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Tough time to be a cop: Law Enforcement Appreciation Day celebrated in Minnesota

Monday was "Law Enforcement Appreciation Day" in Minnesota, recognizing the service and sacrifice of law enforcement officials.

Gov. Mark Dayton directed the Minnesota Department of Transportation to light the Minneapolis I-35W Bridge blue in recognition of the day, and the windows of the Governor's Residence were also lit blue.

Law enforcement has never been an easy job, but public attitudes towards officers have risen and fallen over the years.

The late 1960s and early 1970s were a low point, and with national attention on police shootings and the Black Lives Matter movement, the last year or two have also been difficult.

"I believe we are now in a valley as far as overall respect and appreciation for law enforcement," said Detroit Lakes Police Chief Steven Todd. "We see an overall trend contributed to by our executive branch and contributed to by social media — people write or say things on social media they would never say in person."

Most people in the Detroit Lakes and Becker County area are supportive of law enforcement, he said.

"We are a reflection of and a part of the community — we have so many close ties to so many parts of the community."

Todd said the national media could do a better job of reporting on police issues.

"The national news media finds a story where race is highlighted, they constantly highlight those stories, bring up any mistakes that are made, and rush to judgment before the facts are known," he said.

"A silent majority of people are becoming fed up with the national portrayal of our profession," he added.

Ordinary people help police keep up their morale in little ways, Todd said.

For instance, last week about a dozen members of his family gathered at Texas Roadhouse in Fargo to celebrate his nephew joining the West Fargo Police Department.

Todd was in uniform, as was his brother, David Todd, police chief of Fargo.

"A younger couple came up to us, set gift cards in front of us, and said, 'Thank you for what you do,'" Todd said.

That meant a lot to the whole family, he added.

"It was a nice gesture on their behalf — I assured them we would pay it forward," he said.

In honor of Law Enforcement Appreciation Day, here are some crime statistics from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension's uniform crime reports.

In 2015, the last year for which figures are available, the Becker County Sheriff's Office cleared 70 percent of crimes it handled, about the same as the year before.

The Detroit Lakes Police Department cleared 79 percent of crimes it handled.

In 2015, Mahnomen County had a 36 percent clearance rate, Hubbard County had a 67 percent clearance rate, Clay County had a 51 percent rate and Otter Tail County had a 68 percent rate.

Troopers in the Detroit Lakes district were involved in 18 high-speed chases (12 initiated by troopers, six assisting other agencies). The average chase covered 18 miles and took 14 minutes.

Becker County deputies were involved in 12 chases, six initiated by deputies and six assists that averaged 25 minutes and 12 miles.

Detroit Lakes police officers were involved in three high-speed chases that averaged three miles and 12 minutes in length.

Clay County deputies were involved in 14 chases; Mahnomen County deputies were involved in seven high-speed chases; Hubbard County in seven chases, and Otter Tail County deputies were in four chases.

Sometimes those high-speed chases end in crashes.

Statewide, three drivers died trying to flee police, 13 suffered an incapacitating injury, three of their passengers suffered serious injuries, and one police officer fell victim to an incapacitating injury.

It may not seem like it, but there used to be a lot more crime in Minnesota.

In 2015, 2,367 Minnesotans out of every 100,000 were crime victims — the lowest crime rate since 1966.

The state crime rate peaked in 1980 at 4,803 crimes per 100,000 residents. It was high throughout the 1980s and 1990s and has been dropping since 1996, when it was at 4,560.

According to the state crime stats, in Detroit Lakes in 2015 there were no murders, no rapes, seven aggravated assaults, 23 burglaries, 11 auto thefts, 31 narcotics cases and 70 DUIs, among other crimes against persons and property.

"We are proud to serve our community," Todd said, "and will continue doing so with honor."