Longtime Lakeville police officer James Jensen dies at 90

City named park after charismatic officer

James Jensen
James Jensen

Lakeville has lost one of its most lauded police officers, an old-fashioned patrolman who so impressed the community that the city’s first park carries his name.

James Russell Jensen, who many knew as ‘Jimmy,’ died Oct. 11 at age 90 at his home in Highview Hills after suffering from dementia.

He started his law enforcement career in Lakeville in 1956, about a decade before the city was incorporated.

Friendly, caring, funny and outgoing, Jensen “knew everything and everyone” said interim Lakeville police Chief John Kornmann.

“To me, Jimmy was just who you think of if you put a picture in the dictionary next to ‘small town patrol officer.’ ” Kornmann said. “He made it his business to know everybody.”

During his 30 years on the force, Jensen regularly patrolled downtown, frequently dropping by local businesses and getting to know all the local owners.

“He cared deeply about the Lakeville residents and went above and beyond in insuring that Lakeville residents were safe,” said former City Administrator Bob Erickson. “He always put the welfare of Lakeville residents first.”

Former Lakeville Mayor Duane Zaun said Jensen was not just a police officer, but in his work became part psychologist, pastor and neighbor.

“He was one-of-a-kind,” Zaun said. “He was worried about families and raising kids, He always tried to help whenever there was a problem.”

Jensen’s daughter Kristine Smith said her dad was the peacemaker in the family and was always a loving father.

“He was at every family event,” she said. “He was a very supportive dad.”

Former Lakeville Parks and Recreation Director Steve Michaud said the city named the park on 202nd Street and Holyoke Avenue after Jensen to recognize his dedication to the city.

Michaud said the park was meant as a memorial park and includes trees with plaques donated by families, including the Jensens, in memory of deceased family members.

“Jim bought one for his wife and he even purchased his own memorial tree years ago before he died,” Michaud said. “He wanted to have a big tree next to his wife.”

Jensen’s brother, Vernon Jensen, said James was “very proud” of the park that bears his name.

“He liked to show it to people,” Vernon Jensen said. “Friends would come to down, and he always liked to take them there to the park.”

Even after retirement, James Jensen would keep in touch with the law enforcement community, often flagging down squad cars to chat and keep officers informed about neighborhood happenings, Kornmann said.

Lakeville patrol officers would easily recognize his personalized license plates “4811 DT,” which stood for his badge number and the “downtown” area he had so vigilantly patrolled.

“Jimmy was what I would say in some ways at times the face of the department,” Kornmann said. “He was Mr. Lakeville police … he was our champion. He was a Lakeville police officer to the end.”