DODGE COUNTY SHERIFF'S BLOG
Sheriff Scott Rose writes a monthly column in the local Dodge County newspapers. These articles cover everything from success stories at the Sheriff's Office to warnings on crimes trends in the region and our community. If you ever have questions or concerns that you wish to speak to the Sheriff about, please call the office at 507-635-6200.
HEROIN & FENTANYL - A LETHAL COMBINATION - March 2017
TRAINING - A METHOD TO OUR MADNESS - Jan 2017
TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS - Dec 2016
IF YOU SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING! - Nov 2016
COMMUNITY RELATIONS AND LAW ENFORCEMENT - Oct 2016
Q&A WITH POST BULLETIN REGARDING "I WAS CALLED A RACIST TODAY" COLUMN - Aug 2016
I WAS CALLED A RACIST TODAY - Aug 2016
RESPONSE TO DALLAS ATTACKS - July 2016
LOGAN'S MESSAGE - June 2016
WHY WE DO THIS JOB - May 2016
PEACE OFFICERS MEMORIAL DAY IS MAY 15TH - May 2016
THE THIN BLUE LINE - April 2016
A PUBLIC OFFICE IS A PUBLIC TRUST - March 2016
COURTHOUSE SECURITY / WEAPONS SCREENING - Feb 2016
NEW YEARS RESOLUTION - KINDNESS - Jan 2016
STAY SAFE DURING THE HOLIDAYS - Dec 2015
RISKS OF THE BADGE - Nov 2015
DAYTIME BURGLARIES - A BIG CONCERN IN OUR AREA - Oct 2015
LOTS OF CHANGES OVER THE NEXT FEW MONTHS - Sept 2015
HEROIN USE ON THE RISE IN DODGE COUNTY - Aug 2015
MAKE SURE TO THANK YOUR DEPUTY - July 2015
On March 3rd we charged a young man from Rochester for 2nd degree and 3rd degree murder for selling Heroin laced with Fentanyl to another young man in Dodge Center – who died from an overdose. The message we want to send is clear – if you sell drugs in our county, we’ll come after you. If you sell drugs in our county and someone dies because of it – we’ll use every resource we have to find you and prosecute you to the fullest extent.
While 2016 numbers aren’t available yet, 2015 numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate more than 50,000 people died from drug overdoses. These numbers have skyrocketed with the increased use of heroin and prescription opioid pain killers.
Heroin deaths rose 23% to nearly 13,000 – higher than the number of gun homicides nationwide. Deaths from opioids, including fentanyl, rose 73%.
Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opiate analgesic used to treat patients with severe pain or manage pain after surgery. Fentanyl is a synthetic cousin to heroin, and it is deadly. On the left in this picture is a lethal dose of heroin, equivalent to about 30 milligrams; on the right is a 3 milligram dose of fentanyl, enough to kill an adult. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Fentanyl is up to 100 times more potent than morphine and can be 30 to 50 times stronger than heroin.
It works by binding to the brain's opiate receptors to drive up dopamine levels and produce a state of euphoria and relaxation. The National Institute on Drug Abuse notes that cutting fentanyl with street-sold heroin amplifies its potency and potential danger. Effects can include drowsiness, respiratory depression and arrest, nausea, confusion, constipation, unconsciousness, coma and death.
Drug users often don’t know when their heroin is laced with fentanyl, so when they inject their usual quantity of heroin, they can inadvertently take a fatal dose. While dealers try to include fentanyl to improve potency, their measuring equipment usually isn’t fine-tuned enough to ensure they stay below the lethal levels that could cause the user to overdose. The other problem is the fentanyl sold on the street is almost always made in a clandestine lab – much of it reportedly coming from China. It is much less pure than the pharmaceutical version and thus its effect on the body can be more unpredictable.
Another alarming discovery is in some parts of the country, dealers are marketing OxyContin and other prescription pain killer pills that are actually fentanyl laced pills – fake prescription pills manufactured in somebody’s basement or warehouse. Some addicts use prescription pain killers because they believe they are safe. Just because it looks like a legitimate prescription pill, doesn’t mean it is anymore.
With the dangerous potency of fentanyl, and the increased use of it in illegal drug sales across the country, if you are using heroin or prescription pills bought on the street – you are playing Russian roulette with your life!
Many overdoses from opioids like heroin, and prescription pills like morphine and oxy end in the subject’s breathing slowing down and eventually stopping. It can be very hard to wake them up from this state. Narcan (naloxone) is an opiate antidote that blocks the effects of the drug, helping the subject start breathing again. Dodge Center Ambulance Service is now carrying Narcan on their ambulances to help us combat this terrible drug.
If you know someone who is using heroin or fentanyl, it’s only a matter of time before they overdose or worse. You need to get them help – whatever it takes. You can call your local law enforcement and talk to them about your concerns and get suggestions. If you have any information regarding someone selling and drugs – especially prescriptions, heroin and/or fentanyl – please contact law enforcement right away. You may likely save someone’s life reporting it. As always – remember you can remain anonymous.
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Some wonder….why now? This month we honored a fallen officer who had never been formally recognized for his service and sacrifice - who's death was deemed a line of duty death, yet he was never recognized for it. His injury occured during an assault in 1977 ultimately resulting in his death in 1999. Why was this so important nearly 40 years after the incident, and 18 years following his death? Why was it so important that we took the time to formally honor Hayfield Police (and part-time Dodge County Deputy) Chief Doug Claassen for his service and his sacrifice?
Nearly 1,500 law enforcement officers died in the line of duty during the past 10 years. That’s an average of nearly one death every 60 hours – 142 law enforcement heroes paid the ultimate sacrifice last year. Nearly 60,000 assaults against law enforcement are reported annually, resulting in around 15,000 injures every year. Assaults like the incident where Doug was injured in 1977.
Here in SE Minnesota, 140 brave men and women have died while serving to keep our communities safe.
In Dodge County we’ve had 4 line of Duty deaths since the County was formed (2 in Hayfield, 1 in Claremont, and 1 in the County). Most greater Minnesota counties have zero, one, or two Line of Duty deaths in their history. Unfortunately we’ve suffered more losses than most, especially in Hayfield. Why? Nobody knows. What we do know is that we can never forget the service a sacrifice of these great men.
Law enforcement officers and their families are part of a unique culture. There is no other profession in our society that serves quite the same role, or faces quite the same risks as a matter of course in their everyday work life. This culture also creates a unique set of challenges for the families of these men and women. Law Enforcement officers work nights, weekends, and holidays. They miss special family dates – birthdays, anniversaries, school events, band concerts, choir concerts, sporting events, etc. They are on heightened alert daily and need to be on guard and watch their backs both at work and off-duty with their families. Their kids may get teased or worse at school and must know to watch their backs as well. Officers work under the public microscope every day and know that the actions they take in a split second will be arm-chair quarterbacked by many – lawyers, media, and community. They understand they will be held to a higher standard than others both on and off duty – which in turn means their kids are held to a higher standard as well. For many, this career will not likely pay enough for them to avoid needing a part-time job to raise a family and make ends meet – so not only do they miss many special family events in order to protect you and me, they also must spend time away from family to simply help pay the bills. These are truly amazing and giving people!
Every day or night when these men and women go to work, they hug their families and tell them they love them knowing that every time they go out the door with that badge – they may be injured or killed in the Line of Duty. While this stress can wear on the officer, it most certainly wears on the families watching him or her go out that door each day. I know that first hand growing up with a father who was in law enforcement.
When an officer is hurt, or dies as a result of violence, the ripple effect it causes can be traumatic – for the officer, for the officer’s family, for his/her fellow officers, and for the communities they serve.
The Claassen family lived and sacrificed everyday Doug served Hayfield and this county, sacrifices the family made in order to do their part to help keep our community safe. Then Doug was injured. The Claassen family lived and sacrificed for years with the debilitating effects of his spinal cord injury until he passed away in 1999.
For fallen Law Enforcement Officer’s surviving families, their sacrifice never ends. It’s important for us as a society, to always honor all fallen officers for their service to our communities, and to recognize their families for their sacrifice. We need to be there to support the families of the fallen - always. We need to make sure they know the appreciation we have for them, that we will always be there to support them, and ensure for them that their loved one’s sacrifice will never be forgotten. Its families like these, with the sacrifices they’ve made, that make Dodge County such an amazing place to live. It’s important for the Havey, Lange, Claassen, and Guenther families to know their husband, grandson, son, father, grandfather, and/or uncle was a hero! We owe it to these families to make sure these men’s service and sacrifice, as well as all the sacrifices their families have made for our community, both before and after their death, are NEVER FORGOTTEN.
