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Mulanax returns to police force as chief PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 20 January 2018 08:58

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ELLY GRIMM
• Leader & Times



The Liberal community was shocked after the Jan. 8 Liberal City Commission meeting at Al Sill’s announcement of his intent to retire as the Liberal police chief. Later in that meeting came the announcement of Dennis Mulanax stepping in to the position. 

According to Mulanax however, being in law enforcement was not always in the cards. He was born in Biloxi, Miss. and raised in a military family with his father being in the U.S. Air Force. Due to his father’s military career, the family moved around quite a bit both in the U.S. and internationally, including attending high school in Germany. 

“It was a bit hard though moving basically every two years because you’d make friends and then all of a sudden we had to move again,” Mulanax said. “When I was going to high school in Germany, I worked weekends and after school and made myself pretty self-sufficient as far as being able to purchase my own stuff for school and some of that stuff. Before high school during the summers my parents would send me to Forgan, Okla. because I had grandparents who lived there – actually, my dad was raised in Beaver, Okla. and when he was going to school in Forgan, that’s where he met my mother, who was the daughter of a Baptist preacher. So every summer my parents would send me back there to help out on the farm with harvest and fencing and cattle and so forth and then use the money I’d earned in the summer for a lot of my necessities during high school.” 

While in high school, Mulanax also worked at the base exchange on the military base pushing brooms and stacking boxes, cleaning, and other small maintenance.

“I found I really enjoyed working with people and helping serve, which was way different than working by myself when I was on the farm. After high school but shortly before we moved back here to the U.S., the base exchange actually offered to put me through college and management school and so forth, but I was really homesick and wanted to come back here to the U.S. So when we got back here to the U.S., it was basically like starting all over again and I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do with my life.” 

While Mulanax was figuring that out, he worked in a handful of different positions including working at National Beef, working as a roustabout for an oil company for a period of time and at an auto parts store. After a little while, Mulanax eventually took a trip to Estes Park in Colorado, where his other grandparents lived. 

“I’d heard there were some job prospects there but I found out those prospects weren’t as good as I was hoping,” Mulanax said. “I was also interested in becoming a certified water engineer but the problem with that was it didn’t start for another six months or so and I needed something sooner than that. So I left Estes Park and was driving east and was thinking ‘What am I going to do with my life?’ I was taking the long way home because I felt like I needed a bit of a road trip to gather my thoughts.”

A stop at a motel in Hays would change that course. 

“At that motel were some brochures, and one of them was about criminal justice. I thought ‘Wow!’ and saw the photo on the front of an officer and it just knocked me out and hit me this was what I should be doing,” Mulanax said. “I got back to Forgan, told my parents my plans. I had an aunt involved in the school system there in Forgan and she helped me get into college, which I worked through while getting my credits and everything and I was extremely dedicated to becoming an officer. My senior year of college, we were putting out résumés since graduation was coming up. I was in testing phases with a few of the departments I was interested in but some of those phases are about six months from phases one to three but I was really passionate about becoming an officer.”

Eventually, Mulanax’s father suggested coming to Liberal since new (at that time) sheriff Bill McBryde had not yet taken office. 

“There were a few openings so I got all the testing taken care of and when those came back, that’s when I started and that was Feb. 1989 and I was here just shy of 24 years,” Mulanax said. “My first year, I was part of teams that investigated a bit of everything from barking dogs to domestic disputes to rape and murder and kidnapping. I was really passionate and excited about my job and I would actually do my regular shifts and then ride along for free for another few hours because I loved it so much. I loved serving the community and helping make people’s lives better. Two years later, I was promoted to a training officer, a year after that was when I was promoted to sergeant, and a couple years after that was when I made lieutenant. Working with the Liberal Police Department, I was extremely blessed to be able to be in this career field. Then eventually the college approached me about taking over as head of security there and that too was a blessing and I learned a lot in that job too about things like the Clery Act and Title IX, just a lot. I look back on everything as a piece of a big puzzle of what I’ve been able to do.”

Mulanax also expressed praise for his past bosses, including Sill. 

“I’ve worked for seven police chiefs in my time here and there’s no such thing as a perfect transition,” Mulanax said. “The city commission did a very diligent job of looking at all scenarios and getting together a plan to follow. Everyone stepped up and was very professional and polite and showed compassion and commitment and dedication to their work. It was a stressful and tough situation, I will say, but there has been a lot of support from the community, from the other officers and even Al Sill, and he deserves it because he was here for 10 years, and the average longevity of a police chief, I believe, is about five to seven years, so I tip my hat and have respect for him and his time in that position.”

The service aspect of law enforcement, Mulanax said, is what really appeals to him. 

“A motto of mine is I want to live a life that’s pleasing in God’s eyes and I will not let Him down or His children. I know that’s spiritual but to me, that’s true service. I know I have some big shoes to fill and I’m here to work as hard as I can,” Mulanax said. “One of the things I love about law enforcement is it changes all the time and I would have a hard time if it was the same job day after day after day, every day is new adventure almost. I also want people to know when we make an arrest, it’s not to punish that person – believe it or not, it’s to help them. I remember with some of the domestic arrests I’d make, I’d explain to the mother or father we were helping them to not commit any more crimes or cause any more trouble for themselves while they were in our custody. I would explain to children we were going to help their dad or mom and get them some help they needed. A lot of people think arrests are punishment, but we’re not allowed to punish – the 8th Amendment prevents us from punishing them. It’s a matter of educating the public that this is done to protect. It’s the government’s number one purpose, to protect and serving due process to citizens under the Constitution. So we want to change some of those perceptions and build some more bridges with the community. Our fundamental duty to protect people and serve them and make sure due process has been done. We don’t do this expecting a reward in return, we do this to help others and going above and beyond to help people.”

Overall, Mulanax said, he is looking forward to working with the community as the new police chief. 

“As chief of police here, I have every intent of being as accessible as possible to the community,” Mulanax said. “Our method of operation is serving others, which we will continue to do and expand on. With the recent situation with the investigation about the threat against the USD 480 schools, I had a few extra officers there on scene to be seen so people would see we were taking the situation seriously. I have a passion of making sure the schools are safe and making sure the students and staff are safe, and USD 480 was extremely cooperative with our efforts. We’re with you, we’re here to serve, we’re here to make people’s lives better. We’re here to be transparent and I have a lot of ideas on how to help with that and show the public we’re going to be accessible and show them we’re accountable to them in our practices. We’re part of the justice system and as part of that system, we will step up and help everyone in reaching the goals we have.”


 

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The High Plains Daily Leader and Southwest Daily Times are published Sunday through Friday and reaches homes throughout the Liberal, Kansas retail trade zone. The Leader & Times is the official newspaper of Seward County, USD No. 480, USD No. 483 and the cities of Liberal and Kismet.  The Leader & Times is a member of the Liberal Chamber of Commerce, the Kansas Press Association and the Associated Press.

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