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Giving back in retirement

After law enforcement, career, Maple Plain man helps the less fortunate

By Carlienne A. Frisch

Dean Mooney, who lives on the family farm that his great-grandfather homesteaded in Maple Plain, has spent much of his life making sure that law and order have been enforced. His daily life looks a little different today. He now enjoys helping a non-profit and doing missionary work.

“Some of the best and most rewarding things I’ve done in my life have been since I retired,” Mooney said. “I do some public speaking on behalf of the organization Feed My Starving Children and get people to donate their resources--time and money.”

Dean Mooney speaks at an American Legion function in his law enforcement uniform. Mooney, now retired, has been donating his time and talents to Feed My Starving Children. Contributed photo

Mooney’s retirement activities are a definite change from his work as a police officer. He spent 13 of his 26 years with the Golden Valley Police as their chief. He then took a position as the chief of Transit Police in the seven-county metro area. When he left that position in 2002, Mooney spent four years as an investigator of internal affairs for the state of Minnesota. (Protocol prevents him from discussing the particulars of the many and varied cases on which he worked throughout his career).

In 2005, another transfer put Mooney into the position of Director of the Minnesota State Sex Offender Program, which provided a new challenge for him--to find enough beds for all of the perpetrators.

“More men were being referred into the program by district attorneys throughout the state--and we had to find beds,” he said. “Sex offenders likely to reoffend when released from prison were referred to be incarcerated in a secure facility for treatment of their sex offense disorder. It takes a long time, and most of these men are there for an extended period of time--years and years. We had a variety of sex offenders--rapists, pedophiles. What goes on in the minds of these men is a mystery I’m sure we’ll never solve.”

Mooney’s responsibilities included hiring and training staff, expanding the facilities and building a new facility in Moose Lake.

“It was a challenging part of my career,” he said. “We were doing this in the face of many clients (NOT called “prisoners”) who were coming into the program in a short period of time. Judges referred more people into the program after they had served time in prison. It was highly effective in keeping some dangerous people off the street. The men who refuse to participate will never get out. Some who participate, given psychological ‘tools’ and work at it, can successfully transition out. It’s a long haul, and the program has grown since my retirement.”

Mooney considered himself to be retired in 2010, but soon learned differently. He was asked to be the police chief in Mound, with the responsibility of combining two police departments, rolling Mound into Orono. Then, he finally achieved retirement from his profession in 2011--and promptly became involved in the non-profit organization Feed My Starving Children.

“I’m still volunteering with Feed My Starving Children, and I’ve gotten to know an FMSC partner, traveling to Haiti and Uganda, where we distributed food in primary schools--a Christian school and a public school. Feed my Starving Children serves one million meals to children in 70 countries daily. Teachers in Uganda have told us that kids’ attendance improved. We had the opportunity to see these programs in person.

“I was also able to volunteer with a friend with Wycliffe Bible Translators,” Mooney said. “We went to Colombia and Peru and built radio broadcast studios so the indigenous population could broadcast the Gospel. During the pandemic, they broadcast public health information. Other missionaries operated the system and trained local people, who took it over.”

Mooney’s childhood provided him with examples for serving the public. His parents were school teachers, and his father was a minister as well. Although Mooney was active in 4-H--taking part in sheep projects, stage competitions, and softball--he was more interested in leaving the farm. He did, however, participate in 4-H Junior Leadership and attended a farm boys’ camp at the Minnesota State Fair, where in 1963, the 16-year-old young man managed to get the young lady who was posing for the Princess Kay of the Milky Way butter carving to laugh. Many years later, when she took part in a tour of a police station, he admitted that “I was not above embarrassing her again” by describing the State Fair incident.

Mooney’s path toward policing was varied. After graduating from high school in Orono, he attended the University of Minnesota, where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Education degree. He then joined the U.S. Navy, where he was commissioned an officer, served in South Vietnam, then taught at the University of Minnesota through the ROTC program. He became a police officer after his return from Vietnam, and took law enforcement and academic training, also working in Chula Vista, Calif., police reserves. Later hired by Golden Valley, he attended the Minnesota Police Training Academy. In mid-career, he attended the FBI Academy to learn administrative and tactile training for leaders in police forces.

With two daughters and five grandchildren, Mooney and his wife, Dawn, spend time at basketball and volleyball games, school concerts, and church youth activities.

“I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to serve purposes greater than myself.”

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