Recently, we’ve done some training that has gained local media attention: The Active Shooter Training we did in the Dodge County Courthouse in December, and the Simulation Training (shoot/no shoot scenarios) that we did last week. The majority of responses we heard about our efforts were very positive. However, I also heard a few critical of our training – that we should focus on more realistic training for our area, on crisis intervention training, or training on mental illness response.
While we certainly appreciate hearing the positive comments, I think it’s also important we respond to those questioning our efforts. First of all, let’s address the “realistic” comment. …
In our Active Shooter training we focused on the challenges of responding to a mass shooting (4+ victims injured or killed excluding the subject/suspect/perpetrator, one location). In the first 15 days of 2017 there were 13 Mass Shooting incidents recorded nationwide – from Winstonville Mississippi (population 191) to Chicago Illinois, an average of nearly one a day.
Recently, we’ve had officer involved shootings in Mankato, Austin, Fillmore County, and here in Dodge County in Hayfield. So to suggest that officer involved shootings aren’t realistic here in SE Minnesota is unfortunately not true. In 2016, there were 16 fatal officer-involved shootings in Minnesota. While these numbers are a far cry from the numbers seen in states like Illinois, they are still concerning for everyone. When you look at the facts, you’ll see it’s training like this that can help prevent fatal officer-involved shootings.
Let’s address the comment regarding our needing to focus more on mental illness response. In Simulation Training we put our deputies in real life scenarios to learn how to safely respond to high stress situations, often where mental illness is a factor, and where weapons may be involved. More importantly we focus on alternative techniques and options available to de-escalate and avoid having to shoot a suspect – with communication and/or less lethal force options. Our deputy’s most important tool or weapon isn’t found on their duty belt, it’s between their ears - their communication skillset. We call it “verbal judo” - using one's words to prevent, de-escalate, or end an attempted assault or attack. The simulator provides our deputies realistic training where we can coach them on verbal de-escalation, while also training on how to respond when there is either no time for “verbal judo”, when it may be ineffective, or simply when use of force is necessary to protect the deputy or others involved or in the area.
Do we send our deputies to Crisis Intervention Training to learn how to deal with Mental illness – sure we do. But this training puts our men and women in situations where they have to make split second decisions, deciding how to best react and end a volatile and dangerous situation. You don’t get this kind of training in a book, classroom, or table top discussion. This gives us and our deputies an opportunity to see how they handle stressful situations like this first hand.
Too often we see emotional responses to law enforcement tactics and training without any facts to back them up. We recently observed how our Active Shooter Training, which included multiple agency response tactics, incident command training, and mass casualty recovery - really helped in our response to the McNeilus explosion in Dodge Center.
Before you so quickly criticize law enforcement, a profession often twisted and misrepresented in the main stream media and in Hollywood, I suggest a better alternative might be to educate yourself first - talk with your local law enforcement and ask questions, sit in on training that you question, participate in a ride-along, etc. Our tactics and training tools that are most often criticized may someday save your life.
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TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS
It’s Christmas Eve. While you and your family celebrate the holidays together at home with relatives, we are patrolling your neighborhood tonight – checking your property, your yard, your streets, looking for anything or anyone out of place. We are the ones that venture into the dark, not knowing what if anything awaits us, often to protect many of you we have never even met.
You spend the evening with your family warm and safe indoors, many enjoying a few drinks in front of a warm fireplace. We’re outside trying to stay warm, dealing with the winter elements - freezing rain, snow, sometimes dangerous road conditions, or maybe even a blizzard. We’re out there waiting for our 911 Dispatchers to advise us when someone else in the county needs our help.
You’ve got your kids with you, maybe grandkids, also grandparents, aunts and uncles, etc. The whole family is together for this joyous occasion. Our families are spending another holiday without us. This was our year to work. Hopefully we make the rotation next year so we can take time off for them. They understand we make these sacrifices to help keep our communities safe, to help people in need, and to do our little part to make our communities a better place for them to live in. They understand our sacrifices are also their sacrifices.
Your Christmas Eve dinner is ready. All the family has pitched in to make a huge holiday feast for everyone there. The smell of Turkey, Ham, and warm pie fill the air, those smells that make us think of Christmas’s past. The house also smells of fresh pine from the real Christmas tree in the living room. We’ve been busy tonight so we haven’t had a chance to get much for a meal - chips and a pop at the local gas station, maybe a piece of pizza or pre-made sandwich. Later we’ll stop in to check on our gas station attendants who are also sacrificing on Christmas. We’ll refill our coffee cups and continue our patrols thru the night.
You’ve finally got the kids to settle down for the night, all excited about presents and that visit from Santa overnight. Everyone’s tucked in for a warm night’s sleep. If we are lucky enough to live in the zone we work in, we’ll try and stop by to say goodnight to the kids. If we’re too busy, we’ll just have to call when we can. We’ll wish them Merry Christmas over the phone and say goodnight to the kids. Hopefully we can call before they go to bed.
Your kids are in bed and now its adult time - you sit and play cards, games, and visit with family and loved ones reminiscing about the night you just had and memories of Christmas past. We’re patrolling your neighborhoods while thinking about a crash we worked a few months ago where we pulled two kids from the wreckage, two that didn’t make it. It’s hard to forget that reaction we get when we have to tell parents their kids are gone – or the emotional feeling of just wanting to go home and hug our kids and tell them that we love them. We worry about those parents tonight. We hope and pray we don’t get another crash like that tonight on Christmas.
Your kids wake you up early, all excited about opening Santa’s presents and celebrating Christmas Day. You’re rested and ready to share this amazing day with your family. We’ve been asleep for an hour or two before our kids are waking us up excited about opening Santa’s presents and celebrating Christmas Day. We finally finished our shift a few hours earlier after a busy evening and quietly sneaked into our homes around 5am. We took off our uniforms, grabbed a quick snack from last night’s big meal, and headed to bed trying not to wake up the kids or our spouse. We’ll go downstairs now and see the kids open their gifts, while trying not to think about some of the things that we saw last night. Then it’s back to bed for a better part of Christmas Day. We’ll go back to work at 6pm and do it all over again.
Inspite all of the sacrifices many of us will make this Christmas, and the anti-law enforcement rhetoric we endure from the main stream media and other radical groups, we remain very proud of this profession that we love. We’re proud of our uniform, we’re proud of our badge, and we’re extremely proud of our flag. We couldn’t imagine doing anything else. Helping you is our calling, it’s our passion, and it’s truly what motivates us.
The intent of this column is not to make you feel sorry for law enforcement, it’s simply to remind you of some of the sacrifices these men and women make for our communities. Hopefully it also makes you think about the sacrifices made by all our public safety partners serving our communities over the holidays – our 911 Dispatchers working to keep everyone safe, our local Ambulance and Fire Department members (many who are volunteers) working side by side with us on emergency calls, and the medical professionals saving lives at our area hospitals. Don’t forget our local tow companies who are also out there helping us day and night. This Christmas, if you see your local law enforcement or public safety professionals out working the streets, take a minute to thank them for their service and sacrifice. Your “thank you” means a lot to all of them, especially during the holidays.
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When it comes to protecting our county and the communities within it, we are only as good as the information we have to work with. In other words, the more information we can gather on illegal or suspicious activities within our county, the better we can serve you. Which is why I often sound like a broken record when I say, “I’d rather you call our office 20 times and have all of them be false alarms, versus you not calling one time resulting in someone getting victimized or worse.”
Many of the major cases we have solved over the years have been done in part by the information provided by the public. We’ve also prevented many crimes by responding to suspicious vehicle or circumstances reports called in by watchful citizens.
Public Safety is not only our responsibility as law enforcement, it’s also your responsibility as citizens. If you see suspicious activity, please call it in. YOU CAN ALWAYS REMAIN ANONYMOUS. Some activity called in by the public include:
Driving Conduct – Many DWI arrests are the result of watchful motorists willing to call in erratic or dangerous driving. This saves lives.
Suspicious Vehicles – Only you will recognize unusual traffic or vehicles in your neighborhood, vehicles that don’t belong, vehicles you don’t recognize as local. We’ve arrested a number of people based on these calls; people who were about to victimize someone, people who had already burglarized properties or otherwise victimized your neighbors. You could prevent your family or your neighbor’s family from becoming victims.
Suspicious Activity – You are the first one that will recognize suspicious activity in your neighborhood. We’ve had citizens call in suspicious activity in homes or properties that should be empty. Maybe the property belonged to a snowbird, or someone who works nights or away from home. These calls have resulted in arrests where we’ve caught burglars, or stopped or prevented burglaries.
Threats – When someone is threatening to do harm to a family member, employer, or school, they often talk about it or give clues based on their behavior, social media posts, threats, etc. Usually there are indicators – these indicators are often only noticed by those close to them. Your phone call could save many lives in this scenario – including the life of your friend or family member.
