Police recognize bravery, extraordinary service
Police Chief Janeé Harteau recently honored several Police Department employees and other City employees for their exceptional service. Risking their lives for the safety of others, providing safe spaces for Minneapolis children to learn and grow, solving bank robberies, saving lives, helping create positive change in the Police Department and more, the employees earned honors for keeping the city and the people in it safe.
Watch a short video of the ceremony. Read the chief’s remarks on the award winners:
Medal of Valor
“In the early morning hours of Aug. 22, Officer Brent Rasmussen walked out the front door of the 1st Precinct toward his parked squad when he noticed an extremely violent fight among six to eight males. The males were kicking, punching and stomping on each other. As the officer ran toward the fight, he witnessed a male reach into his front waistband and remove a handgun. That suspect began chasing one of the other males who had been involved in the fight, and the male with the gun was closing in on his target, pointing his weapon at the other male’s head …
“This was during bar close; there were people everywhere and the scene was quite chaotic. Officer Rasmussen continued to run through the crowd and close the gap as he chased the suspect. He could not safely discharge his firearm; there were simply too many people in the area, so he ordered the suspect to drop his gun. The suspect stopped, but refused to drop his weapon. The officer continued to order him to drop the gun, concerned for the safety of the dozens of people who were in the area. Finally, the suspect complied and was taken into custody without further incident.
“According to his supervising sergeant, the officer showed incredible restraint, solid decision-making skills and great courage and heroism. These selfless and professional actions are more than deserving of a Medal of Valor. Officer Rasmussen has made the Minneapolis Police proud.”
- “In May, 5th Precinct dogwatch Officers Bowan Barnard, Joel Hagen, Marcus Lukes and David Pena responded to a call of an emotionally disturbed person hanging off the edge of the roof of a six-floor building. The roof had a patio area with a 4-foot high fence that blocked off a small ledge at the edge of the building. The officers found a person in distress on this small ledge. She was agitated and stated to the officers that she had tried to commit suicide before, and that she intended to try again.
“The officers had to find a way to climb over that fence so they could grab the woman and pull her to safety, but every time they made the slightest move toward the fence and toward her, she became increasingly angry and unpredictable. Officer Hagen engaged the woman in conversation while Officer Lukes coordinated a plan to have officers Barnard and Pena place furniture near the fence to help them climb over and help the woman in need. Officer Hagan continued his conversation while the other officers moved the furniture into place without the woman noticing their movements. As she began to move toward the ledge, the officers leaped over the fence and grabbed a hold of her at the very last moment, keeping her from jumping or falling.
|“It’s hard to describe just how brave and heroic these actions were; there’s a chance that the officers could have been pulled over the ledge while trying to save the woman, but they were focused on saving her life, not on their own safety.”
- “5th Precinct Officers James Bjostad, Daniel Diedrich and Hien Dinh answered the call of a suicidal male Feb. 8 with patience, empathy and professionalism. Officers Bjostad and Diedrich located the vehicle of the man and immediately pulled up behind it. He would not respond to officers, and shortly after they arrived, they noticed he had a knife in his hand. They continued to try to engage the man without success; he was crying and moving the knife between his head and torso, and the officers truly believed he was going to take his own life.
“Officer Bjostad requested an officer with crisis intervention training while Officer Diedrich requested another squad arrive and block in the vehicle from the front so the man wouldn’t drive away. Officer Dinh was quick to arrive and block the car in from the front, while Officer Diedrich moved his squad close to the back bumper so the man couldn’t leave. The officers continually reminded him they were there to help, and eventually he rolled down his window, and then finally put down the knife and opened the car door.
“The officers successfully managed the situation with their minds and hearts. A social worker watched the entire event unfold from her window and said she couldn’t imagine the officers handling the situation any better. It is hard to imagine what could have happened if the officers didn’t respond the way they did.”
- “There are times when our officers respond to calls with little or no time available to communicate with the people in need. Sometimes officers have to act quickly and heroically. That was the situation when 1st Precinct dogwatch Officers Peter Brazeau and Stephane Courtois responded to a call of a woman who was sitting on a ledge with her feet dangling high above the interstate. Officer Brazeau attempted to open a dialogue with the distraught woman, but she did not respond; she would only stare straight ahead. She apparently did not know that Officer Courtois was even there. He snuck up on the woman and grabbed her arm and upper body, quickly and immediately bringing her to safety on the sidewalk. The only thing the female managed to say, repeatedly once on the sidewalk was, ‘I just want to kill myself.’
