applied at the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office where he was one of 300 applicants for 3 jobs. He still was not hired but finished much higher at the end of testing. He then applied at the Columbus and Norfolk Police Departments and was then hired by Norfolk in 1990.


After three years as a patrol officer, he became a detective and was later promoted to Corporal. He then was supervising some of the patrol officers. He was then promoted a few years later to Sergeant, was an original member on the Norfolk SWAT team, and became an assistant Commander for the SWAT team. He was a Sergeant for 14 years and was a Commander on the tactical unit for 11 years. In 2013, he was promoted to the Operations Captain. He also attended the Northwestern University School of Police Staff and Command and received training that is right up there with the FBI Academy.


Chief Bill Mizner recently retired in December 2018. The selection process for the Chief of Police was conducted from February – March 2019. Don was then offered the position in early April. He was very humbled to be selected. He believes the department has great staff and is now hiring for his former position of Captain.


Don has two main roles as Chief of Police, an internal role and external role. His internal role is to manage the Norfolk Police Department while his external role is to make himself available to the media and public for answering questions. Some other points made were:


1)      The national media in the past decade or so has not been friendly to law enforcement. Some of this has been warranted while most of it has not.

2)      Helping and supporting victims of crime is a must.

3)      Showing dignity and respect in a police-contact situation is extremely important. Don said he has received congratulations from people that he has arrested because of how he treated them.

4)      Police have a lot of discretion. Drug and alcohol-related issues usually will not catch breaks from Norfolk Police Officers.

5)      Training standards need to be maintained. It can sometimes take a year or more for officers to go through the hiring and standard training process.

6)      If officers make a mistake, he wants to know.

7)      Hiring and retention of police officers are major issues confronting police nationwide.

8)      Budgeting is a challenge for police as about 88% of the department’s budget goes to personnel costs.

9)      Legislative mandates, like electronic citations, create technological and financial challenges.


Two changes that will hopefully be made within the Norfolk Police Department are:


1)      Working with other law enforcement agencies more to become more efficient and to save money, not only for the Norfolk Police Department but also for the other agencies.

2)      Changing the uniforms to help the health of officers. Some equipment would be moved from the belt area to an external vest to alleviate back stress.


Don has been married for 29 years. He and his wife have two adopted children, ages 14 and 18.