Narcotics Activity – If you see properties or areas in your community that have unusual traffic that comes and goes in part of your neighborhood, or to a home or apartment in your neighborhood – call it in. Report it. If you are aware of drug activity, hear someone talking about use or problems with drugs, see concerning posts on social media – report it! Your phone call may save that person’s life.
A number of the recent terrorism and mass shooting incidents in our country and abroad all had pre-incident indicators – often suspicious activity that was never reported.
Fortunately, we have great people here in Dodge County. Great people who take great ownership in their communities – citizens who are willing to call in this type of activity. The easiest rule of thumb to live by is this – if something concerns you enough to make you wonder if you should call us – CALL US!! As I said before, we’d rather respond to false alarms all night to avoid missing an opportunity to help someone!
If it’s activity that is going on right now, call our Dispatch Center at 507-635-6200 and report it. If it’s ongoing activity, observations, or concerns that you have you can contact us a number of ways:
- Call us 507-635-6200 or 911 for Emergencies
- Facebook message us on our page @DCSOSheriff
- Message us on Twitter @DCSOSheriff
- Message us on our website at: http://www.co.dodge.mn.us/departments/investigations_unit.php
(Follow us on Twitter and “like” our Facebook page to get the latest information from our office.)
If you see something, say something!!! Be a part of the solution! As I said before, public safety is all of our responsibility. By working together, we can all work to continue to make Dodge County an amazing community to raise our families.
If you have questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to call me at the office or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you!
Election Day is right around the corner, and if you are like my wife Rosie, the end can’t come soon enough. While I’m somewhat of a political junkie and enjoy watching the process, I am also tiring of the nation coverage and ready to move on. Fortunately we aren’t in an election year here at the Sheriff’s Office so we can focus on 2017 and beyond.
One major topic of discussion during this political year has been law enforcement and community relations, more specifically minority relations. Unfortunately, these discussions are often clouded by the politics of a few organizations who have been given a platform by the nation media to convey their negative anti-law enforcement rhetoric, often inciting unrest and violence towards law enforcement officers.
With all the negative national press regarding law enforcement, and the false narrative that systematic racism exists within all law enforcement agencies, it’s more important than ever for us to continue to work towards improving communications with EVERYONE in the communities we serve - regardless of color, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. This means promoting positive one-on-one contact with the public thru community policing efforts and local events. It means continuing our School Resource Officer programs in all three school districts in the county. It means continuing to educate kids with our DARE program in all three school districts. It means being involved in charitable events that support our local community. It means supporting our volunteer Fire Departments and Ambulance Services at their various fund raisers and community programs. It means continuing to improve communications with the public - using tools like Code Red, Facebook, Twitter, and our great local newspapers. It means continuing to educate our staff on issues that are important to our community; minority relations, mental health challenges, addiction, and proactive and positive policing strategies. While we don’t face a lot of the complex challenges that the bigger communities face, that doesn’t make these issues any less important to our staff.
Communication is key to successful policing. My door is always open to any of our county residents interested in discussing issues or concerns within our community. While I always love hearing the positives from the public regarding our staff and their work, it’s equally important that county residents are comfortable enough to come in and share any criticisms or concerns they have about us as well. If I’m not in due to my schedule, Chief Deputy Leonhardt or Captain Anderson would also be happy to talk with you. If they aren’t available, ask for the Sergeant on duty. If you have questions specific to your community, stop and talk to the patrol deputy working your area. If your question is related to something in the schools, talk to our School Resource Officers. Our goal is for the public to be comfortable enough to approach any of our staff regarding their concerns.
The first step in making sure we are providing the quality of law enforcement our community has come to expect is to continue to build strong relations with EVERYONE in our community - so we can work together to solve problems and issues that affect all of us.
The greatest measure of our success is the public’s satisfaction. This is not something we take lightly and will continue to work every day to improve. Please let us know if you have any suggestions, questions, or concerns.
Make sure you get out and vote on Tuesday November 8th!!
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What prompted you to write this piece? Why did you feel that this was the proper forum to address this subject? I think it’s important to remind our communities here in Dodge County the quality of Deputies we have here serving and the high standards we hold them to. Utilizing the local county newspapers is a great way to reach the citizens of our county.
As a public elected official, do you feel that your piece may alienate members of the minority communities that live in your county that you serve? Could you explain? As a public elected official, I believe it’s my responsibility to share beliefs and stories like this in an effort to reach out to those we serve to reinforce the fact that we have a diverse group of men and women who are committed to equally serving everyone in our community, regardless of color. It’s equally important to reinforce the fact that the negative anti-law enforcement rhetoric that we’ve endured in our state and nationwide is not an accurate reflection of law enforcement in our county.
Was this piece written as a stance from the sheriff or as an individual? I think my columns are a combination of both. My stances as Sheriff are in great part due to my upbringing, core beliefs, experiences, training, and leadership philosophy.
Was this the first instance that anyone from your office encountered a comment like this in the area? Were there ever incidents in race relations during your time within Dodge County? I rarely ever hear about any racial comments like this made towards our deputies – that’s why it got my attention. I don’t recall any “incidents” of race relations here in Dodge County since I’ve been here.
As the head of the Sheriff’s Office, what responsibilities do you have in a situation such as this where a deputy is called a racist? What particularly about this incident caused you to write this piece? Have law enforcement not dealt with any other situation where a suspect was insulting an officer? We are very fortunate to live and work in a community that is very supportive of law enforcement. When I hear about comments like this it’s my responsibility as Sheriff to review any allegations to ensure our staff handled the incident in a professional and respectful manner – to ensure allegations like these against our men and women are unfounded – or respond appropriately if something was handled improperly.
Are there any plans to train your office in race relations? Do you feel that is necessary? Race relations are often incorporated into various trainings that we currently participate in.
There was this particular sentence in your piece that stated “Today I’m sad to say that I find myself being more guarded and cautious dealing with someone who is African-American, not because they are black, but because I worry now that they now assume I am racist because of my badge.” Do you feel that you are able to perform your duty as sheriff in protecting all residents in your county if you hold that particular feeling toward a community? Why do you feel that way, and what has changed in your perception of the black community? I believe an important part of addressing racial concerns in our communities is being honest on both sides. It’s important for us in law enforcement to better understand the concerns minority groups have in our communities. We recognize that here in Minnesota and nationwide, minority groups have many valid concerns that our law enforcement and our communities should be discussing. It’s also equally important for us to be honest about the impact and actions of some of these groups have on the men and women who serve in law enforcement. My statement was bluntly honest – I find myself questioning now when I have contact with someone in our community who is African American – do they assume I’m racist because of my badge? Prior to Black Lives Matter, this connection never crossed my mind. I still don’t judge anyone by the color of their skin and never will - I equally hope they won’t judge me because I wear a badge. While I recognize that there are many involved with organizations like Black Lives Matter that truly want to make a difference with minority relations, these groups often fail to call out inappropriate or illegal behavior within their protests causing more harm than good – overshadowing their good intentions. It’s my responsibility as Sheriff to ensure we continue to maintain good minority relations within our community and respond to all incidents equally and appropriately – and to take action if they are not. It’s also my responsibility to back up our staff and call out any allegations against our agency when they’re determined to be unfounded.
Dodge County statistically is comprised of 97.2 percent white people, and 0.7 percent African American according to the most recent U.S. Census numbers. Do you think it’s fair to compare the issues of Dodge County where there is little ethnic diversity to incidents that have occurred in larger metropolitan areas such as St. Paul where racial diversity is higher? While I recognize there are incidents of racism within law enforcement that need to be addressed throughout the country, I believe it’s dangerous when leaders in our state and national governments, along with organizations like Black Lives Matter, suggest (without facts to back it up) that systematic racism is a widespread problem within all law enforcement agencies nationwide – this only fuels anti-law enforcement rhetoric and behavior that negatively affects all of us in this profession – regardless of the size or the diversity of our communities.
As a public elected official, do you feel that your piece may alienate members of the minority communities that live in your county that you serve? Could you explain? As a public elected official, I believe it’s my responsibility to share beliefs and stories like this in an effort to reach out to those we serve to reinforce the fact that we have a diverse group of men and women who are committed to equally serving everyone in our community, regardless of color. It’s equally important to reinforce the fact that the negative anti-law enforcement rhetoric that we’ve endured in our state and nationwide is not an accurate reflection of law enforcement in our county.
Have you ever reached out to the local chapter of Black Lives Matter organization or have been reached out to from them to start a conversation about their organization and movement? Would you ever consider doing so? I have no interest in meeting with BLM about race relations in our county. My office door is always open to discuss any issues and/or concerns with those living in the communities we serve. I believe we can best address local concerns with local citizens who have a vested interest in our county.
