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Dahl, Lasher announce their retirements from sheriff's office

Crow Wing County Sheriff Todd Dahl (right) and Chief Deputy Denny Lasher pose for the camera in front of the Law Enforcement Center in Brainerd. Dahl and Lasher announced they will retire at the end of 2018. Between them, they have nearly 60 years of serving county residents in law enforcement. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch1 / 3
Crow Wing County Sheriff Chief Deputy Denny Lasher in action during one of many trainings over his law enformcent career. Lasher is retiring at the end of 2018. Submitted2 / 3
Crow Wing County Sheriff Todd Dahl spent many years reading to children during "I Love to Read Month," and will continue until his retirement. Submitted3 / 3

It was either run for another four-year term as the Crow Wing County Sheriff or retire.

Sheriff Todd Dahl chose the latter, and Chief Deputy Denny Lasher, the office's second in command, is following his lead.

Dahl and Lasher announced their plans to retire from the Crow Wing County Sheriff's Office to be effective at the end of 2018. Between the two of them they will have put in nearly 60 years of service to county residents. They chose to retire from their law enforcement career at the same time.

"We have talked about it for a couple of years," Dahl said, who is in his third term as sheriff. "We have been through a lot together. We are generally the same age and we certainly have the same mind set between the two of us. We thought it would nice to go out together. We're proud of that.

"Our friendship goes way back."

Added Lasher: "A lot of things lined up for us going at the end of December next year. The number of years we have in, our age at that time and the big thing is it is the end of his term. His last four years will be up at the end of December, so it's either do another four and run again as a team or to retire. We talked in depth about it and we want to go at the same."

Dahl, 52 and a 1983 Brainerd High school graduate, began his career with the sheriff's office in the Water Patrol Division while in college, serving an internship there, and was hired full time in May of 1986. Lasher, 53, and a 1983 Crosby-Ironton High School graduate, began as a patrol deputy in July of 1992.

The two knew of each other in high school when they into each other in the mine pits in Crosby riding motorcycles, but didn't officially meet or become friends until they were working for the sheriff's office.

When Lasher began as a patrol deputy, Dahl was the night patrol sergeant on duty and he spent half of his time with Dahl. The two were on the sheriff's office tactical team and learned they both had the same passion for the team. Dahl was the leader of the team and Lasher was the assistant leader for many years. When Dahl resigned from the team, Lasher took over.

"Our mindset was to bring our team to a different level," Dahl said. "We did that and are proud of that. We continued on that path as a team when we became sheriff and chief deputy."

Dahl was elected as the Crow Wing County sheriff in the November 2006 election and has served as sheriff ever since. Dahl named Lasher as his chief deputy in April of 2013 after former chief deputy Debi Backdahl retired.

"We believe in holding our staff accountable," Dahl said. "We believe in a great deal of professionalism and we also believe that it's our job as supervisors to set up our staff to take our positions and to become better than we were. We believe we are there. When we leave we really have a belief that they are going to be better than we were and that really should be the goal of any trainer."

Lasher said accountability doesn't mean monitoring mistakes and then disciplining. He said it means defining what is expected, outlining the process to obtain the goals set and then managing the results.

Dahl said not only do they hold their staff accountable, but the public holds the sheriff's office accountable for the good and the bad things that happen. Dahl said the sheriff's office has demonstrated itself to the public that it is accountable for its actions.

The sheriff's office also has continued to make all the employees better by conducting ongoing in-house and out-of-house training in all divisions, which is important, Dahl said. There are 130 employees under the sheriff's office umbrella that include deputies, jail staff and clerical workers and Dahl said the administration wants its employees to continue to learn and grow.

"All of our staff have been provided with the best training tools, equipment, resources and support to complete their jobs," Lasher said. "Although there will always be some level of division between line staff administration, just simply due to authority in a paramilitary organization, we have worked hard to narrow the gap and have created a positive working relationship that has galvanized the office.

"The staff ... simply is the best that this office has ever produced and ever greater things are going to come."

Dahl and Lasher both agreed the biggest change they've seen in law enforcement over the past three decades has been technology. They said the upgraded technology has been beneficial to the office and has is to assisting the attorney's office in prosecuting cases, as video and audio recordings cannot lie.

Lasher said the sheriff's office does not have body cameras yet as they were unable to fit them in the budget, but the equipment is something the office will get in the near future.

Dahl said another change was having the jail go from a 40-60 bed facility when he was first elected to a 280-bed jail. He said staff adjusted well to the change and the county has been able to keep up with the changes.

Dahl and Lasher said they have many stories they could tell about the different calls they have been on through the years. They said each time they went on a call they never knew what would happen, and some they didn't know if they would come out alive, such as on the more serious incidents when shots were fired.

The toughest calls are the ones involving children. Dahl said he will never forget the one call where authorities couldn't find a little boy on the east side of Brainerd. He said he was driving by a landscape pool and he felt like the boy was there. He jumped out of his squad and searched and found the boy. He started CPR, but was unable to revive him. Dahl said his son was about the same age of the boy and it hit him hard.

"I remember I was quite wet and called the sheriff at the time, Sheriff Ross, and told him I was jammed up as I have a son that age," Dahl said. "I said I had to go home and he said go home. I have a wonderful wife, who is very understanding and (Dahl's son) was at the top of the stairs waiting for daddy to come home with his little sausage fingers, I'll never forget that.

"I broke down. People have to understand we wear a badge and we carry the authority, but we are just people and a lot of times people forget that. We have families of our own and it gets hard at times."

Dahl said he is grateful the times have changed and today there are many resources/counseling opportunities available for deputies when they need help getting through the emotions after a tough call.

Both Dahl and Lasher said they are proud of their law enforcement careers and feel accomplished with all the positions they served.

"The people we have on our staff makes this office what it is," Dahl said. "The staff is incredible We have had our speed bumps, but it has been a great career. ... The public has embraced what we believe in and see what we are doing. The trust from the public is a vital link."

Dahl said throughout his career he has had the privilege of working under former sheriffs Charles Warnberg, Dick Ross, Frank Ball and Capt. Dan Bentley, who was a jail administrator, all who helped guide his career.

Lasher said he is proud to have served in every management position with the sheriff's office and helped with key projects through the years. He said looking back, the advice he has for deputies is to never forget what the job is about and the reason why they are there.

"At the end of the day, don't worry about all the other stuff, just worry about taking care of yourself and your partners," Lasher said. "Because at the end of the day that is all that matters."

Dahl and Lasher are not sure of what their retirement plans will be, as they have awhile to think about it. They said it will not be anything relating to law enforcement. They said they will keep busy doing outdoor activities, such as hunting and fishing.