Herald JournalHerald Journal, Jan. 12, 2004

Police associations stress working together

By Ryan Gueningsman

Two recently formed police associations have the same goal ­ keeping each other informed and creating better cooperation among the various departments in McLeod County.

Police and peace officers association

Officer Glen Strom of the Winsted Police Department recently formed the McLeod County Police and Peace Officers Association.

Membership is open to any McLeod County law enforcement personnel (sheriff's deputy, police officer, dispatcher, corrections officer, or state or federal officer), and any who may work in a different to county, but live in McLeod County.

"The money and dues don't go to some big national or state organization ­ it all stays right here in McLeod County," Strom said.

Strom noted that such an organization is beneficial during the current budget shortfall, as well as offering the possibility of the organization taking on some of the burden of raising the money needed to support it.

"We don't have a lot of resources or money," Strom said. "It's not fair to make our bosses do that on their own, so maybe the association can pick up some of that need."

The hope of the association is to encourage better cooperation, better officers, and to provide better law enforcement services to our community, Strom said. He also noted that all of the members have positive attitudes about the association, and that is why they are a part of it.

The organization meets once a month at different locations throughout McLeod County. It is planning a banquet in March, and also has a shooting competition in the works, in addition to other fund raising events.

"No matter what rank or position you hold with your respective agency, you leave your rank and ego at the door," Strom said.

Strom also said that this organization will not endorse political candidates, and "does not have a political agenda."

"There's no organization in the state or country that is like this that I am aware of," he said.

So far, some of the funds brought in have gone to support a police officer who sustained substantial damage to personal property while serving his community during inclement weather.

Strom said that with other money raised, the association hopes to also purchase a radar trailer that lets commuters know how fast they are driving, in order to prevent accidents, as well as establishing a scholarship fund to support people from McLeod County that are pursuing a law enforcement career.

Currently, the association has about 25 members. Strom is the president, the vice president is Sgt. Al Liepold of the sheriff's department, the treasurer is dispatcher Todd Phillipi, and secretary duties are split between retired corrections officer Carl Kirchoff, Sgt. Eric Kilian of the Hutchinson Police Department, and state trooper Al Thompson.

A chiefs' association

After getting together informally a number of times to talk, the chiefs of McLeod County have also decided to form an association.

"We've been getting together for lunch to discuss issues, and finally we just decided to make it official," said the association's president Chief Bob Carlson of the Lester Prairie Police Department.

The McLeod County Chiefs of Police Association was conceived Nov. 20, and the chiefs have been meeting monthly at different spots throughout McLeod County.

McLeod County is in Region 6 of the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association, which stretches all the way to the South Dakota border, Carlson said. That makes it hard for all the chiefs to attend regional meetings.

Now, with the association in place, one chief will be delegated to attend meetings, represent the entire county, and bringing the information back and presenting it to the rest of the chiefs.

"It's important to keep each other informed," Carlson said. "That is the key. It keeps us all on the same page."

Another thing that the association does is bring in speakers for their meetings. Sheriff Wayne Vinkemeier will speak about the Southwest Metro Drug Task Force reorganization at their January meeting.

Carlson serves as president of the association, Winsted Police Chief Mike Henrich is the vice president, and Glencoe Police chief Jeff Cummins is the treasurer. Membership is $100 for each agency, with those dues going to various training programs, Carlson said.

"We have never communicated face to face like we do now," Carlson said. "Now, we can sit down and share our thoughts and concerns, and we can really help each other out."

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