I had a Deputy walk in my office last week and tell me, “I was called a racist today on a traffic stop!” With everything going on in our state and nationwide, that obviously got my attention. He continued to explain how he had done a traffic stop and wrote the gentleman a ticket for not having a valid driver’s license. Apparently because of these actions, the driver (who was African American) accused him of being racist. Really?
For those of you that don’t know my background, I grew up in Dodge County and attended K-12th grade in Kasson. My father was a career long teacher and a deputy while my mom stayed home and raised me and three brothers. Growing up here, the only non-white students I can really remember were the foreign exchange students. We weren’t very diverse in the 70’s and early 80’s here in Dodge. As kids, we all really enjoyed these students – learning about their new culture while sharing ours. I still keep in contact with some today via Facebook.
When I went to broadcasting school in Phoenix Arizona I met my first openly gay friend, a fellow broadcasting student. While I didn’t pretend to understand what he was going thru, I did stick up for him when others picked on him. When I moved to my first broadcasting job in SE Nebraska in 1988, I became friends with the radio station’s consultant who was from Memphis Tennessee. Leon and I ended up being roommates there and have been lifelong friends since. Leon was a large black man with a big heart and even bigger smile. I learned so much from that man while working for that company, both about the radio business and about people.
As an adult I now have relatives that are African American, South African, Mexican, Chinese, Japanese, Canadian, European, and Australian. I have relatives that are straight, and I have relatives that are gay. In my career in law enforcement, I’ve had the opportunity to work with great people from all backgrounds – I’ve worked with deputies and officers that are Mexican, African American, Haitian, and Asian, male, female, homosexual, and lesbian. I love my family and my law enforcement family – and I enjoy the diversity we have. I love learning about history and of different cultures. I’m sure our deputies and other staff have stories very similar to mine.
The blanket label of racism that some groups are placing on law enforcement nationwide has proven dangerous and divisive. It frustrates me to no end that someone may assume that because I wear a badge, I’m racist? They couldn’t be further from the truth, which is usually the case with career law enforcement officers – especially with our staff. While I know there are many involved with good intentions, movements like Black Lives Matter lose any credibility with law enforcement when they stand silent while officers are murdered and groups riot cities and destroy businesses in the name of BLM. While their movement was started to address racism, when they turn a blind eye to violence against cops it does nothing more than fuel race tensions within the law enforcement community. With their actions, or lack of action in many instances, they’ve in essence become part of the problem, not the solution. For example, prior to BLM, I don’t recall ever thinking about black people differently when dealing with them as a deputy. Today, I’m sad to say that I find myself being more guarded and cautious when dealing with someone who is African American while in uniform – not because they are black - but because I worry now that they now assume I am racist because of my badge. Is this the BLM affect? How is this helping race relations? Sadly, regardless of good intentions, I fear organizations like BLM are only making things worse. Shooting related deaths for law enforcement officers is up 78% compared to this same time last year. In the past few weeks we’ve suffered mass shootings in Dallas and Baton Rouge where officers were targeted simply because they were cops – five died in Dallas and three in Baton Rouge with many more injured.
I wish I could tell you I have the answers on how to fix this, but I don’t. I get so frustrated watching the national news and seeing many of our leaders, state and national, choosing politics over peace officers. I can tell you that we have an amazing group of men and women serving in this county. While we’ve been fortunate enough not to have any issues since I’ve been here, we do not and will not tolerate any semblance of racism within our organization. That I can tell you with utmost confidence.
If you are stopped and get a ticket from one of our deputies for driving with an invalid driver’s license, or any other crime for that matter – you got the ticket or were charged because you broke the law. Period. Not because of the color of your skin. That I can also tell you with utmost confidence.
Thanks to all who’ve shown our staff your support over these past weeks and months. Even the smallest gesture of appreciation means a lot to our men and women who serve.
RESPONSE TO THE DALLAS ATTACKS
Shocked, saddened, concerned, frustrated, and angry. These are some of the expressions I saw in our office last week after the Dallas Shootings. Last Thursday America witnessed one of the most deadly ambush and assassinations of law enforcement officers in US History.
We have a system of justice in this country - a system that we must give a chance to work. In today’s society, cases like those in Baton Rouge and Falcon Heights involving law enforcement are often judged within hours of the incident - emotional responses formed from social media posts and/or cell phone video long before all the facts of these cases are known. This rush to judgement without the facts is dangerous, fueling incidents like we experienced in Dallas last Thursday, and with the violent protests over the weekend. Our Governor’s response to the Falcon Heights incident is a perfect example of this. His comments implied the St. Anthony officer’s actions were driven by his being racist, further suggesting by his statements that we are faced with the issue that this kind of racism exists within law enforcement here in Minnesota. Our President’s emotional response cited incidents like ours in Falcon Heights are symptomatic of broader problems within law enforcement. All this before few if any facts had been released about these incidents. What happened to these officers’ right to due process? What happened to our leaderships’ responsibility to remain impartial and unbiased? Its statements like these from our leaders that further fuels the anti-law enforcement movement we are facing in this country, making our jobs even more dangerous than it already is – evident by the information released indicating the shooter in Dallas was angered by the incidents in Louisiana and Minnesota this week. Statements, in my opinion, that were irresponsible and very disappointing.
The emotional response to incidents like Baton Rouge and Falcon Heights continue to shed a very dark light on our profession – events sensationalized by national media when in reality, they are highlighting the bad decisions made by a fraction of a percentage of nearly 1,000,000 dedicated law enforcement officers nationwide - law enforcement officers that have taken on responsibilities and risks in their respective communities that most would never consider. With incidents like Ferguson for example, we often see victims’ families and friends, along with organizations like Black Lives Matter, politicizing these emotional responses nationwide thru social and main stream media within hours of the incident – while law enforcement may need days and weeks to gather all the facts and respond. Facts that often show the officer was reasonable and/or appropriate in his/her actions long after they’ve been convicted guilty by public opinion.
If I sound a little defensive, it’s because I take great offense when the media and some of our state and national leadership politicize incidents like these - painting our national law enforcement as cold, calculated, racist, uncaring, trigger happy cops. Minnesota has some of the best trained law enforcement in the country – one of the few states requiring a law enforcement degree to be licensed.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, here locally in Dodge County we have an amazing team of men and women serving our community. For example, their dedication evident by the quality and numbers of public comments and commendations warranting Supervisory Letters of Appreciation that we award each year. These are letters are presented to Deputies by their supervisors when they go above and beyond the call, and when the public reaches out to recognize exceptional staff with comments like:
“Your Deputies, Dispatchers, and 1st responders involved my medical emergency were the most compassionate, caring and professional people I’ve ever dealt with….”
“We really appreciate you always stopping in and chatting with staff and customers. We’ve noticed our customers are also becoming more comfortable with the Sheriff’s Office….”
“The kids really appreciated that you took the time to stop and interact and get to know them. These children now have a high respect for you….”
I could not be more proud of the men and women who serve the Dodge County Sheriff’s Office. We recognize here in Dodge County our primary mission is helping people. A mission best accomplished by an agency full of men and women willing to take true ownership in the communities they’re sworn to serve and protect. With this belief we are working hard to continue to hire and maintain staff with that same mentality and ethic. The community’s satisfaction with our staff and our services is the single greatest measure of our success. We will continue to remain positive and professional while proactively and aggressively addressing the problems and challenges our communities face here in Dodge County.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of the Dallas Officers who were injured and killed last week.
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Your son is a senior in High School, some of the best years of his life. He is doing very well in school, he’s active in his community, and he’s planning on going into the Marines in the fall. You’ve got a graduation to plan. A Grad Party to get ready for. Your son, who has also been serving as a volunteer fire fighter, has decided to do his senior project on the dangers of distracted or impaired driving. Things couldn’t be better. It’s going to be a great year.
Then you get that phone call….your son is gone.
The Maas Family in Dodge Center lived this nightmare this year when their son Logan was killed in a car accident last winter. He was not wearing his seatbelt – which would have saved his life.
The effects of his loss could be seen throughout Triton High School on Sunday June 5th, graduation day. His classmates wore an orange cord in his memory and released orange balloons after the ceremony. His diploma and orange cord were presented to Matt and Julie, his parents. His absence was felt by everyone.
As the Maas family goes thru the grieving process trying to figure out how to move on with their lives without Logan, one fact is very clear to them – Logan would want them to use his story to remind everyone the importance of seatbelt use. He would want his story to be used to help save lives.
In 2015, Logan and 90 other unbelted motorists lost their lives on Minnesota Roads. While we have a 94 percent compliance for front seatbelts, we obviously still have a lot of work to do.
