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News / Clark County News

New Battle Ground police chief sworn in: ‘My job is to make sure that Battle Ground stays the safest place’

Dennis Flynn comes from Colorado with 36 years of experience

By Becca Robbins, Columbian staff reporter
Published: March 19, 2024, 1:12pm
5 Photos
Dennis Flynn is sworn in Monday night as the Battle Ground Police Department&rsquo;s newest chief.
Dennis Flynn is sworn in Monday night as the Battle Ground Police Department’s newest chief. (Becca Robbins/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

The Battle Ground City Council chambers were packed for Monday night’s meeting as attendees witnessed the new police chief being sworn in.

Dennis Flynn took his oath of office in front of family, colleagues and community members. During a brief speech, Flynn emphasized his door is always open to hear what the citizens of Battle Ground want from their police force.

“My job is to make sure that Battle Ground stays the safest place that we can live, that we can work and that we can play,” Flynn said. “That you’ve entrusted me to have that responsibility, it means a lot to me.”

Flynn posed for photos with his wife, parents and son’s family. Some of his family surprised him Monday night, along with a couple former colleagues from the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. His parents flew in from Texas, he said.

Many members of Flynn’s new department also lined the walls of the room in support of their new chief.

While introducing Flynn, City Manager Erin Erdman recounted some of the new chief’s unique experiences over his career, including getting into the boxing ring with Mike Tyson and serving a search warrant on boxer Floyd Mayweather’s house. (Flynn later explained in an interview with The Columbian that he and other Las Vegas officers jumped into the ring with Tyson to keep the crowd back following one of the boxer’s dominant wins.)

“Needless to say, I think that Chief Flynn has had a pretty exciting career, and we are very happy to have him and his expertise here at the city of Battle Ground,” Erdman said.

Flynn has 36 years of law enforcement experience, having most recently spent the last six years at the Commerce City Police Department in Colorado. There, he oversaw the department’s patrol, traffic, school resource officer and community services programs, according to a Battle Ground news release.

He previously spent 30 years at the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. He retired from that agency in 2015 as the lieutenant of the robbery division, according to the news release.

The day after his swearing in, Flynn said he’s already felt incredible community support. He described his new department as progressive and open to new ideas.

Having been at departments larger than Battle Ground’s, Flynn said he feels his new agency can be more nimble — without as much red tape.

“In large cities, it’s like that aircraft carrier, trying to turn it. You can do it. It’s just going to take a long time,” Flynn said. “Here, I think you have the ability to see the fruits of your labor much quicker.”

The 56-year-old said he was attracted to Battle Ground’s close-knit community, which he said was missing from the larger cities he previously worked in. He aims to build a culture of honesty at the agency, and he encourages employees to speak up if they see anything concerning.

In particular, Flynn said he plans to review the department’s policies and practices following the August overdose death of Sgt. Richard Kelly. He called the sergeant’s death “horrifically tragic,” and he said it shows no one is immune to the dangers of addiction.

“I’ve got to have the policies in place to make sure that something like that does not happen again,” Flynn said. “But I also have to make sure that the employees know that there’s avenues available to them, should they be experiencing something, because we never want to lose the public’s trust. We have to safeguard that.”

Flynn said he wants to build on the trust the department has already established with the community by using more technology, including body cameras. His previous departments had camera programs, he said, so he knows how valuable they can be.

“It also takes away some of the mystique. You’re allowing the public to look behind the curtain,” he said of body cameras. “It allows them to see what I already know, that the vast majority of police officers, not just here, but nationwide, come to work and they do a phenomenal job.”

One area of improvement is traffic enforcement, he said. He hopes to strategically position officers to show more of a presence on major roadways and encourage safer driving.

“We definitely have work to do on traffic safety,” he said. “Not always the enforcement, but certainly the presence, to ensure that we’re doing everything that we can to reduce the speeds and make people safe.”

He’s also conscious that the city is growing. He said he intends to assess the efficiency of the agency’s 30 staffers before deciding if he needs to ask the city council to boost its numbers.

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While he has many ideas and a wealth of experience under his belt, the chief said he’s starting in his new role by learning from those he serves.

“It is a bad practice for anybody who’s sitting at a high leadership position to make decisions in a vacuum,” he said. “It requires other people’s perceptions of what’s important to them. Because what I might think is important is drastically different from the resident who’s been here for 20 years.”