Shining the light on new Decorah Police Chief Trish Thein

By Denise Lana,

Decorah Police Chief Trish Thein has been in her new position for nearly one month. As the new leader of the city’s police department and the first female police chief ever, Thein hit the ground running, a spitfire go-getter who is excited to get to know her community better as well as share her insights and goals for the Decorah Police Department. 

Launching her career in Waukon

Thein is a Sumner native and 1988 graduate from West Central Maynard High School. The second oldest of five children, she always pictured herself having kids and being a mom. But after graduating and finding herself a single parent with children, Thein had to do something to provide for her family. 

“I knew that I would need a job or career that would be a change for me,” Thein explained. “No job sitting at a desk, doing the same thing for eight hours a day.”

She researched colleges and classes, until she found it. “I had never really considered policing, but when I saw it, something just clicked.” 

At that time, Waukon Police Department was hiring. She grabbed a map and navigated her way to the town, hoping to fill out an application when she got there. Thein explained, “I had a one-year-old on my hip and was wearing shorts and flip flops. I knocked on the door and was greeted by a man who I realized later was the chief of police, Chief Loren Fiet.” 

“He invited me in and said, ‘I’ll keep an eye on your little tyke while you fill out your application here.’” 

She was hired by Waukon P.D. in 1997, becoming the first female police officer in Waukon and Allamakee County.

Thein, a professed nonbeliever in coincidences, said, “I think the stars aligned at that exact moment. The reception there was just like home and confirmed that policing was the right choice.”

Thein’s role as a new officer in law enforcement came with a steep learning curve. “Back in 1997, in small towns, you were on duty a lot by yourself,” she explained. “There were a lot of sink or swim, baptism by fire situations. I had to learn how to better communicate to be effective.”

Two decades in Marshalltown

Retirement? Not anytime soon.

Settling in

Full feature article available in the August 17 Public Opinion.


Nearly a month after taking command of the city’s police department, Decorah Police Chief Trish Thein sits down to talk about the path that brought her here. (Driftless Multimedia photo by Denise Lana)

“We are here to be a resource for businesses and schools, and not just enforcement. I’ve been here a month, but I have watched and interacted with the officers, and they have the best intentions for public safety in our community. They are out there doing a tough job, and I want the community to get to know them as officers as well as the people behind their badges. The community is very lucky to have a workforce like these officers and I think we are going to do some great things together.”

– Chief Thein

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