Logan was a rear passenger in the vehicle he was riding in. In Minnesota, the seatbelt law is a primary offense, meaning drivers and passengers in all seating positions – including the back seats – must be buckled up or in the correct child restraint:
- All children must be in a child restraint until they are 4’9” tall, or at least age 8
- Newborns to at least 1 year old and 20 pounds must be in a rear facing child seat
- Age 2 until around age 4 should be in a forward facing child seat
- After outgrowing forward facing harness restraints, booster seats should be used
Law enforcement will be out in force this summer looking for seat belt violators. Drivers will be ticketed for unbelted passengers ages 14 and under. Unbelted passengers age 15 and older will be ticketed directly. We’ve heard all the excuses……
I buckle up most of the time, but not if I am just going a few blocks to the store.
FACT: The majority of motor vehicle crashes occur within 25 miles of home in areas where the speed limit is 40mph or less. A crash at only 12 mph can be fatal.
We’ll never have a crash – I’m a good driver.
FACT: Good drivers can be hit by bad drivers, distracted drivers, intoxicated drivers, aggressive or inattentive drivers. Wildlife or other sudden hazards may be impossible to avoid.
My baby was crying, so I was holding her. I could protect her in a crash.
FACT: In a 30 mph crash, a 10 pound baby can suddenly be ripped from a belted adult’s arms with a force of over 300 pounds and launched into the dashboard or windshield. No matter how strong you are, you cannot hold onto a baby in a crash.
I knew someone who died in a car crash because they were wearing their seatbelt.
FACT: If someone wearing their seatbelt dies in a crash, it certainly wasn’t because they were buckled up. The crash was most likely so severe and devastating that only not being in that car at that moment would have prevented a fatality.
This summer will be a busy one for family and friends – outings with friends, family vacations, working hard and playing hard. Sit down and talk with your family and kids about the importance of seatbelt use and be sure to lead by example and always wear your seatbelt.
Logan’s message: Protect yourself and your family by buckling up – every seat, every time.
Pass it on!
Law Enforcement has certainly seen some drastic changes in the past decade or two, even more so in the last few years. Our honorable profession, in many areas of the country, has gone from respected to resented, from thanked to threatened. While this fortunately isn’t an accurate reflection of our county – it is a potential reality our officers and deputies risk every day with every call.
In the mid 80’s law enforcement agencies like Rochester were getting nearly 400 applicants when they posted for open positions, in the 90’s there were usually over 200 applicants. Today, they may get only 50 applicants for just a handful of openings.
We’re now seeing officers and families make the decision to change careers due to the current climate and national sentiment by some towards law enforcement – many of these resignations fueled by incidents like Ferguson and others that followed. For example, Colorado Springs Police Department had over 50 resignations last year. Many of those officers, and their families, cited the job had just become too risky.
Nearly 1,500 law enforcement officers died in the line of duty during the past 10 years – an average of one death every 60 hours, with 117 killed in the line of duty last year. Nearly 60,000 assaults against law enforcement are reported annually, resulting in around 15,000 injuries.
Law Enforcement must be willing to work nights, weekends, and holidays. Must be willing to miss special family dates – birthdays, anniversaries, school events, etc. They must be willing to always run towards the threat often risking their lives for people they often don’t even know. They have to be willing to be on heightened alert daily due to the violence against law enforcement nationwide – they need to be on guard and watch their backs both at work and off-duty with their families. Officers need to accept that their families will deal with a tremendous amount of stress with all the negative publicity towards law enforcement. Their kids may likely get teased or worse at school and must know to watch their backs too. Officers must be available at a moment’s notice for emergencies. They must be willing to work under the public microscope every day and know that the actions they take in a split second will be arm-chair quarterbacked by many – lawyers, media, and community. They must understand that they will be held to a higher standard than others both on and off duty. Finally, officers need to know the job will not likely pay enough for them to avoid needing a part-time job to raise a family and make ends meet.
So the question is – Why do people still sign up for this?
While law enforcement in our area and around the state and country will share various reasons for becoming an officer, the common answer is that they genuinely care about people, and want to help people in need. These are the men and women that are successful and survive in this profession. Most have a strong sense of community, and right and wrong. Most also have a strong sense of community. They are truly amazing people!
We encourage our deputies to live here in Dodge County and to take ownership in our community. They are very active in our community and are always open to questions or concerns from the public, whether at home, at the store, or at a local restaurant. This community policing philosophy helps us earn the trust and respect of the public that we serve. The better our communication is with the public, the better we can work together to solve problems in our neighborhoods.
While it may sound cliché, I went into law enforcement because I truly wanted to help people. I wanted to give back and make a difference in the community I grew up in – which was Kasson. I wanted to try and help make Dodge County a safe place for my kids to grow up in, a safe place for my family and friends to raise their kids. I’ve always believed in the importance of taking an active ownership role in my community. These actions are important not only as a law enforcement officer, but as a parent in my opinion. These actions along with the strong sense of “community” that officers teach and share with their families often results in their kids following in their footsteps – as I did with my father, and as my oldest son did with me. We’re working hard to employee law enforcement professionals here at the Sheriff’s Office who all share this same belief and philosophy.
This career is certainly not for everyone. We’ve seen several come and go who realized that it wasn’t for them. Those of us that have been here for a while have seen dramatic changes, especially the increased risks to deputy safety and the stress it puts on family. In spite of this, we still come to work every day because we want to help people - because we genuinely care about the public that has entrusted us to put the badge on and do this job.
The next time you see your local officer or deputy out working day and night, in good weather and in bad, on the weekends, and on holidays – please remember the sacrifices they and their families make for your safety everyday they put on that badge and uniform. These are truly amazing people.
Scott* return to column index
In 1962, President John F. Kennedy signed a proclamation which designated May 15th as Peace Officers Memorial Day and the week in which that date falls as Police Week. When President Kennedy signed this proclamation, we had 155 men and women who had died in the Line of Duty here in Minnesota.
Fast forward to today, we’ve had 275 Minnesota Line of Duty deaths with the loss of Steven Sandberg from Aitkin County back in October.
On May 15th tens of thousands of law enforcement officers from around the world will converge on Washington DC to participate in a number of planned events which honor those that have made the ultimate sacrifice.
Here in Minnesota we’ll start locally with the 2016 Law Enforcement Memorial Program on Friday the 13th at Soldiers Field Memorial in Rochester. This will give us an opportunity to remember the officers and families that have given the ultimate sacrifice here in SE Minnesota – including Captain Loring Guenther who was our state’s 273rd Line of Duty death, the third one in our county, and the first one for our Sheriff’s Office. This is a very impressive program and is open to the public.
Saturday May 14th the annual Standing of the Memorial Guard at the Peace Officers Memorial on the Minnesota State Capitol grounds will commence at 7pm. Officers from all over Minnesota will travel to St. Paul where they will stand in silent vigil for 20 minutes shifts. This is done to keep alive the memories of the 275 fallen law enforcement officer in Minnesota who have lost their lives while protecting their communities. This vigil will continue throughout the night and until the following day when the officers will complete the standing of the guard at 7pm.
Sunday May 15th we will then honor all law enforcement officers who have given their lives in the line of duty in Minnesota and nationwide. Following the Standing of the Memorial Guard, the Law Enforcement Memorial Association will host a Candlelight Service there at the memorial.
The general public is invited to attend this moving celebration where tribute will be paid to all 275 fallen officers through a combination of police bagpipe music, vocal solos and full music compositions. The ceremony will be begin at 7:25pm on Sunday with a parade of law enforcement honor guards who will march to the Capital grounds from Wabasha and Exchange. This is a very impressive parade. The event concludes with a ceremonial firing party, taps and final musical selections which will include the Minnesota Police Band playing Amazing Grace.
If you have the opportunity to attend one of these programs, I would encourage you to do so and help us honor those who’ve fallen. If you can’t, I ask that you to please remember these great men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice to help keep our county, our state, and our country safe. It’s also just as important to remember the families of the fallen, on this day and always, to show them your support and appreciation. While every day can certainly be a challenge for the family and friends of the fallen, this can be an especially tough week.
Today, with all the recent attention towards law enforcement nationwide, the Thin Blue Line symbol is often seen displayed in many places – especially on social media. I often wonder how many people outside the law enforcement circle really know the various meanings behind the Thin Blue Line.
The Thin Blue Line is said to have actually originated in the United Kingdom before becoming prevalent in the United States and many other countries. The use of the color blue is because of it being the traditional color for law enforcement, more specifically for police departments. The concept of the Thin Blue Line was introduced to pop culture here in the United States in 1988 in a documentary with the same name. The Thin Blue Line told the story of a man convicted of murder and sentenced to life for a crime he did not commit. In the film, the prosecutor referenced a “thin blue line” during his closing argument, saying that the "Thin Blue Line" (referencing the police) separated society from anarchy.
