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Becker County Sheriff candidates face tough questions at public forum, both praised current deputies

Candidates for Becker County Sheriff answered questions for voters during a public forum on Sept. 26 hosted by the Detroit Lakes area League of Women Voters.

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Lakes area residents crowd into the community room at the Detroit Lakes Police Station to view Becker County candidates at the League of Women Voters candidate forum on Sept. 26, 2022.
Michael Achterling / Detroit Lakes Tribune
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DETROIT LAKES — Becker County Sheriff Todd Glander and sheriff candidate Chad Peterson spent about an hour answering questions during the Detroit Lakes area League of Women Voters candidate forum on Sept. 26.

The community room at the Detroit Lakes Police Station was packed to capacity with many attendees standing along the walls during the event, which also featured candidates running for seats on the Becker County Board of Commissioners.

"What a wonderful surprise to see this room full," said Sharon Sinclair, the moderator for the candidate forum.

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Becker County Sheriff Todd Glander answers a question during a League of Women Voters candidate forum held in the community room at the Detroit Lakes Police Station on Sept. 26, 2022.
Michael Achterling / Detroit Lakes Tribune

During introductory remarks, Glander said he received his law enforcement training while he was working part-time at the Becker County Jail and became a Detroit Lakes police officer in 1993; a job he held until 2006, when he returned to the sheriff's office.

"I became a sergeant in 2013, and during my career there I was also a field training officer, firearms instructor, and was certified at neighborhood watch," said Glander. He was elected Becker County Sheriff in 2014 and is finishing his second term in that position.

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During his introduction, Chad Peterson said he grew up south of Audubon and became a deputy with the Mahnomen County Sheriff's Office in 2003. He worked in that role until 2011 when he decided to return to Becker County and was a Becker County Sheriff's Office deputy until 2021. He currently works for the city of Lake Park.

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Chad Peterson, a candidate for Becker County Sheriff, answers a question during a League of Women Voters candidate forum held in the community room at the Detroit Lakes Police Station on Sept. 26, 2022.
Michael Achterling / Detroit Lakes Tribune

Each candidate was given two minutes to answer each question and timers were on hand to ensure the candidates didn't run over their allotted time.

Both candidates were asked what the most important issues facing Becker County are and what policies they would enact to address them.

Peterson said one problem he sees is the shortage in the "hiring pool" for the sheriff's office. He added, when he was first hired, he was competing against about 80 other applicants for his job and that pool has shrunk to about a dozen applicants per opening, he said.

"There's not a lot of people looking to get into this profession anymore," he said. "We have a beautiful county. We have good officers, good deputies, and we have a good staff. And we have to get that out there to let them know that this is a good place to work."

He also said consistency and communication were "weak" when he worked at the sheriff's office and plans to improve them as sheriff.

Todd Glander said staffing has been a major issue at the office, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic left them with up to seven openings. He added, earlier on Monday, he filled five of those openings.

"It is tough to get qualified, good candidates now," said Glander. "I'm very grateful for the staff that I do have. They have left no call go unresponded."

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Candidates were asked, as a supervisor, how they would address the needs of their staff in terms of mental health, stress and burnout.

Peterson said there are programs already in place through the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension that focus on mental health, "hard" health and fiscal responsibility. He said he plans to see which programs have worked well in the past and continue them in Becker County.

Glander said, in addition to the Employee Assistance Program, he is contacting other sheriffs to see what is working well for them. However, he said, finding funding for these programs can be a challenge, so he plans to look into using forfeited funds, or restricted funds, to cover the cost of the health programs.

The candidates were also asked how the sheriff's office would deal with the prevalence of social media videos of enforcement actions that often portray law enforcement in a negative light.

Peterson said: "Becker County is blessed with good deputies, they truly are ... there is no issue with how they interact with the public. They do their job and they do their job very well."

Glander said he appreciated Peterson saying the county has good deputies.

"One thing we have added is body-worn cameras," said Glander. "They are very expensive, but it's something that we, along with other departments, felt that with the times we are in, it was something that we needed to do."

Body cameras are used, not only to protect officers and address complaints, he said, but also to provide a video record of every encounter should the need for that evidence ever arise.

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When asked how the candidates would want the sheriff's office to respond to mental health emergency calls, Glander said the response has changed over the last few years, but thinks his deputies should always respond to those types of calls.

"Our number one defense, or offense, is our mouth," said Glander. "You don't just go in and grab onto somebody that is going through a mental health episode. You start with your mouth and find out what's going on. You communicate with family, with other members who may know what that person is going through, so we have changed our way of thinking, as far as responding and what to do when we get to that call."

Peterson said officers go through mandatory training so they are able to handle mental health calls, but also believes deputies have a duty to respond to those calls.

"It's about getting to know them and talking," said Peterson. "We kind of need to find out what the real issue is. Sometimes we might be there and fifteen minutes, you can handle it, and sometimes you might need to spend an hour just to calm things down. And it all depends what the resources are too."

When asked whether or not there is a drug problem in Becker County, and how each of the candidates plans to deal with drug issues, Glander said, "Yes, unfortunately, the drug problem is nationwide."

He also said, when he first started in law enforcement, finding a joint in a car was reason for a "high-five," but now, with the rise of meth, opioids and fentanyl, the task has become more challenging.

"We work hand-in-hand with (other law enforcement agencies) and we are not only on the West Central Minnesota drug task force, which is a state task force, but we are also on the Headwaters Safe Trails task force and we've been there since 2018," said Glander.

Peterson said he agreed with Glander that the drug problem in our area is real and nationwide.

"Drugs have kind of surfaced in everyone's lives," said Peterson. "I think everybody in this room knows somebody that has a family member that's an addict, or recovering addict, and it's sad."

He added that local narcotics officers in our area do a "bang-up" job with their cases and Becker County could use more of them.

The League of Woman Voters is a non-partisan, nonprofit organization that focuses on grassroots voter education.

Watch the full video of the Becker County candidates on YouTube .

Multimedia News Lead Reporter
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