Photo: Nikki Pullen, who will assume duties as Horn Lake Police Chief on July 1, is shown in her office Wednesday morning, June 8 (Bob Bakken/desotocountynews.com)
She will be identified as the first female police chief ever in the Horn Lake Police Department. Nikki Pullen would prefer to be identified simply as a good, dedicated police officer who does her job well.
And Pullen has done that for several years, having worked her way up the ranks since her start as a uniformed officer in 2005. Tuesday evening during the city’s Board of Aldermen meeting, Pullen was introduced as the person who will take charge of the police department next month when Troy Rowell begins his retirement.
In her first interview since the Tuesday announcement, Pullen told DeSoto County News Wednesday morning she did not actively seek the position but she is ready to take it on.
“Seeking a big promotion has never been my thing,” Pullen said. “If I’m the best candidate and best fit for it, then by all means. The citizens in Horn Lake are very supportive of the police department. I can relate to the officers and I can relate to the citizens, so I think I’m a good fit for it and my heart is with these officers.”
The Mississippi State University graduate is also a graduate of the FBI National Academy. Pullen said she has been humbled by the congratulations and support from that group and others in the law enforcement community, inside and outside the department.
“It meant the world to me that from far and wide that people from my (FBI) National Academy session and local, the county, and Memphis, a lot of people have congratulated me,” Pullen said. “But more than anything it’s been the support of the people here. The workers here are excited and told me they support me. That tugs at my heartstrings.”
Pullen has been involved in several areas of the police department since joining the force, from uniformed officer to Special Investigations, Criminal Investigations, Patrol Sergeant, Detective Division Commander, and Major. One of the major challenges she will face as police chief will be in protecting the city from the ever-present criminal threat from north of the state line that occasionally filters across the border.
“Our proximity to Memphis will always be a challenge for anybody,” Pullen said. “Every department in DeSoto County is battling the Memphis element, but we will always do our job and we’re always here. We’re not backing down, we’re not going to change the way that we do things or do them any less.”
Another challenge will be attracting and retaining officers to the force, which Pullen observes is about 12 officers short of what the city has budgeted for.
“We’ve dealt with this recruiting and retention crisis for a long time,” Pullen noted. “It’s hard to draw people into this job, because it’s a tough job, bottom line. You have to want to do the job. We want officers to love their job, find their passion, and stay. Holding on to officers and growing the department is a challenge, as it is across the country.”
While acknowledging she is a woman in a male-dominated career, Pullen has not tried to use her gender to gain an advantage. But Pullen observed that her being a woman at the top of the force may encourage other women to look at law enforcement as a career. Pullen’s main concern is that her officers represent the city well.
“I’m a female and that’s an anomaly in this world, but if that draws females into this profession then by all means,” Pullen said. “I want good people. I don’t care if they are of whatever minority, bring me everyone who can do the job and have high morals. That’s what I want.”
The soon-to-be police chief also believes in a strong connection with the community. She wants her officers to foster a good relationship with the people they protect and serve.
“I believe in keeping that open communication and keeping the relationship,” Pullen said. “Hearing that conversation and hearing the good and the bad, get out there and interact with the public. We preach to our people to stop and talk to the public. They are our best resource. When they stop trusting that we’re going to come and do our part to investigate what’s going on, then we’re in a bad way.”
Pullen begins her new position on July 1.
“At the end of the day, I’m just a police officer,” Pullen said. “I just want to do this job as best as I can and do right by the people around me.”