“Not only did these two officers show great teamwork, they were brave in the face of danger. The weight of the woman could have pulled them over the ledge. While this happened before we outfitted our officers with body cameras, a Metro Transit Police Officer who also responded seconds after Brazeau and Courtois witnessed the entire lifesaving scenario. He was so impressed with the officer’s actions that he called their supervisor to make sure they were written up for a lifesaving award.”
- “It is impossible to describe how one feels as they respond to a baby-not-breathing call. The terror in a mother’s eyes and voice, as she struggles to explain that her baby cannot breathe. Officer Alexander Brown was the first person to respond to such a call on LaSalle Avenue May 3. The mother was waiting with her child on the porch when Officer Brown arrived. He immediately grabbed the baby, put the child’s chest on his forearm and administered strikes to its back to open the child’s airway. Minneapolis Fire arrived shortly after Brown, and the team managed to help the 5-month-old breath on its own. Paramedics then arrived and helped clear the scene.
“As police officers, Fire Department personnel and paramedics prepared to leave the area, everyone on the call was quick to note that Officer Brown’s actions clearly saved the young child’s life.”
- “The call that brought Officers Nathan Dziuk and Marcus Lukes and Sgt. Joel Pucely to Ridgewood Avenue July 11 was challenging both emotionally and physically. They found a man who was sitting on a 12-inch wide ledge, 35 feet above a concrete walkway. The window was bordered on one side by the apartment building and the other by a 7 foot high concrete wall. When Officer Lukes asked the man what was wrong, he said he couldn’t go back inside the apartment because of the people who were in there.
“Officer Lukes continued to stick his head through an open stairway window and engage the man in conversation while Officer Dziuk found the apartment door to be locked. The apartment manager had a key, but the door was chained. Realizing he had to get inside, Officer Dziuk kicked in the door only to learn there was no one inside the apartment. The man continued to talk with officers, explaining he was ‘drugged with angel dust.’ He said he wouldn’t come off the ledge because he did not trust the officers.
“This conversation went on for 20 minutes. During that time, Sgt. Pucely had arrived and arranged for a Minneapolis Fire Department ladder truck. The man quickly became upset after seeing the truck, so he initially agreed to come inside, placing his hand through the window. Officer Lukes grabbed his arm just as he was changing his mind. He then began clawing at the officer and tried to pull himself and the officer back and over the ledge. Officers Lukes and Dziuk and Sgt. Pucely grabbed the man and pulled him inside the apartment. The officers later learned that the man was high on methamphetamine.”
- “Officer James Frost was working Squad 425 on the dogwatch shift Feb. 12. He had a recruit officer riding along with him when he responded to a welfare-check call from a man’s fiancée. She believed her boyfriend was in the garage behind their Girard Avenue North home, and she wasn’t going to approach the garage because she feared for her own safety. The woman gave Officer Frost a key to the locked garage, and once he and the recruit opened the door, they were overcome by strong and powerful vehicle exhaust. It was clear the man had been in the closed garage with the car running for quite some time. It was a very dangerous situation, but the officer fearlessly entered the garage and pulled the semi-conscious man to safety.
“Officer Frost knew the male was suicidal, off his medications and unpredictable. He went inside that garage because he knew this man needed help immediately and the officer put aside his own personal safety to provide it. Officer Frost would later learn that the man he saved has been committed to a treatment facility where he is getting the help that he needs. His fiancée said without her hero in blue, she would have lost her partner.”
- “There is a reason we have lights and sirens on our squad cars. Oftentimes we need to get to an address immediately, and once officers arrive on the scene, they need to get right to work. 2nd Precinct Officers George Judkins and Michael Manley flew to a call on the 2900 block of Grand Street NE June 1. A male had overdosed and a distraught woman was doing all she could to keep him alive, but the man remained unconscious and unresponsive. At first, he had a weak pulse and his breathing was shallow, but then he stopped breathing and no longer had a pulse.|
“Officer Judkins used a CPR mask to provide respirations while Officer Manley provided chest compressions. They continued these heroic actions until paramedics arrived and revived the victim with Narcan. Miraculously the man was able to walk into an ambulance on his own, but that would have never been possible if the officers hadn’t brought the man back to life. Their training and their poise saved the victim’s life.”
- “The call that Officer Oscar Martinez-Gavina responded to was both complex and dangerous. It originally came in as a fight call above the Greenway on Garfield Avenue South. When Martinez-Gavina arrived, he realized that two females were trying to restrain another woman from jumping off the bridge in an attempt to seriously injure or kill herself. That’s how hectic this call was; the woman was so intent on jumping that two other women were physically trying to save her with everything they had.
