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Turlock Police captain takes chief position in Washington
Carl Nielsen joined the Turlock Police Department as one of two newly appointed lieutenants in 2007. In 2011, he was promoted to the rank of captain. - photo by Journal file photo

After nearly eight years of service to the community of Turlock, Capt. Carl Nielsen is packing up his bags and heading to Centralia, Washington, where he will take the helm as the Centralia Police Department’s Chief of Police.

“I feel I’m ready for that next step and the challenge of being a chief,” Nielsen said of his new position.

Nielsen’s career in law enforcement began in 1985 as a patrol officer with the San Diego Police Department. In 1999, he relocated to the Tracy Police Department, where he reached the rank of sergeant. In 2007, he joined the Turlock Police Department as one of two newly appointed lieutenants.  In 2011, he was promoted to the rank of captain.

Nielsen attended California State University, Long Beach, earning a bachelor’s and a master’s in Emergency Services Administration.

Nielsen currently oversees the police department’s Special Operations branch, which includes investigations, the narcotics team and professional standards, among the various divisions.

Nielsen joined the Turlock Police Department under the leadership of the Police Chief Gary Hampton and at a time when the department was undergoing a restructuring and a refocusing on the community.

“We came in with marching orders from Chief Hampton to get back involved with the community,” Nielsen said. “I feel like I have been part of a success story here and it’s been very rewarding to be a part of it and watch the growth of the department.”

Nielsen said he plans on building that same type of community relationship in Centralia as well.

“My first focus will be on developing good relationships with the community and with the other departments as well,” Nielsen said.

In regards to forging those new relationships and standing as the leader of a department, Turlock Police Chief Rob Jackson had some advice for his department captain: “The biggest thing is doing what is right for the community,” Jackson said. “You’re not going to go wrong when you make your decisions based on the community’s best interest.”

Jackson said the police department will be looking internally to fill the captain vacancy, which could start a chain reaction of promotions.

“We have some good candidates from within,” Jackson said. “Movement at that level creates a lot of opportunities.”

Nielsen will begin his new job in Centralia on May 18. Centralia is a city of about 17,000 people and is about equal distance from Portland and Seattle. It’s about a half hour from Washington’s state capital Olympia.

“The crime trends up there are about the same as here in Turlock, just on a smaller scale,” Nielsen said. “It will be an adjustment, but not a huge one. The biggest challenge is going to be that I have 30 years of California law under my belt. I’ll be attending a two-week equivalency academy to familiarize myself with Washington’s laws, but in the end, policing is policing.”