New DL police officer
Meet Joe Sternhagen, Detroit Lakes’s newest city police officer.
“I’m from Rochester,” said the 31-year-old officer who works the 6 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. shift. “I was working nights before, so I’m still trying to get used to that,” he laughed.
Sternhagen started in Detroit Lakes on April 7 and although he may be the new guy on the force here, he’s no rookie.
Training for him began in the Army.
“I was three years active duty and six years National Guard,” said Sternhagen, who was an infantry soldier stationed in Fort Stewart, Georgia and spent a year in Iraq in 2005.
Transitioning into civilian law enforcement was one that proved a natural one for Sternhagen.
“I think the training was a lot easier for me because of the weapons training and I could handle taking orders a lot better than some others,” he said.
Sternhagen earned his two-year degree from Rochester Community and Technical College before finishing his four-year degree in law enforcement at Mankato State University.
“It (law enforcement) was something I always wanted to do, and when I came back (from the Army), I wanted to do it even more,” said Sternhagen, who says he loves the excitement of the job.
“It’s something different every day – I knew I didn’t want to sit behind a desk,” he added.
After graduation, Sternhagen got his first job as a police officer in Le Sueur, Minn. where he worked for two years before taking a job working for the Defense Intelligence Agency in Standing Rock in the Dakotas.
He also worked there for two years before a position opened up in Detroit Lakes.
“It was closer to home,” said Sternhagen, who still has family living in Rochester. “And it’s a beautiful area here — I love to fish and hunt.”
Sternhagen is now busy not just settling into his role at the police department but is also settling into the community with his wife, son and dog.
Meanwhile, area law enforcement agencies are looking for a few more good men – or women.
The Detroit Lakes Police Department is in the process of “backgrounding” three candidates for another job left vacant by Beau Shroyer, who left the police department to take a job with the DNR.
Over at the Minnesota State Patrol district headquarters in Detroit Lakes, there is also a trooper opening, as well as a new captain – Captain Brian Cheney, who was promoted from within the district.
Over at the Becker County Sheriff’s Department, one retirement and one resignation has left them in search of replacements.
Pat Johnston retired a couple of weeks ago after 28 years of law enforcement, leaving a deputy position open, while another trooper, Aaron Hillukka, left this week to operate his own fuel oil delivery business.
Filling law enforcement positions doesn’t happen overnight.
“We advise the local media and the Minnesota POST Board,” said Becker County Sheriff Kelly Shannon. “The replacements have not been approved yet by the board, so we create a list (of applicants), score them, do interviews, and at that time when we decide to hire, we then we would get approval from the board to actually hire.”
An extensive background check is then done on the applicants that take about a month to do.
Shannon says he hopes to have the positions filled within the next three months.