Area police appreciate community support
Police found themselves at centerstage after protests and riots took place across the country and world in reaction to George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police officers.
Lakes area police chiefs humbly report that their experiences with the public since then have been overwhelmingly positive.
“Early on we had an officer who was flipped off four different times. That was early on and now we haven’t had any of that,” Pequot Lakes Police Chief Eric Klang said. “We’ve had a lot of people that have brought us treats and food ... which is pretty cool.
“I’ve also gotten cards from people saying, 'We support you 100 percent,' and 'We’re praying for you,' and 'We appreciate you,'” Klang said. “It’s been humbling.”
People providing treats include youth groups, churches and families, he said.
In Nisswa, Police Chief Craig Taylor said the community has been nothing but positive.
“We have not received one negative comment, not one nasty look. Many people said, 'We’re behind you,' 'We appreciate you,' 'We need you' - those kind of things,” Taylor said, adding people often offer to buy officers lunch and regularly bring treats to the police department.
Breezy Point Police Chief Kevin Merschman said his department has also seen gifts come in, but many have to be refused.
“We have had some people attempt to donate, but have to send them to city hall because we can’t accept donations directly - except for the occasional food or card,” Merschman said. “City council has to accept any donations, and we can’t be involved in that or it gives the impression we are being bought.”
Merschman said his department has seen “nothing but support” from the community, with a number of cards and letters coming in from individuals and groups, including from local children.
“It means a lot to us. Even though we don’t have people protesting here directly, we have fallout from new demands, mandates and restrictions. It can make doing your job stressful, because we now have to worry about meeting those mandates … We just appreciate the support we have here," he said.
Lake Shore Police Chief Steve Sundstrom shared similar thoughts.
“Overall, the response from the citizens in Lake Shore with our department has been absolutely positive. We’ve had so many people compliment us. We’ve gotten care packages dropped off,” Sundstrom said, adding the response officers received is that the community is supportive of law enforcement, including with people paying for officers’ meals at drive-thru restaurants.
“It makes our job easier up here with the support of the community behind us,” he said.
Sundstrom did share one negative experience that occurred when he wasn’t working. An employee at an area convenience store referred to him as racist because he was wearing a Mount Rushmore shirt, where his family had just returned from vacation.
Overall, Sundstrom said there are many kind, generous people in the community.
Pine River Police Chief Paul Sand said that community also has the department’s back.
“The community has been very supportive of us,” Sand said. “They come up and thank us for what we're doing and being out there. A lot of them say they understand what's going on out there and support us. It's a relief off our shoulders. It lets you know they are there even though I never doubted for a minute. I'm grateful for them when they come up and say that. The other officers enjoy it. We talk about it once in a while.”
He commended other city staff for their support.
“Our council and our city staff, street department and clerk have been fantastic with us,” Sand said. “They have helped us with everything we've needed. Any issues that come up, we've been able to work through. We can't ask for much more than that. You have to work together through things.”
Like other departments, Pine River police officers have received small tokens of thanks from the community.
“The Girl Scouts came by and gave us cookies, which I thought was really neat,” Sand said. “We've had some other local organizations or kids come by. They've written us cards or done some drawings to let us know they support us. They've also given us Dairy Queen cards for lunch or something. I thought it was neat they would do that.”
He is grateful for the support.
“Myself and my officers want to thank the public and citizens of Pine River, Chickamaw Beach and Barclay Township for the fantastic support we've gotten from them,” Sand said. ”They have been outstanding.”
Regarding recently passed police reform legislation in the state, Klang and Sundstrom both said their departments were already following such procedures and they agree with the legislation.