Duluth Police Department names first female interim chief

Mayor Emily Larson announced that Laura Marquardt, a longtime investigator and administrator, would be the department's interim chief starting Aug 1.

Then Duluth Police Department Lt. Laura Marquardt talks about the use of body cameras in 2015. The department has named Marquardt its first female interim chief.
Clint Austin / File / Duluth News Tribune
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DULUTH — A longtime staffer at the Duluth Police Department is set to be the first woman to lead it as interim chief.

Laura Marquardt, a deputy chief who heads the administrative division, will be the department’s interim police chief beginning Aug. 1. Mayor Emily Larson offered the job to Marquardt on Monday and announced her appointment late Tuesday afternoon.

“It’s one of those honors you get to have,” Marquardt told the News Tribune shortly after the mayor’s announcement. “To me, this police department is a family and it’s a calling, and to be able to serve it in this capacity is an honor, and it’s humbling.”

Marquart was first hired at the department in 1995. She was a patrol officer until 1999; an investigator for its child abuse and neglect unit until 2003; then for its violent crimes unit until 2011, when she was named a sergeant in the department’s property, evidence and crime scene unit. She was promoted to lieutenant in the administrative division in 2014, then deputy chief in 2016.

In abstract terms, Marquardt said she sometimes thinks of the job, which is dominated by men, differently than her male counterparts.


“I utilize a lot more of my adaptivity and listening and speaking skills to walk through the world than, potentially, more direct type communication,” Marquardt said. “As a female in law enforcement, you need to be able to use those direct forms of communication, you need to know when to use them well, but you can’t rely on them because, frankly, if you’re a big dude, you’re going to have an advantage over me, physically. So, in my 27 years, I’ve had to hone how to compensate for that and how to make sure that I’m providing the best service for my community.”

She acknowledged that people might be intrigued by the first-woman aspect of her promotion, but said it’s only one “small sliver” of a broader pie.

Marquardt is set to succeed Chief Mike Tusken, who announced his retirement from the department earlier this summer in favor of a post at the Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College’s law enforcement program.

Marquardt said she applied for the more permanent chief job, too, but isn’t sure what her chances are.

The plan, at least while she’s the interim chief, is to stay the course and continue working on projects staffers there have already undertaken, including a plan to receive accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies and another to conduct a racial bias audit.

“I think of it as an extension of what I’m already doing and what we’re doing as an organization,” she said.

Joe Bowen is an award-winning reporter at the Duluth News Tribune. He covers schools and education across the Northland.

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