As Pleasant Valley’s Police Chief Mark Dumolt plans his second retirement at the beginning of 2016, he is surrounded by memorabilia from a career in law enforcement. Tucked among the awards, pictures, patches and remembrances are two black and white images. One is from the Andy Griffith TV show and one is from the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
They represent two aspects of a 42-year career as a public servant he tries to keep in mind: Take time to solve problems and remember you never fully know what kind of a difference you make in people’s lives.
“As the say in the movie ‘It’s a Wonderful Life,’ ‘No man is poor who has friends.’ I certainly hope I have made a difference in someone’s life and have had an impact on my staff, family and the community,” said Dumolt, who is retiring in mid-January.
The difference for Pleasant Valley in recent years has shown up in the numbers — a 50 decrease in serious crime during Chief Dumolt’s time leading the department. Those six years have included major changes to the way the police in that town approach their jobs, engaging more fully with the community and learning to take extra time to show compassion for people in need. Those changes have also included not being afraid to be tough on crime.
“I think any chief of police worth their salt should have a goal to reduce crime, and we have made tremendous strides in doing that. I’m very proud of that,” Dumolt said.
Dumolt is a third-generation public servant in the Kansas City area. His father was a Kansas City, Mo., police officer and his grandfather served in the fire department. Perhaps his desire to build a better life for others was seared into his conscience as a young Marine helping evacuate Saigon in April 1975.
“A lot of people were literally hanging onto helicopters as they landed on the U.S. ships. I always thought, and I believe it had an impact on me, about how terrible their life had to be to be willing to literally hang off the side of a helicopter to be rescued and start a new life,” Dumolt said.
The experience has reminded him to always be grateful for his life and also to remember that he often sees people on their worst days. “We rarely see people at their very best; it’s usually at their worst,” Dumolt said.
After four years in the Marines, Dumolt went to study criminal justice at Central Missouri State in Warrensburg. He was hired by the Kansas City, Mo., Police Department and made a career there. As he reached what was then a mandatory 30-year retirement date, he found he was just not ready to coast into retirement.
“I felt like I still had some time that I wanted to contribute and serve the community and this position just came open,” Dumolt said.
Pleasant Valley had been through a series of short-termed police chiefs before Dumolt took the job. Mayor David Slater credits Dumolt with bringing stability to the police force during his time on the job. “He changed the overall culture, attitude, reputation and professionalism of the police department,” said Slater in a news release.
Pleasant Valley has a population of about 3,000 people. It straddles Interstate 35 and stretches between Interstate 435 on the west, and Glenaire on the east. This small town’s position in the middle of the larger metropolitan area creates a unique challenge. “It feels much larger, and our work load is larger because we have people coming through all the time,” Dumolt said.
Dumolt said problem solving is central to his coaching leadership style. It takes him back to the picture he keeps from “The Andy Griffith Show.”
“I think that’s one of the best television shows ever made or ever written. It illustrates the importance of trying to problem solve,” he said. “Andy Griffith never arrested anybody. He always tried to solve a problem instead and he always tried to come up with an idea to make it look like the person he was dealing with solved their own problem.”
Dumolt plans to travel and enjoy retirement with his wife, who also worked as a Kansas City, Mo., police officer and retired as a federal probation and parole officer seven years ago. The main problem to solve now? Where to go.
The Pleasant Valley mayor and Board of Aldermen will lead the search for a new chief of police. Dumolt will finish his tenure on Jan. 16.