A Fournier has kept the city of New Hope safe since 1972. First was Don Fournier, a member of the New Hope Fire Department (now the West-Metro Fire Rescue District) for 20 years. After a one-year gap, his son, Tim Fournier, joined the ranks of the New Hope Police Department. Now, as the department’s chief of police, Fournier has announced his decision to retire from the position. His last day is Oct. 1.
Tim Fournier spent much of his 34 years in public service at the New Hope department, but his career began at the fire department just down the road.
“I joined the fire department when I was barely 20 and in college [at the University of Minnesota] to spend time with my dad,” he said. As his father was winding down in his career, Fournier began to build his own. He put his undergraduate degree on hold and began to pursue what he believed was his “higher calling.”
A career as a first responder had always been enticing, but Fournier took a few years to find the best fit. His time at the fire department sparked an interest in paramedicine, so he transferred to the University of Iowa to become an EMS practitioner. He worked as a paramedic for what is now Hennepin Healthcare and continued to split time as a firefighter and a member of the New Hope Police Reserves.
In his few years as a medic, Fournier said he dealt with more trauma and serious medical issues than he has in his entire career as an officer. He was very engrossed in the work but didn’t like that he could only help in situations that had already gotten out of hand.
“As a medic, you’re only called after something happens: car accidents, shootings, stabbings, medicals, domestic abuse, etc,” he said. “I wasn’t able to prevent anything.”
So, it was back to school for police training. By 1991, he began work as an officer at the Richfield Police Department and was offered a patrol officer position in New Hope in 1993. He would become a DARE instructor, SWAT team operator and Cooper High School resource officer before being promoted to sergeant in 1999 and police chief in 2011.
Fournier attributes his longevity at the department to its supportive atmosphere, which encourages officers to grow into leadership roles. He has worked to preserve that approach in a department that serves an ever-growing, ever-transient community.
A partner and friend
Captain Scott Slawson has been selected to serve as interim police chief during the process to find a new permanent chief. Slawson joined the department shortly after Fournier in 1994.
“Having spent our 27 years at New Hope PD together, and as friends through it all, I wish him happiness in his next endeavor,” Slawson said of Fournier.
New Hope Mayor Kathi Hemken has served most of her terms with Fournier heading the department. Her trips to local schools were typically accompanied by the chief, who had attended the schools as a child.
“He would point out the ropes he climbed and had pictures of his grade school class,” she remembered. “The kids could really relate to him.”
Hemken remembered Fournier would often bring along his metal “Car 54, Where Are You?” lunchbox that he carried to school in his youth.
She said Fournier would be “greatly missed,” and that she wished him well.
“I got to see the softer side of Chief Fournier when he played kickball with the high school kids, attended the pep fests and drove me around to as many National Night Out events as we could get to,” said Hemken. “He was invested in the community.”
Career highlights, trials
As any officer with an extended tenure, Fournier has been tested throughout his service. He has aided the birth of babies, revived people from cardiac arrest, comforted patients and been on scene for violent events like car accidents, stabbings and shootings. A career-defining test, and Fournier’s most memorable event on the job, was the Jan. 26, 2015, shooting at a New Hope City Council meeting.
“That event tested my resolve in so many ways,” he said. “I wore many hats that night, hats I’ve worn throughout my career in public safety ... I just didn’t think I’d have to wear them all at once.”
Police chiefs, he said, are not normally part of shooting events. The experience was surreal, and for months after, Fournier did his best to support those involved. The one person he forgot to take care of was himself.
“It nearly burned me out,” he admitted. “Since, I have been part of a wellness committee at the state-chiefs level to better address the needs of not only the officers but the chiefs as they experience traumatic events.”
Fournier is also a former president of the Hennepin County Chiefs of Police Association, as well as an instructor, board member and one-time treasurer for the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association. After his career was established, he returned to school and earned a master’s degree in management and graduated from the F.B.I. National Academy.
Of the nearly 50 years of service his family has provided to the residents of New Hope, Fournier is proud. He is thankful that the community he grew up in continues to be supportive of its police department, and that he was able to be a part of the department’s move into greatly expanded quarters at the new city hall. When he started work in New Hope, he was confident it would be where he spent the rest of his career, and that confidence has manifested.
“I have been fortunate to have people believe in me over the years and give me a chance to succeed,” he said.