Commissioner's Office

A Division of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety


​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​What We Do

The Office of the Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) oversees department staff, programming and initiatives. DPS is an enforcement, licensing and services agency that develops and operates programs in the areas of law enforcement, traffic safety, alcohol and gambling, fire safety, driver licensing, vehicle registration, emergency management and public safety information. The department coordinates the functions and services of the state relating to the safety and convenience of its citizens (Minnesota Statutes, Chapter 299A). 

The Office of Commissioner works in partnership with:

  • Local, state and federal elected officials and legislators
  • Local state and federal law enforcement and emergency response agencies
  • Public, private and non-profit associations representing public safety, law enforcement, emergency response, crime victims, etc.

The commissioner serves as chair for the following: 

  • Statewide Emergency Communications Board​
  • Homeland Security Senior Advisory Committee
Learn more about our mission, vision and core values by clicking here to read our strategic plan​. ​


Bob Jacobson was appointed ​the 15th commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety by Gov. Tim Walz in January 2023.

DPS Commissioner Bob JacobsonPrior to his appointment, Jacobson served as the interim deputy assistant commissioner in the Department of Human Services.

Previously, he served for more than 33 years in active law enforcement including 16 years as the director of public safety/chief of police for the City of New Brighton where he led their police, fire, and emergency management operations. He also served as interim police chief for the City of Stillwater during a leadership transition.

Jacobson also served as the interim inspector general for the Department of Human Services. He served as the professional development director for the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association, coordinating and implementing statewide and regional training and con​ferences for the Association.

Jacobson has a B.A. from Bethel University in Organizational Leadership and attended the Senior Management Institute for Police conducted by the Police Executive Research Forum.​

Deputy Commissioner

Cassandra O’Hern is deputy commissioner for the Department of Public Safety.

Deputy Commissioner Cassandra O'HernPrior to her appointment as deputy commissioner, O’Hern served as the department’s assistant commissioner since June of 2015 and the Director of Internal Affairs and Affirmative Action since 2005.  In that capacity she managed the department’s internal investigations and affirmative action and equal employment opportunity programs.

Prior to joining the Department of Public Safety, O’Hern was an Assistant Attorney General for the State of Minnesota. As an Assistant Attorney General she defended the various state agencies in civil litigation, including employment and labor law matters.

She graduated from the University of Minnesota Law School in 1993 and she also holds a Masters of Planning degree from the University of Minnesota Humphrey School of Public Affairs. She holds a bachelor’s degree from the American University in Washington, D.C., double majoring in economics and international relations.

Assistant Commissioner – Emergency Services

T. John Cunningham is an assistant commissioner for the Department of Public Safety.​

Assistant Commissioner T. John Cunningham

Cunningham has more than 25 years of public safety experience and most recently served as the fire chief and emergency management director for the city of Brooklyn Park. Under his leadership, the department has more than doubled its full-time firefighting force, replaced an aging fleet, created a full-time firefighter cadet academy, expanded its arson investigation capabilities and developed a plan to modernize the city's fire stations. He was also the president of the Minnesota State Fire Chiefs Association for three terms.

Prior to moving to Minnesota in 2009 to serve as the Elk River fire chief, Cunningham was a volunteer firefighter in Greenwich, Conn., and held the rank of district chief. He was also a member of the town's technical rescue and dive team, and a specialist with the state's urban search and rescue team.

Cunningham earned a Bachelor of Science in business management from Fairfield University and a Master of Science in homeland security leadership from the University of Connecticut. He also holds a certificate in collaborative​ leadership in homeland security from the University of Connecticut.

Assistant Commissioner Cunningham oversees:​

Assistant Commissioner - Law Enforcement

Thomas Smith is an assistant commissioner for the Department of Public Safety.

Assistant Commissioner Thomas SmithSmith has 39 years of experience in law enforcement, including 27 years with the Saint Paul Police Department. He spent his last six years with the agency as chief of police. Since 2016, Smith has worked for the FBI Law Enforcement Executive Development Association, delivering police training on community relationship building, bias in policing and leadership and 21st Century policing principles throughout the country. Prior to his role as assistant commissioner, Smith served as the Statewide Director of Training for the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

Smith is a graduate of the FBI National Academy and the FBI National Executive Institute. He holds a bachelor's degree in Public Relations from Metropolitan State University and master's degree in Leadership and Education from the University of St. Thomas. He has served on numerous community boards and is an active member of the African American Leadership Council in Saint Paul.

Assistant Commissioner Smith oversees:

Assistant Commissioner - Programs

Tim Lynaugh is an assistant commissioner for the Department of Public Safety.

Assistant Commissioner Tim LynaughBefore joining DPS, Lynaugh worked in the Minnesota Department of Corrections for eight years. He then went on to serve the St. Paul Police Department for 23 years and the MetroTransit Police Department for six.

Lynaugh earned his associate’s degree in Law Enforcement from Inver Hills Community College. He also holds a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice Administration from St. Mary’s University and a master’s degree in Criminal Justice Administration from Concordia University.

Assistant Commissioner Lynaugh oversees:

Chief of Staff

Katie Knutson is the chief of staff ​for the Department of Public Safety.

Legislative Affairs Director Katie KnutsonKnutson previously served the state of Minnesota in the Departments of Administration and Human Services, where she coordinated the execution of legislative initiatives in state procurement and health care delivery in Gov. Dayton’s administration.

Knutson was also government relations manager for the City of Saint Paul under Mayor Christopher B. Coleman. In that capacity, she successfully passed soccer stadium legislation and a $3 million investment in the development of a statewide harassment restraining order database for law enforcement. She organized a statewide initiative to increase city street funding and was the city spokesperson for all legislative issues.

Knutson holds a master’s degree in Public Health from the University of Minnesota and a bachelor’s degree in Human Development and Family Studies from University of Wisconsin-Stout.

Community Affairs Director

Nicole Archbold is the community affairs director for the Department of Public Safety.

Community Affairs Director Nicole ArchboldArchbold’s background covers more than two decades of local government experience, including 15 years at the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD). During her time at MPD, she held roles assigned to the Property and Evidence Unit, Research and Policy Development Unit, and Police Administration.

Archbold also served in the Minneapolis mayor’s office as the city’s public safety policy advisor, where she led community-centered public safety initiatives and supported efforts to increase transparency and data analysis in policing.

Nicole holds a Bachelor of Science in Law Enforcement from Metropolitan State University and a master’s degree in Public Safety Administration from Saint Mary’s University.

Legislative Affairs Director

Jordan Haltaufderheid is the director of legislative affairs for the Department of Public Safety. 

In this role he serves as the primary liaison between the state legislature  and the Minnesota Department of Public Safety. He is responsible for monitoring all state legislative activity that impacts the department. This work includes assisting the commissioner and division directors in developing the department's legislative agenda and advocating that agenda at the state legislature.  

Jordan has been with the department since 2018 previously serving as the legislative coordinator and agency grants coordinator. Before joining DPS Jordan worked for the Minnesota Attorney General's Office as a Regulatory and Financial Analyst. 

Jordan earned his Bachelor's Degree from the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management double majoring in Public and Nonprofit Management and Entrepreneurial Management. He is also graduated from the State of Minnesota's Emerging Leaders Institute. ​


DPS was created in 1969, per Minnesota Statutes, Chapter 299A.  The first commissioner was Wallace Hoglund in 1970.  For more information on the history of DPS, see the Commissioner's Office History Page. You will also find a chronological list of all present and past DPS commissioners on the History Page.