Richard Amundsen’s first job in law enforcement was walking a two-block beat in downtown Tacoma.
By the time he retired more than four decades later he’d served as chief of the Tacoma and Steilacoom police departments and head of security at what is now called the Washington State Fair in Puyallup.
Amundsen, known as a “people person” by former colleagues, died June 11 at 84.
The Lincoln High School graduate, who went by Dick, signed on with the Tacoma Police Department in 1955 after stints in the Army Air Corps and Marine Corps, where he served in Korea.
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In a 1992 interview with The News Tribune, Amundsen recalled that the key to good policing was developing a relationship with the people he served.
“Back then, officers didn’t have portable radios, so they had to learn how to talk to people and avert a potential confrontation,” he said of his early years walking the beat.
Amundsen worked for the Tacoma Police Department for 27 years, serving as acting chief from November 1981 to June 1982, according to “More than a Century of Service: The History of the Tacoma Police Department.”
“Even though his tenure was short, Amundsen moved forward with some of his ideas to improve the department, including formation of the first K-9 unit, a disciplinary review board, a formal process to deal with sexual harassment complaints and inviting union officers to attend command staff meetings,” according to the history.
Amundsen went on to serve as chief of the Steilacoom Police Department for 10 years, stepping down in 1992.
“We’ll sure miss him,” Lt. Manuel Rodriguez told The News Tribune when Amundsen retired from Steilacoom. “The whole atmosphere changed for the better when he got here. We had more of a boss that was a people person.”
Amundsen then signed on as the part-time security chief at the Puyallup Fair, where he worked for several years.
His wife, Pat, survives him along with their five children, 17 grandchildren and 21 great-grandchildren. The family will hold a private ceremony to honor his life. Remembrances can be made to St. Jude Children’s Hospital.
Pat Amundsen told the newspaper in 1992 that her husband loved being a cop.
He didn’t disagree.
“I’ve been lucky twice,” Amundsen told The News Tribune. “Lucky to get (my wife) and lucky to get a career I loved.”
Adam Lynn: 253-597-8644