For police officers, the job is always evolving
After 13 years with the Farmington police department, chief Brian Lindquist is certainly no old timer. But all the same, he's seen a lot of changes in the way policing works in his time here.
Back when Lindquist came to Farmington, there were four squad cars for a team of eight or nine officers. There was one computer for the department, and reports were hand-written. Officers could not rely on cameras in their squads to catch details of a stop, and all officers were skilled in patrol essentials, but few had areas of specialization.
That has really changed, though, particularly in the last decade or so. With the graduation of canine officer Bosco and his partner officer Travis Sundvall in late May, the Farmington Police Department has implemented its first canine unit. It's just another phase in the evolution of policing.
Lindquist points to 9/11 as a turning point in the way things were done to how they are done now. The terrorist attacks on America forced law enforcement agencies of all levels to look at who had access to what information, and how that information was being used.
From that incident came a greater understanding that information is a powerful thing for both criminals and police. And, that sharing information could unite agencies and help to curb the criminal activity.
"Use of technology has increased 20-fold in just the last five to 10 years," Lindquist said. "There are a lot of very smart people out there with ill intentions. When a new crime comes up, we have to figure out how to stop it."
The Farmington Police Department is divided into two groups - patrol and investigations.
The patrol division is what Lindquist calls "the workhorse" of the police department. It's made up of the men and women in the squads, the ones who pull people over and the ones who respond first to an emergency call. They're the visible officers who put their lives on the line every day.
But these days, Farmington's patrol officers all have their own areas of specialized training. Sundvall and Bosco make up the canine unit part of the division. Officer Tom Strese is a part of the Dakota County Special Operations Team. Officer Jason Amundson has special training in commercial vehicle code enforcement. Another officer is on the Dakota County MAAG team - the equivalent of a SWAT unit - and several of the officers are certified firearms instructors. All of them have a degree of training in crime scene investigations and drug recognition.
Many of those specialized "subcategories" within the patrol division were born from necessity.
"A lot of this stuff is reactive. Crime is forever changing. Every time we figure out how to stop it, we're almost a half-step behind," Lindquist said.
Linquist strongly believes that as many of his officers as possible should have the firearms safety instructor certification, simply because the additional training could mean the difference between life and death in any given situation.
"I want them to do as much of that as possible," he said. "It's a small investment for the return that you get."
Then, there's the investigations side, where almost every member has at least one, if not more, specialty. For instance, one investigator may be the go-to person for arson investigation and computer forensics, while another may specialize in crimes against children and sexual assaults. The school resource officers also fall under the investigations division.
And investigators often find information to clear their cases through the joint-information sharing system that has been built up since 9/11. With the push of a button, investigators are able to get background from other departments, the county sheriff's office, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension or even the FBI.
The local department receives regular updates from local, state and federal law enforcement agencies. Likewise, Farmington shares information on a regular basis. And sometimes, it's that shared information that connects the dots to crimes between different cities.
For instance, when Dunn Bros. Coffee employees were held up at gunpoint a few years back, the details and video of the incident were shared with neighboring agencies. Something rang a bell with an officer in Burnsville, who knew where to find the man and woman who were ultimately convicted for the crime.
The tech cop
Actually, there's a third branch to local law enforcement - the administrative side. Lindquist, of course, is the chief, and there is an administrative staff. But then there's Administrative Sgt. Jim Constantineau, whose job it is to stay up-to-date on all of the technology changes how those changes affect police work.
It's not a job that just any computer enthusiast can do, either. With his knowledge of the field, Constantineau can determine what kinds of upgrades will work best for Farmington officers.
"He's my technical guru," Lindquist said. "A lot of the information that helps him do his job is law enforcement-sensitive. He understands how it will work in the field.
"Officers get pulled in a lot of different directions. We only have so many bodies, so many hours. Protect and serve, that's our main mission. As crime evolves, we have to keep pace with it. If we didn't, we would be ineffective in our jobs."