Today, the common interpretation is the Thin Blue Line represents the thin line law enforcement walks daily between life and death – law enforcement being the thin blue line that separates the good from bad, the barrier between anarchy and a civilized society. Some suggest the black represents the unknowns we face every day we put on the badge. Others suggest that the two sections of black symbolize each side represented – the Thin Blue Line separating the good from the bad, the public from the criminal, decency from lawlessness. It symbolizes law enforcement’s responsibility to protect the citizens through the power of our laws.
This symbol is also used in law enforcement memorials – the black representing those that have paid the ultimate sacrifice and the blue line representing those who continue serving our communities today. At its core, the Thin Blue Line is a symbol of solidarity for police officers, their families, and their supporters.
The Thin Blue Line represents your local Sheriff’s Deputies and Police Officers who work day and night to keep your neighborhoods and your family safe. These men and women are courageous and compassionate, fearless and fair, brave and benevolent. They are ready to serve, prepared to save, and willing to protect – even if it means giving their life for yours.
Whatever the true intended meaning if the Thin Blue Line, the important thing to remember is its significance to those who find solidarity in it. It’s an important cultural symbol, a calling card for law enforcement, a rally cry identifying this special group, their bond, their loyalty, and their dedication to their brothers and sisters serving in your communities.
A PUBLIC OFFICE IS A PUBLIC TRUST
In Minnesota, if you are around anyone that works for a Sheriff’s Office, they will likely correct you if you refer to them as a Sheriff’s Department. They’ll tell you it’s a Sheriff’s Office – not department.
When I worked as a civilian for the Rochester Police Department in their Crime Prevention Unit, I had the opportunity to see then Olmsted County Sheriff Steve Borchardt (retired) correct many people on this, in his own thoughtful and eloquent way.
A department is run by an appointed official (i.e. Police Chief) – an office by an elected official. An appointed official is selected by an interview/selection process conducted by other appointed officials. Appointed officials usually answer to another appointed official, who answers to more layers of administration that separate that appointed official from the public they serve. This system of layers often encourages the appointed official to value their relationship with their superior over their relationship with their staff and citizens they serve (i.e. self-preservation). Certainly there are intelligent and responsible appointed officials that would argue this point including the police chief’s in our county who do a great job – it is not an all-inclusive point of view. This is however why we hear about police chiefs that acquiesce to “sanctuary cities” – because the elected officials to whom they report require that of them to keep their jobs. This is why we hear about police chiefs bending to political or activist group demands – because the people they answer to are often blinded by political correctness and all too often make emotional decisions about law enforcement issues they have no understanding of.
An elected officer like a Sheriff, is not insulated from the citizens by multiple layers of government – they don’t answer to a county board or county supervisors. They have a direct relationship and are personally responsible to each and every citizen in his/her county. This direct relationship with the citizens is by virtue of the vote. The months long electoral process is a much more rigorous selection process than any interview or application process and creates in the candidate a very definite belief that they are personally connected to and responsible to the citizens that selected them.
This is why you see Sheriffs speaking out on behalf of their citizens on matters of gun rights, sanctuary cities, and other issues. The elected Sheriff who has survived the electoral process is acutely aware of who they answer to, and it’s the citizens of the county - not some other official or board. This relationship becomes very personal. That is why you see sheriffs at community meetings, council meetings, township meetings, community festivals, parades, etc. - not simply to be seen and meet and greet but because when the Sheriff is out amongst them, he/she is personally accessible to their citizens - accessible/available/responsible. That is why you’ll see Sheriffs go to fatality scenes, meet with families, and even attend funerals....because it is personal.
Retired Sheriff Don Gudmundson (who served in Fillmore, Dakota, and Steele County) is another retired Sheriff I have great respect for. He would remind citizens when discussing his office, that it’s “the peoples’ office”. He would explain that the people had simply trusted the office to his temporary keeping as Sheriff.
Being elected to the office of Sheriff implies a level of personal trust that exceeds that of the appointed official. The elected officer is not an "employee" filling a job; rather, they are an officer serving a public office. This is by no means meant to minimize the importance of appointed chiefs, just to explain the difference between the two – the Sheriff’s Office is all about personal trust that is borne of the electoral process.
"A public office is a public trust." This means that Sheriffs, as public officers, must at all times be accountable to the people, serve them with utmost responsibility, integrity, loyalty and efficiency, and act with patriotism and justice.
So the next time you hear someone say Sheriff’s Department, you can now share with them why it’s not a department, it’s an office – it’s the peoples’ Sheriff’s Office.
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COURTHOUSE SECURITY / WEAPONS SCREENING
Over the years there have been numerous incidents of courthouse violence throughout the country. We know that it can happen anywhere, in any court or government facility, often with tragic consequences. Here in Minnesota a fatal shooting in the Hennepin County Courthouse in 2003 prompted tighter security in the downtown Minneapolis Government Center. In December of 2011, a defendant critically wounded three people in the Cook County Courthouse in Grand Marais, which did not have a metal detector or deputy working security. In January of 2015 in New Hope, a gunman opened fire on two officers after a swearing in ceremony at the city hall. In this case the two officers who were injured exchanged gunfire with the suspect killing him before anyone else was hurt. In addition to the numerous law enforcement officer shootings throughout the country in the past year, one of the most recent public employee shootings gaining national attention was a social worker in Vermont who was shot and killed at work by a client upset about losing custody of her 9 year old child.
In response to the ever growing concerns of safety within the Public Safety area of our courthouse, we have been working to develop a new Weapons Screening Program and Courthouse Security Program here in Dodge County – programs that we have started this month.
The newly remodeled Public Safety area of the courthouse includes the Sheriff’s Office, Probation, County Attorney’s Office, Public Defender’s Office, Drug Court, Victim Services and the Courts. The only public entrance to the courthouse is now the double doors by the flag pole on the northeast side of the building. You can also enter thru the south lower level doors to Human Services. When you are here for court or to visit anyone in the Public Safety area, you will now be required to go thru weapons screening. The deputy at the screening area will require you to walk thru a metal detector and will check any coats or bags for weapons. Firearms are prohibited by a judge’s order anywhere within the entire Courthouse Government Services Complex.
In addition to screening, you will also see a more prevalent law enforcement presence in and around the complex, along with armed deputies in every court hearing. Unfortunately, this is the world we live in today.
Our goal is to provide the highest level of safety and security possible to the judge and her staff, our county employees, and to the public. While it will most certainly be a learning curve for visitors and staff here at the courthouse, these needed changes will help make the courthouse a safer place for all.
Thanks in advance for your patience during this time.
During one of our recent cold spells, Rosie and I were on our way home from shopping in Rochester when we saw a minivan in the eastbound lane a few miles west of town stopped on the shoulder, hood up, and no lights on. I looked down at my dash and it indicated the temperature was below zero and it was windy, so we knew the wind-chill was dangerously low. I then saw someone standing on the roadway by the van who I assumed was the owner, with nobody else around.
My first thought was we have to turn around and check on the guy, it’s too cold to be standing out there for too long. We continued west towards Byron and turned around at the first intersection and drove east until we saw the van. We pulled up behind it and saw a young man standing outside the vehicle.
I walked up to him and he explained that he was on his way to work when his vehicle quit working, he wasn’t able to reach any of his friends by phone because his wasn’t working, and he had been trying to flag down help from someone. He said he couldn’t get anyone to stop. I told him we could give him a ride to where ever he needed to go to get help. Rosie and I gave him a ride into Rochester to his house so he could get help to retrieve his vehicle. He also used our phone to call his employer to let him know he would be late. He had been without heat for over 15 minutes outside and was very cold. He was very polite and appreciative.
The reason I bring this story up is because it was very disappointing to find that I was the first one to stop. To my knowledge, nobody driving by called law enforcement to get help for him either.
My question for you is – would you stop? Let’s ad more to the story – would it matter if it was a young male standing outside trying to flag you down? I’m sure many of you would stop. How about it if was a female, or a senior citizen? I’m sure many more might be willing to stop. How about if it was a minority? African American, Hispanic, Asian, etc.? How about Middle Eastern?
Unfortunately, the national media has done a tremendous job of vilifying minorities, especially as of late. Middle Easterners with all the conflicts with ISIS. Hispanics with the boarder issues, illegal status debates, and some of the recent crimes committed by undocumented immigrants. African Americans with all the hype regarding Black Lives Matter, anti-law enforcement rhetoric, and black on black crime – they’ve been all over the national media this past year. Does that influence how we act? We’d like to say no, but that’s not always the case.
This young man that we stopped to help was African American. I really hope that’s not why no one chose to stop and help before we did. He was simply a kid with car problems who was cold and looking for help. We stopped because it was the right thing to do – because it’s what we would have wanted him to do for us. He was polite and appreciative – a very nice kid!