“The officer quickly stepped in and grabbed the woman, who then started fighting with him, all the while kicking and screaming. The officer courageously pulled the woman away from the edge of the bridge, saving her life at the very last possible moment. Officer Martinez-Gavina was alone when he stepped into the middle of that fight on the edge of a bridge high above the Greenway without hesitation.”
- “There are calls that require officers from different jurisdictions to work together, and it is always an honor to work alongside officers from another department when time is of the essence. Minneapolis Police Department Officer Judy Rollins and Park Police Officers Adam Swierczek and Brian Woodfill answered a call from the area of Bryant Avenue North and 44th Avenue North. An 11 year-old that had been playing on a slow-moving train had fallen and severed his leg. The officers quickly learned the boy had completely lost all of his right leg, below the knee.
“Officer Rollins immediately applied her tourniquet after Officer Swierczek helped stop the blood loss. Remember, this is an 11-year-old child in desperate need of help, and the officers also had to help him deal with such a horrific injury. Officer Woodfill began to use pads to clear blood away from another massive laceration injury on the victim’s leg that extended from his knee to his waist. The three officers arrived quickly, acted immediately and professionally, and saved the child’s life. This was an extremely complicated injury and the officers didn’t have much time to do anything but react.”
- “Sgt. John Sheneman ran into a situation where a victim needed help immediately on the 1800 block of Pierce Avenue. The problem was the closest ambulance was experiencing computer and radio issues, making communication virtually impossible. Sgt. Sheneman would have to be the paramedic on this call, as a man had just slashed his wrist and was bleeding profusely. He was also under the influence, making the situation even more difficult for the responding sergeant.
“Accompanied by a 2nd Precinct officer, Sgt. Sheneman quickly took control of the situation, applying a tourniquet to the victim’s left arm, slowing the bleeding, then stopping the bleeding after dressing the wound. Another really cool part of this story is the impact the sergeant had on the officer he was with: He provided a good example of leadership, poise under pressure and the value of good training.”
- “Officer Jacob Spies was a recruit officer on the first day of his 10-day evaluation period when he was sent to one of the toughest calls an officer can be tasked with: a baby not breathing. Officer Spies was the first on scene as the distraught family in the Irving Avenue North home surrounded a 12-month old who had been unresponsive for 4 minutes. The toddler went into full cardiac and respiratory arrest.
“Officer Spies was alone when he quickly took charge of this scene, and he performed CPR for several minutes before an ambulance arrived. Once EMS workers took over, Officer Spies continued to help by retrieving and setting up lifesaving equipment, as well as relaying important prior health information.
“The infant was rushed to North Memorial Medical Center where hospital staff worked on him for more than 20 minutes before successfully reviving and stabilizing the child. Take a moment to let that sink in: Officer Spies saved a baby’s life on the first day of his 10-day evaluation. Needless to say, we’re honored to have him as a member of the department.
- “Officer Richard Ross Taylor was working squad 951 as a K-9 officer March 27 when he heard an overdose call on the 1100 block of 14th Avenue Southeast. He found a man who had overdosed on black tar heroin. The victim wasn’t breathing and Officer Taylor couldn’t find a pulse, so he immediately began CPR. After a few minutes of applying chest compressions, the officer rushed to his squad and retrieved a medical kit so he could provide respirations as well. When the Fire Department and Emergency Medical Services arrived, the victim had a pulse, but wasn’t quite breathing on his own. Paramedics administered Narcan to the victim, which fully revived him.
“This life may not have been saved had it not been for Officer Taylor’s quick and heroic actions; this was the second time the victim had overdosed on heroin over the course of two days. Officer Taylor finally left the call, but called in to another responding officer to check the status of the victim a few hours later.”
Chief’s Award of Merit
- “To do anything for more than four decades not only takes passion and drive, it’s an unbelievable commitment. Father Terry Hayes has been committed to the Police Department for 45 years … He has presided over more than 250 Minneapolis Police officer weddings and more than 500 baptisms ...
“You can find him all over the city on ride-alongs with our officers, just so they know he’s there and available. Forty-five years of ride-alongs has allowed him to build incredible trust among our officers, and hundreds of long lasting relationships have been built. In fact, he’s built such a reputation within our organization that other departments around the metro have asked to borrow him, or at least learn from him. Not only has he helped others create successful chaplain programs, he’s traveled the country to find ways to improve our program here at home.
“And finally, he has performed one of the most difficult tasks imaginable; notifying families about in-the-line-of-duty deaths, and coordinating the funerals for those families. Here at the MPD, we ask folks to answer the call, and Father Hayes is one of our friends who always picks up on the first ring.”
