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Assistant police chief takes top Grants Pass public safety post

Deputy Police Chief Warren Hensman is leaving the Ashland Police Department after almost nine years. He’s accepted a new job as the Director of Public Safety in Grants Pass beginning Monday, Feb. 11.

In his new position he’ll essentially be chief of both police and fire and dispatch which, includes records and non-sworn staff.

While working with APD, his assignments included patrol sergeant, detective sergeant, administrative sergeant, watch commander, training manager, support commander, operations commander and deputy chief of police.

He came to Ashland in 2010 after nine years working for the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, two years working for the Alpharetta Police Department in Georgia and an eight-year career in the U.S. Air Force.

He said the ultimate highlight of his career with APD was helping to implement the Gateway Program, a program which helps people who are suffering from substance abuse find treatment.

Hensman said he was instrumental in the development of that program.

“With any new project, we’ve had our ups and downs, but we’ve maintained a tenacious attitude,” Hensman said.

At the program’s one-year anniversary last November, APD had put 19 people through substance abuse treatment through the program.

He said Medford also adopted the program.

He said other highlights with APD has been experiencing the agency improve over the years, completing strategic planning and implementing ideas and projects. He said he’ll miss the relationships he’s built with community partners the most.

“I have terrific, strong, honest and sincere community partners here I’ll miss,” Hensman said.

He said he was sad to attend his last Ashland Rotary Club meeting Thursday — but, he added, he’s looking forward to bringing these relationships and knowledge with him to Grants pass.

“I have this tremendous toolkit of resources now,” Hensman said.

He said one of the lowlights of his career was the loss of officer Marcus Williams who passed away in 2018 due to a medical episode on the job.

“Marcus had such an impact on the organization and myself,” Hensman said.

Since Hensman joined APD, he’s seen a number of heinous crimes one might not think possible in Ashland.

“We’ve seen some significant cases over the years,” he said.

The most tragic case was the horrific murder of David Michael Grubbs in 2011, which remains unsolved.

Grubbs was only 23 years old at the time of his death. He was found nearly decapitated on the Central Ashland Bike Path nearly 30 minutes after his death.

Hensman said he feels discontented that he won’t see a conclusion.

“It’s not a good feeling, that’s for sure, that it’s not resolved, and we haven’t been able to give closure to the family,” Hensman said. “I’m not happy, but I do know I’m walking away from an organization that remains resilient. We are not going to forget.”

Other notable cases during Hensman’s time with the agency include the case of a 12-year-old boy who murdered his mother and attempted to murder his sister in 2017, and the case of Ronald Ledell, who tortured and maimed another man with a sledgehammer.

“We’re one of the safest communities in the country, there’s not doubt about that,” Hensman said. “But even in Small Town U.S.A., bad things do happen and that’s one of the reasons we’re here.”

He said he greatly appreciated the camaraderie the department has and the close relationships with other local agencies.

“When something as critical as a homicide occurs, it’s all hands-on deck,” Hensman said. “When big things happen and we might need an additional hand, our partners are there for us if we need them.”

He said he’s helped develop the operational side of the department.

“It’s my role to help guide the goals and objectives for the organization and I feel that we’ve been able to set forth a strategic plan that marries the city and one that overall gives back to the community,” Hensman said.

“I think we’ve come up with some great programs,” Hensman said.

“I’m going to sincerely miss APD and the city of Ashland,” Hensman said. “It’s been almost nine years, but I look forward to joining the Grants Pass Community, and I look forward to the challenge.”

The application deadline for the position of deputy police chief was Thursday.

Police Chief Tighe O’Meara said he’s received at least three applications the last time he checked, but suspects more have come in.

He also said he’s not aware of a timeline to hire a replacement yet but will know more once he receives all the applications.

“We want an experienced, forward-thinking police leader who can continue the work Deputy Chief Hensman has been doing with me and the department,” O’Meara said.

Contact Tidings reporter Caitlin Fowlkes at cfowlkes@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4496. Follow her on Twitter @cfowlkes6.

Andy Atkinson / Daily Tidings Ashland Police Deputy Chief Warren Hensman goes through an overdose kit carried by each officer in town.
Deputy Police Chief Warren Hensman leaves the Ashland Police Department to become the Director of Public Safety in Grants Pass. Photo courtesy of Hensman.{ }