If you see an occupied vehicle broke down on the side of the road and they look like they need assistance, especially during the cold winter months, stop if you feel safe to do so. If you have any concerns for your safety, don’t stop. Your safety and your family’s safety comes first - but note the location and description of the vehicle and call law enforcement to make sure help is on the way.
As we enter into the New Year, especially with a national election year, we are going to get even more inundated with negative national media. Negative and divisive media coverage regarding religious and political groups, regarding minority groups, and regarding cops. While it’s often easier said than done, we must try and not judge someone based on their skin color, religion, profession, or political preference – judgment so often motivated and fueled by the nation media covering the wrongful actions of a few. We are so fortunate to live and work here in southeast Minnesota, in an area where we’re are often insulated from many of the issues plaguing neighborhoods around the country. While it’s important to keep you and your family safe, I challenge everyone to make an honest effort to not let the divisive rhetoric affect how we treat people, especially our neighbors here in Dodge County and southeast Minnesota.
Happy New year everyone.
As we near the end of another year, we want to remind everyone - “If you see something, say something!” As you are out with friends and family shopping, traveling, and celebrating Christmas and the New Year, please make sure to report any suspicious activity to law enforcement.
Terrorism, both domestic and international, is on everyone’s mind with all the events of this past year. While Homeland Security has no information on specific threats here in Minnesota, we know that incidents like the most recent terrorist shooting in San Bernardino California can happen without warning.
Whether you are visiting family and friends across the country, or right here in SE Minnesota, there are some simple things that you can do to help keep your loved ones safe:
WATCH FOR SUSPICIOUS ACTIVITY
- Unusual items or situations: A vehicle is parked in an odd location, a package/luggage is unattended, a window/door is open that is usually closed, or other out-of-the-ordinary situations occur.
- Eliciting information: A person questions individuals at a level beyond curiosity about a building’s purpose, operations, security procedures and/or personnel, shift changes, etc.
- Observation/surveillance: Someone pays unusual attention to facilities or buildings beyond a casual or professional interest. This includes extended loitering without explanation (particularly in concealed locations); unusual, repeated, and/or prolonged observation of a building (e.g., with binoculars or video camera); taking notes or measurements; counting paces; sketching floor plans, etc. Also someone paying unusual attention to persons or children that aren’t with them or their party.
Some of these activities could be innocent—but by reporting this activity you allow law enforcement to determine whether the behavior warrants investigation. If you see suspicious activity, report it to local law enforcement or a person of authority.
Describe specifically what you observed, including:
- Who or what you saw;
- When you saw it;
- Where it occurred; and
- Why it's suspicious.
When away from home be sure to lock everything up – vehicles, buildings, home, windows, etc. Leave some lights on in your home, or on a timer, to keep potential intruders wondering if someone is home or not. If you have an extra vehicle that can be left out in your driveway, this can also discourage potential intruders from trying.
If you are going to be away from home for an extended time, call your local law enforcement and request “Residential Checks” while you are gone. This gives our deputies an opportunity to check your property while you are away. We will ask for your contact information, key holder information, what vehicles will be there, and what lights will be on in your home. With this information we can help keep an eye on your property and contact you if there are any problems or concerns.
While officials are suggesting heightened security and awareness nationwide during the holidays, it’s not intended to induce fear or panic – we all need to go about our normal business and activities. The goal is for everyone to be informed and stay alert! The more we aware we are of our surroundings and potential “red flags”, the more we can all play a critical role in keeping our neighborhoods and our country safe.
From our staff here at the Dodge County Sheriff’s Office, we wish you and yours a Merry Christmas and safe and Happy New Year!
I had a citizen make the suggestion recently that law enforcement officers here in Dodge County don’t deal with the same kind of threats that some of the bigger agencies deal with – implying that our officers are overpaid for the work they do. The reality is the threats we deal with in a smaller community like Dodge County are very much the same as the bigger agencies. We deal with the same problems and challenges - sometimes on a smaller scale and less frequent, often times with greater risk to our officers.
I pulled calls from this past weekend and found that Dodge County (not including Kasson PD and West Concord PD) had over 100 calls for service. Some of the higher priority officer safety calls were as follows:
SUICIDAL SUBJECT WITH WEAPON
SUSPICIOUS ACTIVITY CALL / BURGLARY
SUSPICIOUS ACTIVITY CALL / BURGLARY
BURGLARY / SUSPECT RAN ON FOOT
SUSPICIOUS VEHICLE / GUN SHOTS
SUSPICIOUS PERSON / SCHOOL PLAYGROUND
PERSON BREAKING INTO VEHICLES
THREATS – SUSPECT THREATENING IN FIELD ARMED
THREATS – SUSPECT THREATENING TO DAMAGE TO HOME
THREATS - SUSPECT THREATENING TO KILL COMPLAINANT
WARRANT ARREST – SUBJECT WANTED IN TWO COUNTIES FOR NARCOTICS
All too often in smaller communities like ours the challenges and risks our deputies and officers take during their regular shifts go unreported, which sometimes results in a somewhat skewed sense of security. This is certainly not a reflection on our local media, it’s merely a reflection of law enforcement’s distrust of media in general. Many in law enforcement often feel it’s a lose/lose proposition dealing with the media in some areas of the state and country. If there’s a lot of crime being reported – people feel the cops aren’t doing their jobs. If there is no crime being reported – people feel the cops aren’t doing their jobs. Fortunately, we live in a great community here in Dodge County that generally is very supportive of law enforcement – support we also see from our local newspapers and TV stations.
Several communities that had Line of Duty deaths in the US this year are smaller communities like ours, including the Aitkin County murder of Investigator Steve Sandberg. This doesn’t even touch the issue of assaults on officers nationwide - over 48,000 officers assaulted in 2014.
The biggest difference we see with smaller rural community law enforcement is they don’t have back up officers available within seconds or a few minutes like in the bigger cities. Our backup could be 15 minutes or more away – sometimes much longer with smaller rural agencies. In a force encounter where someone struggles with an officer, that officer can hit his/her personal fatigue threshold as soon as 30-60 seconds after the start of a struggle depending on the circumstances. If an officer knows he/she is nearing their fatigue threshold, they must act quickly to control the subject(s). In this case it’s often necessary for the officer to escalate to a greater level of force than may otherwise appear objectively reasonable. This is where we often see excessive use of force allegations – allegations that are often unfounded once all the facts are reviewed. Cell phone videos and short news stories rarely ever tell the “rest of the story” when it comes to the realities of a violent law enforcement confrontation.
Our deputies and officers deal with all the stresses, problems and concerns felt in the bigger agencies. They’re on heightened alert daily due to the violence against law enforcement nationwide – they are on guard at work and they are on guard off-duty with their families. Their families also deal with a tremendous amount of stress with all the negative publicity towards law enforcement. They watch their loved ones walk out the door and pray each day and night that they come home safe at the end of their shift.
The men and women that serve as deputies and officers here in Dodge County and greater Southeast Minnesota do take on the same risk as any metro officers every day they come to work. The next time you see your local officer out working day and night, in good weather and in bad, on the weekends, and on holidays – remember the sacrifices they and their families make for your safety everyday they put on that badge and uniform. If anything, they are very underpaid for what they do.
This morning in Goodhue County and in Dodge County we had reports of a black minivan driving slowly on various rural county roads. One rural resident reported a male in a van matching this description knocking on their door. When the home owner answered, the suspect asked her if she wanted to complete a survey. She declined and he quickly left the area. These are the types of calls we are seeing now with daytime burglaries throughout the region.
Daytime burglaries have become much more common in our area than ever before. Especially now that school is back in session. The typical daytime burglar is a narcotics user, looking for some fast cash to support his/her addiction. They will ring your doorbell or knock on the door, often times in the mid or late morning hours when they anticipate you are at work. If someone answers, they will come up with some bogus story - looking for directions, selling something, doing a survey, etc. If nobody answers, they try to find the easiest way to get in the house and typically go directly to the master bedroom. They are going to look for cash and jewelry. If they continue they will likely grab any high dollar electronics in the house and power tools from the garage. Please document and photograph your valuables – without documentation and proof the property is yours, it becomes very difficult to recover stolen property.
Here are a few tips to make your home a tougher target for these criminals:
LOCK DOORS AND WINDOWS
Over 50% of the time burglars will go thru the front door or main floor window. A nice breeze inside is nice when you are home, but be sure to lock your doors and windows when you leave. Keep bushes and trees trimmed around windows to make it harder for burglars to sneak in.
LOCK VEHICLES AND OUT-BUILDINGS
We see citizens locking their garage or outbuilding in the county yet they often leave their vehicles unlocked with keys in them. Be sure to lock vehicles, remove keys, and secure buildings. An unlocked building or vehicle is simply an invitation for trouble.