- “If you’re a member of the MPD or a community member who lives on the South Side, the name Joey should mean something to you. It’s like Prince. One word says it all. Sgt. Joey Sandberg has been with the MPD since 1987, serving the residents in the 3rd Precinct. Why does Joey have so much clout in the community? It doesn’t hurt that he was a standout athlete and prom king at Roosevelt High School, where he also worked as the school resource officer. He has built many relationships and is considered a trusted friend to thousands of people on the South Side; those relationships and the trust built through them have enabled Sgt. Sandberg to solve countless crimes and mediate thousands of disputes with dignity and professionalism. It is also important to mention that he has helped many people find resources when they needed it most.
“Sgt. Sandberg’s compassion has become very well known, and people are now formally recognizing it. He was inducted into the Roosevelt High School Hall of Fame in September and the school has an annual award in his name, the ‘Joel Sandberg Service Award.’ ”
- “Throughout this country, and certainly here at home in Minneapolis, we have recognized the significant need to invest in our youth, to make sure they have safe spaces to learn and grow and succeed. A key piece to this puzzle, one you certainly don’t hear enough about, are our school resource officers: Sgt. Robert Berry, Officers Mukhtar Abdulkadir, Charles Adams III, Adam Chard, Gary Duren, Tyler Edwards, Anna Hansen, David Honican, Steven Klimpke, Renee Lewis, James Loveland, Jonathan Petron, Jamy Schwartz, John Trangsrud, Philip Xiong and Ka Yang and School Patrol Agent Berryman. We simply call them SROs, but their jobs are not only complex, they are crucial.
“Sgt. Berry, who leads this group, very eloquently described the many roles these officers play … I’m going to pull out a few things from his write-up … The SROs strive diligently to decriminalize student misbehavior by making use of juvenile outreach and diversion efforts, frequently helping Minneapolis Public Schools find alternative solutions for their students’ needs. Over the course of the school year, the officers have investigated and found firearms, tasers and knives in our schools. They’ve dealt with bomb threats and students assaulting teachers. They’ve also been instrumental in facilitating several student protests, guaranteeing our young people are heard by making sure students had safe spaces to do so. One protest had more than 600 participants.
“Finally, it should be noted that these officers are professional and encouraging, and their work plays a big role as we continue to recruit the candidates who grow up in Minneapolis.”
- “In 2013, (Chief Harteau) asked the Office of Justice Programs to assess the Police Department’s performance management policies. This independent assessment provided five recommended areas of improvement after researchers looked at years of data. I want to detail the work that we’ve accomplished by working with our community members … We created working groups to not only discuss possibilities, but to implement real change.
o “Our Communications Subcommittee (Public Information Officer Scott Seroka, Sgt. Katie Blackwell, Officer Cory Fitch, Council Member Cam Gordon and members of the public) met several times to help formulate a plan to increase transparency by improving how our department communicates with residents, stakeholders and members of the Twin Cities media. The team helped determine what content we would produce for the Police Department’s new website, INSIDE M-P-D. The group also identified and pushed the Police Department to use more video to tell stories and was instrumental in guiding us to hire our multimedia specialist. In fact, a member of our steering committee helped us produce a groundbreaking video that vividly captures the history of our African American officers in conjunction with Black History Month ...
“The group urged our department to reach out to smaller, neighborhood-based media outlets. The Police Department has brought in two sworn officers who are now helping bridge the gap between cops and the community as spokespersons for the department.”
o “Members of the Community Engagement Subcommittee (Police Community Engagement Coordinator Sherman Patterson, Sgt. Ali Abdiwahab, Officers Carlos Baires Escobar and Cory Fitch, Nnamdi Okoronkwo, Council Member Andrew Johnson and members of the public) really rolled up their sleeves to develop a comprehensive plan to increase the Police Department’s efforts to reach out to the communities and residents we serve. I can’t tell you how important this topic is, and we were extremely lucky to have such a dynamic group who took part in many robust discussions. This group is an excellent example of police and community members working together to increase the effectiveness of our community policing initiatives. The group’s work has been very influential in a number of programs, particularly as it relates to helping, guiding and keeping the youngest members of our city safe and engaged.
“The Community Engagement Subcommittee also helped the Police Department continue its ‘Cops out of Cars’ and beat officer programs by outlining better ways officers can interact with residents in non-crisis situations. Finally, the committee helped the Police Department continue its cultural competency training and reconciliation and healing efforts with diverse groups of residents throughout the city. It’s safe to say we’ll see the results of the Community Engagement Subcommittee’s work for years to come.”
o “One of the key recommendations made by the Office of Justice Programs was for the Police Department to produce a new, automated, prevention-oriented Early Intervention System. The system will improve officer performance and manage risks associated with the ever dynamic work of police officers. The automated system flags officer conduct that, if left unchecked, may lead to lower performance. The system allows supervisors to address certain patterns of behavior and correct issues with an employee before they become more serious or lead to more serious issues.
