For some, a career in law enforcement is a lifelong calling.
That could be said for new Breezy Point Police Chief Brian Sandell, who has known since childhood what he has wanted to do.
“When I was a kid, my father was involved with firearms training for law enforcement,” Sandell said. “He used to go all over the country training officers in shooting, tactics and that type of stuff. As a young kid, I used to help him set up targets … so I had a lot of interaction with police officers and deputies, and I thought they were pretty cool.”
After roughly 26 years on duty, that feeling hasn’t changed for him, although his reasons for coming into work every day may have evolved over the years.
“When I was first in law enforcement, the draw was the excitement and the thrill,” he said. “It has since changed. Currently, it's meeting the people in our public and helping those people. In a small community like this, I know a lot of the people, and it’s rewarding to be able to help them.”
Sandell, a Breezy Point officer for more than two decades, was promoted to chief of the police department in June, succeeding Kevin Merschman in the position.
“It has been excellent,” Sandell said. “There are a few challenges, obviously, but I’ve been working here for over 20 years and I’ve been a sergeant since 2010, so I was already doing evaluations of officers and some of that supervisor stuff anyway. Right now for me, it’s just the budgeting and working with the council and administrator on certain issues. They have all been fantastic to work with though.”
Part of the reason he has stayed in Breezy Point for as long as he has is his passion for the lakes, having grown up in Walker and working at a marina as a teenager.
Another, perhaps larger reason is the support he and his department receive from the Breezy Point community, something that may not be a given in other portions of the state and nation.
“We have a very supportive community,” Sandell said. “They like our officers and our department … Often they'll say ‘thank you for what you've done,’ or ‘I feel so badly that you are treated this way by the public,’ and I explain to them that our public is not like that. They stand behind us and they like us.”
He also thoroughly enjoys the aspects of the job that allow him to interact with the public, such as ride-alongs for Eagle View Elementary School students as a reward for good behavior.
As he continues to settle into his role as chief, Sandell hopes to continue using the blueprints set by previous chiefs Steve Rudek and Merschman, and has no big plans for changes in the department. That said, he hopes to continue expanding the department’s paramedic program as much as possible, as proven by the full-time hiring of Officer Nate Peters, the department’s fourth paramedic officer.
“When you get used to giving out life saving awards at council meetings, sometimes people start taking that for granted,” Sandell said. “I can tell you when I first started 26 years ago, those were very few and far between. We just didn’t have the tools and the ability to save people like we have here today. It has been pretty amazing to watch.”
He also hopes to be a part of what he called a “fantastic team” as it provides the best services possible to the community.
“They have some very diverse skills, which is very beneficial … Each one has their own area of expertise and interest, so they can help each other out, if we have a big investigation or something," he said.
There is also a desire on Sandell’s part to continue establishing a sense of trust and camaraderie between the Breezy Point community and its police force.
“One of my big focuses has always been having contact with the community - stopping and talking to residents if they're out working in the yard, or welcoming new people to the community or doing stuff at the school,” Sandell said. “I want to make sure our officers are friendly, approachable and out in public, so people feel comfortable coming to us with concerns, problems or questions.”
Dan Determan may be reached at 218-855-5879 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@PEJ_Dan.