When Mark Maloney was a boy growing up in Spring Lake Park, he dreamed of becoming a police officer someday.
Unlike many boys and girls who have that ambition, Maloney saw his dreams realized.
After 26 years of service with the Spring Lake Park Police Department, Sgt. Maloney will retire May 31, 2014.
The Spring Lake Park City Council accepted Maloney’s retirement notice and authorized Chief Doug Ebeltoft to begin the process of hiring a new officer at its meeting Nov. 18.
SLP native returns to serve community
After receiving a job offer from Spring Lake Park in 1988, Maloney jumped at the opportunity. “I couldn’t turn this down,” he said of the chance to serve the town where he was born and raised.
Though Maloney knew he wanted to pursue a career in law enforcement from a young age, “I didn’t want to put all of my eggs in one basket,” he said.
So, on graduating from Spring Lake Park High School, he enrolled at St. John’s University, majoring in psychology and minoring in coaching.
After college, Maloney worked for the Caledonia Police Department and as a park ranger for Hennepin Parks, now Three Rivers Parks District, before settling back in Spring Lake Park.
Maloney views his co-workers as a second family. “We probably see as much of each other, being a small department, as we do our own families,” he said. “You get to be really close.”
Until last year, Maloney worked the night shift, which was sometimes disheartening.
“When you work nights, you don’t see a lot of the good side of society. You tend to see more of the problems at night,” Maloney said.
The toughest part of the job is the window into “the seedy part of life,” he said. “As time goes on, that tends to weigh on you,” Maloney said.
When it does, he leans on his family for support. He and his wife Tanya have five children – Ryan, Brandon, Chris, Joseph and Hannah – three of whom want to follow in their father’s footsteps and work in law enforcement. Ryan was recently hired and will start work as a deputy with the Mountrail County Sheriff’s Office in North Dakota next month.
For the most part, Maloney loves his job. “There’s something new everyday,” he said.
In March, Maloney was diagnosed with stage three cancer, but staying on with the police department helped him get through chemotherapy, he said.
“It just made me feel a lot better when I was busy doing something versus when I would go home,” he said. “You’d have down time, [and] all of a sudden you’d feel the effects ….”
He’s going through another round of chemotherapy now, but the cancer has been reduced to stage one, barely visible, Maloney said. The current rounds of treatment are to catch anything that might be hiding, he said.
A provision in his retirement letter asks for some flexibility. If working through treatments proves to be too much, he may decide to retire early. If finances prove to be an issue, he may continue past May 31.
He set his retirement date at the end of May because in June the Public Employees Retirement Association’s regulations following retirement increases will change, eliminating a cost-of-living raise on Maloney’s pension for three years. Retiring before June, he will receive the raise in one year.
Maloney will take a pay cut for retiring before age 55. He is 53.
Maloney boasts many firsts in his career, including becoming the first officer in the state to carry a Taser.
In 1999, Maloney obtained permission from then-Chief David Toth, who Maloney said was skeptical about the Taser, to train with and carry one at his own expense.
The chance to use the weapon in action didn’t come until 2000, when the Fridley Police Department called him to assist with a hostage situation.
A man was holding his wife at knifepoint. When he moved to his front porch and began yelling, a Fridley sergeant told Maloney to use his Taser.
He shot the Taser and took the man down with no injury to the man or his wife, Maloney said.
The Fridley sergeant wrote to Toth, “We probably saved a life here today.” After that, the chief was sold on the Taser, according to Maloney.
In 2003, the council bought Tasers for every officer to carry on their person while on duty.
“I kind of like to think that I was a forerunner of Tasers and actually kind of brought [them] to Minnesota,” Maloney said.
He teaches other officers how to properly use Tasers, something he hopes to continue after retirement, as teaching and coaching have always been a passion of his.
Another first for Maloney: working as the city’s first official crime prevention officer.
As such, he started up many neighborhood watch blocks and was very active in organizing Night to Unite, formerly National Night Out.
“As [many] bad things as you saw at night, to be able to get together with the people and have block meetings … talk to them about what’s going on in Spring Lake Park [and] how to lessen their chances of becoming a victim of a crime, that was very, very fulfilling,” Maloney said.
Maloney also worked to help draft an ordinance for the city, a sort of “three strike” rule for rental property owners.
Before the ordinance was approved, even when persistent problems plagued a rental complex, it could be very difficult to evict the people living there, Maloney said. “It just made for bad living, bad reputations for apartments,” he said.
Now, under §150.094, Part B, one violation leads to a letter to both the person who committed the offense and the landlord of the property where the offense occurred. Another violation within one year requires the landlord to submit a letter to the police describing how he or she will attempt to curb further offenses in the unit. A third offense requires the rental dwelling license “be denied, revoked, suspended or not renewed,” according to the ordinance.
“I’m very proud of how we have been able to kind of weed out those people [who] make rental property a lot less attractive than what it should be,” Maloney said.
Other than continuing to teach Taser master classes, Maloney hopes to do more traveling with his family in retirement.
He intends to take Tanya and all five of their children on a cruise at some point, and he and his wife are planning a getaway to Bora Bora sometime next fall.
In retirement, Maloney will also devote more time to gardening on the family’s 12-acre property in Elk River.
The Maloney family grows more than 140 varieties of day lilies and sells them by the side of the road.
The family has an impressive fruit garden, too, growing everything from blackberries to pears.
The future of the department
The police department is accepting applications for a new officer through the end of the month.
No job offer will be extended until Maloney’s retirement is finalized.
Eventually, Ebeltoft will internally promote an officer to the rank of sergeant.
The department maintains 11 sworn officers.
Ebeltoft and Maloney started with the department around the same time.
“He’s always been an asset to the department,” Ebeltoft said. “He epitomizes what a police officer should be.”
Olivia Koester is at firstname.lastname@example.org