“The Early Intervention System Subcommittee (Cmdr. Scott Gerlicher, Asst. City Attorney Trina Chernos, Officer Dave O’Connor, Police Department Health and Wellness Coordinator Jennifer Rudlong-Smith, Mayor’s Senior Policy Aide in Public Safety and Civil Rights Nicole Archbold and members of the public) was made up of a diverse group of individuals with significant expertise on this topic. This work was very important, and the end result was a program developed by officers, attorneys and community stakeholders that will help officers and build public trust. This wasn’t an easy process, but … it was thorough.”
o “The work of the Performance Mentoring Subcommittee (Lt. Art Knight, Sgts. Wendy Liotta and Sherral Schmidt, Human Resources Generalist Destiny Xiong, Minneapolis Promise Zone Manager Julianne Leerssen, City Council Associate Ger Yang, Law Enforcement Analyst Ryan Patrick and members of the public) needs to be more than recognized, it needs to be rewarded. The officers, city employees and community members in this group were tasked with coming up with a system to strengthen overall performance management systems by improving training for supervisors who are coaches for our employees. As part of this work, committee members also worked to develop documentation to track goals and expectations of supervisors and made improvements to the coaching process and provided more resources to our employees.
“Supervisors now have easy access guides and training materials that will help them lead their teams as they measure performance through regular check-ins. Furthermore, the committee took significant steps in producing programs that not only help the MPD identify its next leaders, their work will help those future leaders track their progress on what we call our Leadership Roadmap. An eight-hour, non-technical supervisor class and a supervisor academy are also in the works.”
o “Our Police Conduct and Oversight Subcommittee (Cmdrs. Jason Case and Chris Granger, Lt. Henry Halvorson, Sgt. Thomas Schmid, Office of Police Conduct Review Director Imani Jaafar, Law Enforcement Analyst Ryan Patrick, City Council Policy Aide Ken Dahler, Council Member Linea Palmisano and members of the public) had one main goal: to ensure that the system for addressing allegations of misconduct is comprehensive, accessible, fair and transparent. The team created a unified complaint manual, which gives residents and employees a clear and concise resource describing the complaint process and sequence of events that make up that process. There are a number of paths an investigation into a complaint can take and a number of steps associated that investigation. It can be confusing, so members of the Police Department and the Office of Police Conduct Review, at the urging of the Police Conduct and Oversight Subcommittee, have been working hard to educate dozens of groups on how it all works.
“Committee members recommended the Police Department adjust investigation timelines to keep cases moving more efficiently through the process, bringing quicker resolutions for everyone involved. Following up with the parties involved will also reassure complainants that their concerns are being taken seriously and their cases are moving forward ... Quarterly reports from the Office of Police Conduct Review and the Police Department’s Internal Affairs Unit are posted online for anyone and everyone to see.
“This isn’t easy work. It’s time consuming but it’s critically important for us.”
o “Overseeing the important work of the five subcommittees was our nine-member Steering Committee (Lts. Bob Kroll and John Delmonico, Sgt. Mohamed Abdullahi, Mayor’s Chief of Staff John Stiles, Council Member Blong Yang and members of the public). The committee chairs reported to the Steering Committee, which offered guidance, ideas and input before giving each committee plan the final stamp of approval …
“For 18 months, the Steering Committee took responsibility for the progress and performance of these subcommittees, working tirelessly as they went over each idea and plan and program with a fine-tooth comb. The entire process was the result of strong minds and hearts working together to create meaningful change and improvement.”
Excellence in Investigation
“Bank robbery cases aren’t always the easiest to crack, but it helps when investigators arrive quickly and work quickly. Sgt. Ryan McCann was working … one day in March when a bank robbery call came in. A suspect gave a teller a note saying he was armed with a semi-automatic weapon and demanded cash from the drawer. He got cash, and he got some bait bills, which he carried out of the US Bank on Lake Street.
“Immediately, the sergeant called in to our intel teams and located video of the suspect running toward Global Market. Sgt. McCann also ran toward the Global Market, where he found security guards who showed him footage of the suspect walking toward the elevators of a nearby apartment building. The same security guards told the investigator that the suspect in the video has been trespassed from the market, and after running his name, the sarge learned he had a previous bank robbery conviction. He also quickly learned that the suspect associated with people who lived in a third-floor apartment.
“FBI agents joined Police Department officers at the building, where the suspect was taken into custody. A search warrant of that third-floor apartment helped officers recover the stolen loot.”
Published Nov 29, 2016