In thinking back over the decades they have known and worked for him, members of the Boulder Police Department's command staff could not think of one funny story about longtime Chief Mark Beckner.
The four commanders and one deputy chief who met in an upstairs conference room at the department's headquarters building Tuesday spoke highly of Beckner's professionalism, his calming presence and his support for his officers, among other things.
Earlier Tuesday, Beckner announced his plans to retire in April after spending 36 years at the city's police department, including nearly 16 as chief.
"There are no funny stories. No embarrassing stories," said Deputy Chief David Hayes, who has known Beckner for nearly four decades. "He came to work and did his job."
Beckner, 58, has headed the department as the city faced everything from riots to a presidential visit, wildfires to floods, murders to the officer-involved shooting of a well-loved elk.
He was made commander of the investigation into the murder of JonBenet Ramsey in 1997 and continued to preside over it after being promoted to chief in June 1998.
Although then-District Attorney Alex Hunter refused to prosecute the Ramseys, Beckner said he was proud that his team was able to pick up the muddled investigation nine months after the slaying and eventually present a case to the grand jury in 1999.
Members of the Boulder City Council praised Beckner at their meeting Tuesday night, saying he left an indelible mark and his departure will be a loss to the city.
"He's been a fabulous police chief," Mayor Matt Appelbaum said. "I can't speak highly enough of his integrity and his ability to work with the community and the City Council and to improve and modernize the police force."
Councilman George Karakehian noted Beckner's long service with the department and his ability to work well with all members of the department, from support staff members to patrol officers to detectives.
"If I could clone him, that's what I would do," he said.
Beckner said he feels the department is "well set for success into the future."
"I've worked parts of five decades here," he said. "I think what I'm most proud of is leading this organization for 16 years, through some difficult times, through some reorganization when I took over.
"Whenever you take a job you always want to leave the organization in better shape than when you took over. I think I've done that."
The command staff said hallmarks of Beckner's tenure have been his even temperament and his reasonable, measured approach to problems and crises.
"Mark got us through some really tough times," Hayes said. "The Ramsey case, the aftermath of that, flood, fires, the elk shooting ... . He got us through those, and he did it with style and grace, honesty and transparency."
Cmdr. Carey Weinheimer said Beckner's approach was "always very fair."
"You always felt that if you took an issue to him he was going to give it a very fair hearing, and he always tried to put himself in the position of an officer when making decisions."
Cmdr. Tom Trujillo said Beckner has been that way since he was Trujillo's watch sergeant 28 years ago.
"Nothing has really changed," Trujillo said. "He's honest, straightforward, plays by the rules. You always knew where you stood with him."
Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle has known Beckner for more than 30 years and served under him for about five years before becoming sheriff. Pelle said the average tenure of a police chief is between three and five years, and he feels Beckner has stuck around so long because of his calm, steady approach to the job.
"Mark was a stabilizing force. He was always kind of a rudder in choppy seas," Pelle said of his longtime friend, calling him "part of the fabric" of the Boulder police.
Beckner has expressed an interest in teaching at the college level once he leaves the department.
"He's a treasure trove of knowledge and experience, and I'm glad he's going to continue to share that," Pelle said.
Beckner said his other goals following his retirement are to spend more time with his young grandchildren — he has a 3-year-old granddaughter and 1-year-old grandson — and his wife.
"I still have some other things I want to accomplish outside of policing," he said.
City Manager Jane Brautigam will be working with police and the human resources department to begin the search for a new police chief.
Camera Staff Writers Erica Meltzer and Mitchell Byars contributed to this report.
Contact Camera Staff Writer Joe Rubino at 303-473-1328 or firstname.lastname@example.org.