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Becker County sheriff candidate Chad Peterson has won a number of awards

Peterson was named Police Officer of the Year for his actions as a Mahnomen County deputy on Feb. 19, 2008, when he “apprehended two suspects who had just shot his partner, Deputy Chris Dewey,” according to a news release from the time from the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association.

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Chad Peterson
Michael Achterling/Tribune
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DETROIT LAKES — Lake Park Police Officer Chad Peterson, 48, won a number of awards over his career in law enforcement, including the Minnesota Police Officer of the Year Award in 2009, and the Minnesota Sheriff’s Association Medal of Valor that same year.

He started as a deputy with the Mahnomen County Sheriff’s Office in 2003, and joined the Becker County Sheriff’s Office in 2011 — receiving letters of commendation there in 2016, 2017 and 2018.

“I worked there for about 11 years,” he said.

But he also lost his job with Becker County for unprofessional behavior, after an angry and somewhat threatening confrontation with a resident outside the man’s home. The exchange was recorded by Peterson’s body camera. He appealed the dismissal to an arbitration panel and lost, and now works for the Lake Park Police Department.

Peterson said the confrontation was an isolated incident during a period of his life when he was having major stress at home and on the job, and that he should have been disciplined far short of termination.

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Peterson was named Police Officer of the Year for his actions as a Mahnomen County deputy on Feb. 19, 2008, when he “apprehended two suspects who had just shot his partner, Deputy Chris Dewey,” according to a news release from the time from the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association.

“Deputy Peterson, whose shift was complete, offered to stay and assist his partner in patrolling a neighborhood reporting suspicious activity,” according to the news release. “While the two officers were investigating, Peterson heard gunshots. After several attempts to contact his partner, he raced to the scene and saw two individuals — one carrying a gun — running from Dewey's squad car. Peterson ran to the car, believing his partner had just been shot, but Deputy Dewey was not inside.”

Peterson then saw the suspects about to enter a residence, “identified the suspect with the gun, then shot and wounded him,” the news release said. Both suspects entered the home and surrendered after a nine-hour standoff. Peterson found his partner lying in the driveway of a nearby home, seriously wounded.

"Deputy Peterson encountered a scene that would strike fear in the heart of the most seasoned officer, he observed his partner's squad car in the middle of the street, with one male walking in front of the car and one emerging from behind the open driver's door carrying a handgun. He immediately believed that his partner had been shot and his quick action from that moment distinguished him as a true top cop," said Dennis Flaherty, executive director of the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association

“Deputy Peterson's actions no doubt directly allowed for the suspect's capture. His ability to remain calm in the face of what he confronted was a true testament to his skills as a police officer and to his bravery," Flaherty said.

In an interview, Peterson said he is not running for sheriff because he is mad at Glander, but because improvements are needed in Becker County.

“There needs to be a change,” he said. “I have almost 20 years of law enforcement experience, and that office needs to bring back communications and efficiency,” he said.

He’d like to see more training for deputies and more opportunities for professional growth.

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As sheriff, he would also prioritize fiscal responsibilities, focusing on “needs, not wants,” he said.

Mental health care is also a priority for all first responders, said Peterson, who also served as a Mahhomen volunteer firefighter for eight years. “I don’t care who you are,” he said, working in law enforcement, firefighting or emergency medicine “leaves scars.”

“We feel like we are made of iron, that we can take the weight of the world on our shoulders, if we get help we’re weak, we'll get labeled … it’s hard to ask for help in that area.”

Right now in law enforcement “there are a lot of vacancies due to post-traumatic stress and other mental health issues, he said.

To address the problem, he would implement a Bureau of Criminal Apprehension-style mental health program locally.

“I’m running for the betterment of the department,” he said.”I’ve worked there, I know what needs to change. I lead by example and I wouldn’t expect anybody to do anything I wouldn’t do myself.”

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