Feb. 26, 2007

LP's Carlson nominated for officer of the year award

By Ivan Raconteur
Staff Writer

It was not some dramatic event that prompted the Ray Kirkpatrick American Legion Post 463 to nominate Lester Prairie Police Chief Bob Carlson for the American Legion national law enforcement officer of the year award.

It was the way he serves the community on a daily basis.

The Legion issued a certificate of commendation to Carlson earlier this month for dedication to the Lester Prairie safety patrol program.

Legion member Roland Bruckschen said Carlson provides a visible presence for the patrol.

“Bob is out there every morning when the kids are going to school. He is there at noon when they leave for lunch, and he is there in the afternoon when they go home,” Bruckschen said.

He added that people will change their behavior because they know Carlson is present.

Bruckschen said that because of Carlson’s dedication to the school patrol program, and his service to the community, the Legion nominated him for the American Legion national law enforcement officer of the year award.

The goal of the award is “to select a well-rounded law enforcement officer who has exceeded, above and beyond, the duty requirements expected of his position, and has demonstrated a distinct pattern of community service, coupled with professional achievement.”

Bruckschen said Carlson is very involved in the community.

Among his other activities, Carlson:

• works with students through the community task force.

• has coordinated the DARE program in Lester Prairie since 2003.

• is the school liaison officer for Lester Prairie Schools.

• participates in the Safe and Sober program.

• has served on the Lester Prairie school board since 2001.

• is a member of the Methamphetamine Education And Drug Awareness coalition (MEADA) of McLeod County.

• is president of the chiefs association of McLeod County.

• is a member of the student assessment team.

• is the announcer for Lester Prairie boys’ basketball games.

“Bob and his crew do an excellent job for the community, and the Legion feels he is worthy of recognition,” Bruckschen said.

Judges will select regional winners for the officer of the year award, and the national winner will be selected from among the regional winners during the spring meeting of the national executive committee.

Carlson was modest about the nomination.

“This is an honor, and I appreciate the recognition, but I am just doing my job. These are the things I am paid to do,” Carlson said.

He suggested that others might be more deserving of the award.

“It is not like I pulled someone out of a burning building or anything like that,” Carlson commented.

Mayor Eric Angvall thinks that is exactly the point.

“If you are doing a good job and being proactive, you won’t have those major incidents to deal with,” Angvall said.

He added that he can’t prove that Carlson has prevented a certain number of accidents from happening, but the fact that things seem to be calm and running smoothly is a good sign.

Angvall said there are two types of police departments; reactionary and proactive.

Reactionary departments simply respond to what has already happened, and that is not an asset for the community, Angvall said.

“Bob is far more interested in being proactive. He is a builder, and a supporter of the community,” Angvall said.

He added that Carlson demonstrates a strong proactive model, which has become a part of the thought process for the entire department.

“Picking up pieces is not their function. They prefer to rely on education and prevention,” Angvall said.

Every member of the Lester Prairie Police Department volunteers “a lot of extra hours” each month doing things for the community, Angvall said.

“I really like Bob’s vision of tomorrow. He is always asking what he can do to help the department, other city staff, and the community,” Angvall commented.

He said that Carlson has built up peer recognition, and other police departments regularly come to Carlson with questions about how he does things.

Angvall said that Carlson presents a positive image and attitude for the community.

“His openness and his communication skills make him fun to work with, and he builds cooperation with others,” Angvall said.

Carlson may be modest about his individual accomplishments, but he takes pride in his department.

“I am very proud of what we have been able to do as a department. This is a team effort. I have excellent officers working with me, and they make me look good,” Carlson commented.

He said small town policing involves a lot of variety

“It is not just chasing dogs and cats,” he commented.

One way that he tries to educate the public about what the police department does is through the citizens academy, a program that allows participants to see first-hand what officers do on a daily basis.

Carlson said he believes in a proactive approach.

“It is not about writing tickets; we focus on changing behavior,” he commented.

Carlson’s background

Carlson grew up in Hawley, Minn.

He began working in radio while still in high school.

He was manager and statistician for the boys’ basketball team, and drew the attention of local radio announcers, who found that he had an understanding of basketball and knew area coaches and teams.

He worked his way into the business, and right out of high school, worked a radio announcer for WDAY radio in Fargo, N.D.

During this time, he submitted several news stories to the Associated Press, and one of his pieces about a fire that killed five people in the Fargo-Moorhead area was broadcast nationally on NBC radio.

He continued to work in radio to pay for college at Moorhead State University.

He originally planned to go into teaching. While in college, he developed an interest in sociology and political science.

When he worked at the radio station, he frequently had to call law enforcement agencies to get information for news stories.

Later, he went on ride-alongs with police officers, and found that this was something that he would like to do, so he decided to go into law enforcement.

Carlson’s wife, Kristi, is a native of Brownton, where he got his first law enforcement job.

The Carlsons live in Lester Prairie with their children, Calli, 5, and Chase, 7,. Carlson said this gives him a vested interest in the community.

Carlson joined the Lester Prairie Police Department in 2000, and was appointed chief Aug. 1, 2002.

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