LEAVE A VEHICLE VISIBLE OUTSIDE
One easy deterrent can simply be leaving a vehicle locked and visible outside. Seeing that vehicle outside could be enough for the burglar to decide not to check your residence.
HIGH TECH SECURITY
Lighting can be a big deterrent for burglars casing your property in the dark. They will often avoid properties with motion lighting and bright yard lights. There are also many home security options available today, with prices that have become more and more affordable.
MAN’S BEST FRIEND
Dogs, large and small, can also be an effective deterrent to burglars. Many interviewed burglars have indicated that the biggest reason for their choosing not to enter a home was the dog they observed or heard inside. The prospect of being bitten can often send a potential thief to the next target.
GET TO KNOW YOUR NEIGHBORS & REQUEST RESIDENTIAL CHECKS
Get to know your neighbors and watch out for each other. We’ve caught burglars in the act because of watchful neighbors. If you are going out of town for a period of time, let your neighbors know and call your local law enforcement and ask that they do residential checks on your property. This gives law enforcement the opportunity to check your property while you’re gone, and the information to know who to contact if there is a problem.
We encourage everyone to call in suspicious activity in your neighborhood; slow moving vehicles that you don’t recognize, people showing up at your door with strange questions or behavior, etc. I’ve said this time and time again – Don’t hesitate to call when you see something that you question! We would rather respond to numerous false alarms versus not being called that one time where someone gets victimized or worse. If you have questions about how to keep your property safe, call us and we would be happy to have a deputy come out and speak to you.
By working together and keeping a watchful eye on your neighborhood, we can help reduce crime.
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As we progress through Dodge County’s remodel and building projects for the year, things are starting to look at little different here at the Sheriff’s Office.
If you haven’t been to the courthouse in Mantorville for a while, you’ll find that County Administration, Driver’s License, Tax, Planning and Zoning are now all at the new Government Services Building (old Mantorville School). For those of you like myself who attended that school, it’s pretty amazing to walk in there now and see the new building.
We will be moving our Records Department and our Dispatch Center into their new areas in the courthouse annex the first part of October. This will be the first time we’ve expanded these offices in almost 25 years. When this move takes place, our public window will be the Records Department window, not at Dispatch. This means all inquiries at the Sheriff’s Office including burn permits and general information will be available at the Records window between 8-4:30pm Mon-Fri. Dispatch will now be in a secured area with no access to the public for security purposes.
Once that move is complete they will start remodeling in the Sheriff’s Office East wing. This includes expanding evidence storage and intake, adding a third investigator office, adding a training/conference room, and adding a secured sally port for in custody transports and processing.
Finally, we’ll be working on completing the new security screening area in the annex and staffing it once the courthouse remodel is completed, which will provide security screening for all staff and visitors of the Sheriff’s Office, County Attorney’s Office, Probation, and Court Administration. We are very fortunate to have a board of commissioners who recognize that our building safety and security needs have dramatically changed over the years – and that it’s time to implement a carefully developed plan to ensure the safety of our county employees and all visitors to our facility.
In 1991 we moved into our current Sheriff’s Office space with just over 20 full and part time employees. We now have over 50 employees working in the same area, so we are really looking forward to the extra room for growth.
The staff here at the Sheriff’s Office has worked hard this year to be as transparent as possible with everything we do. With that in mind, we are planning on having an open house in the spring of 2016 so we can show the citizens of Dodge County our facilities and our improvements, and share some of our accomplishments from this past year.
Developing and improving new building security and safety programs here has been a focus for our staff this year. We recognize the immense responsibility we have to ensure the safety of all of our county employees and visitors to the court house – and take that responsibility very seriously.
Thanks to everyone in advance for being patient during this phase of our remodeling project.
Your teenage daughter is a good kid. She gets good grades in school. She’s active in school activities and plays on the softball team. Everything seems to be good, but then you start seeing a change: She now has a new group of friends you don’t know much about. She seems to be less and less interested in doing those things she enjoyed – such as socializing, school activities, and engaging with family and friends. She seems to have problems concentrating and staying awake. She seems less concerned about her appearance and hygiene. These could be signs of narcotics use – like opioids or heroin.
We’ve had a handful of heroin overdoses here in the county – two of them actually resulted in the victims being dumped out of their “so called” friend’s vehicles on the side of the road. One survived it, the other did not. Heroin use in our communities continues to increase and it does not discriminate – from school age kids to retired adults, we’ve seen the terrible effects this drug have on people.
Heroin is a highly addictive drug processed from morphine, a naturally occurring substance extracted from the seed pod of certain varieties of poppy plants. It’s typically sold as a white or brownish powder. The number of heroin cases have been steadily rising here in Dodge County over the last few years. Other opioid medications like OxyContin, Vicodin, Fentanyl, and Demerol can have a similar effect to Heroin when not used as prescribed. We’ve also seen these pills being sold in the schools by kids whose stole them from their parents who have prescriptions. Some experts believe that the heroin increase may be due in part to a shift from abuse of prescription pain relievers to heroin as a readily available and cheaper alternative. The symptoms of heroin withdrawal can start within a few hours. These conditions may include insomnia, diarrhea, vomiting, cold flashes, and leg movements. Some describe the withdrawal as being “dope sick” and liken it to the worst flu you’ve ever had times 10. These symptoms often peak at around three days and can last a week or more.
Overdose is a dangerous and deadly consequence of heroin use because large doses of heroin depress the heart rate and breathing to such an extent that a user cannot survive without medical help.
If you have a friend or family member that you believe is struggling with prescription drug abuse or the use of heroin (or any other illegal drug) -- do something about it! Confront them about your concerns, talk to law enforcement, find out what help is available from the county, research the area’s local treatment centers. The actions you take may save that person’s life.
Whether you suspect someone in your family with a drug problem or not, be sure to secure your meds and make sure they aren’t accessible to your kids and your kid’s friends. If you have old medications that you aren’t using, bring them to our drop box at the Sheriff’s Office so we can dispose of them. Also, know who your kids are hanging out with – ask questions. Be involved!
I started working here in law enforcement back in the late 90s when we started seeing meth labs popping up all over SE Minnesota. This was a type of drug that this area really hadn’t dealt with before on such a large scale – especially with the amount of labs that popped up around the area. While meth continues to be our biggest problem in Dodge County, heroin has quickly become our latest challenge.
Heroin is a very difficult drug to detox from, but it’s not impossible – you can do it with a good treatment program, a good support group, and family and friends! We’ve stepped up narcotics enforcement with both patrol and investigations here in Dodge in response to the increase we’ve seen in meth and heroin use. Please talk to your local deputy or one of our investigators if you have any information about narcotics activity in your community, or with any questions or concerns. Remember, as always, you can remain anonymous.
Recent events throughout the country have shed a very dark light on our profession – events sensationalized by national media when in reality, they are highlighting the bad decisions made by a fraction of a percentage of over 900,000 dedicated law enforcement officers nationwide. Over 900,000 dedicated law enforcement officers that have taken on responsibilities and risks in their respective communities that most would never consider.
According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports, an estimated 1.16 million violent crimes occurred nationwide in 2013. Since the first recorded police death in 1791, there have been over 20,000 law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty. There are just over 20,500 names engraved on the walls of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.
Nearly 1,500 law enforcement officers died in the line of duty during the past 10 years – an average of one death every 60 hours – 117 killed in the line of duty last year.
On average, over the last decade, there have been 58,930 assaults against law enforcement each year, resulting in over 15,000 injuries.
The men and women serving the Dodge County Sheriff’s Office patrol day and night to help keep our families safe. They work nights, weekends, and holidays. They often miss important family gatherings, school functions, and other events that many of us take for granted. Our deputies’ spouses and kids also make great sacrifices for the safety of our community. These deputies see the best and worst our society has to offer. They respond to some of the most heartbreaking scenes, scenes that are life altering for those involved. These men and women are the first ones thru the door, risking their lives to help protect and/or save someone they’ve likely never met, while everyone else runs the other way. They say goodbye to their spouses and kids every day knowing that on any given day, during any given incident, they might not come home.
What kind of person takes on a job like this? It takes very special person, and a very special spouse, to take on these responsibilities and find a balance between this job and family. We are very fortunate here in Dodge County to have an amazing group of men and women in uniform, dedicated to help make Dodge County a great place to live and raise a family. Men and women who take real ownership in our community, many moving here to raise their families - Families who have supported them knowing this job does not come without great challenge, sacrifice, compromise, and commitment. Men and women who come to work risking their lives every day to help keep our communities safe, often taking these risks to help people they don’t even know.
Next time you see one of them, or one of their spouses, think about the sacrifices they and their families make for you every day and thank them for their service.