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Farmington police respond to growing call load

Farmington Police Patrol Sgt. Bob Sauter said police body cams allow police to capture the scene on police calls and the footage protects the public. Kara Hildreth / contributor 1 / 2
Farmington Police Patrol Sgt. Bob Sauter said he thinks the use of body cameras has been good for the department. Photo by Kara Hildreth / contributor2 / 2

The law enforcement landscape across the country has led to a change in how Farmington police respond to police calls today.

Rarely does a single police officer respond to the calls, according to Farmington Police Chief Brian Lindquist. He shared highlights of his annual police report with Farmington City Council earlier this month.

"The dynamics of law enforcement have changed immensely and the landscape is not the same as if was a few years ago," Lindquist said.

Lindquist said the turning point that changed the police landscape was the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., on Aug. 9, 2014. Brown, an 18-year-old black man, was fatally shot by Darren Wilson, a white Ferguson police officer who responded to a call about a man robbing a convenience store.

"We have become much more responsive to what we perceive as a potential threat — we do not carry what was once the authority of being told something to do something because you do what the police say you should do it, because many look upon that now with distaste," Lindquist said. "Rarely, do we send one officer — we have become very protective of our own backs because the clients have changed and a lot of these calls require a lot more than just one body."

Ten years ago, many police calls would require sending a single cop, but now these calls require a need to send two or three officers to respond to calls, the chief said.

Police video footage

The chief shared a few minutes of Farmington police video footage clips captured with the police body cameras. The first clip showed how Farmington Police stopped a drunken driver with three cars after the driver hit a telephone pole by CVS pharmacy off Pilot Knob Road.

Another police clip showed how officers need to rescue people who lose consciousness from a drug overdose due to heroin, opioids or some other dangerous drug.

"The Narcan kit has five steps where they put it in the nose and press the nasal mist, and then here they are doing CPR rescue," Lindquist said while the video footage rolled on the screen in the city hall chamber.

Farmington Council Member Terry Donnelly asked if this footage was from Farmington.

Lindquist said "We have hundreds of hours of that, and they (police) are doing their job and I am doing my job and we need to be very professional and very calm."

"Our criminal element is no different than any other community," Lindquist said.

Police body cams

A couple years ago Farmington police began wearing body cameras mounted behind the ear on clipped on their hats.

"The thought being, whatever I look at the camera is going to catch it," Farmington Police Patrol Sgt. Bob Sauter said.

Each officers wear a body camera worn.

"The cameras are on for a call or any action with the public, and I can turn it on and off for the start of a call and turn it off at the end of the call," Sauter said.

When the police body cams are turned on, the video footage captures the last 30 seconds prior since it is always recording.

Each police squad car also captures video footage on a camera mounted near the rearview mirror near the front windshield.

"I do think they have helped protect us, and it is nice knowing if we receive a complaint against us at least we have something to back up our story, and it keeps us honest, too," Sauter said. "It keeps us from saying things maybe we would have liked or may have said before."

With a recent police officer retirement, the Farmington Police is down to 23 positions. The police K-9 position is not filled now but will be in the spring. The department is split into four groups of three patrol officers and each group has a sergeant.

"So, anytime there are four officers available to respond to calls and they work 12 hours shifts with four on and four off," Lindquist said.

Calls for service are going up and traffic stops are on their way down, Lindquist said.

Farmington Mayor Todd Larson asked for an explanation as to the change in calls and traffic stops.

"There are a number of reasons why," Lindquist said. "We are dealing more with severe, individual mental handicap needs than we have ever dealt with in the past, and these calls take an extended amount of time."

For those who suffer from mental health issues, Lindquist said the officers are unable to take them to any Twin Cities facility that takes care of mental health care needs.

"We technically ended up taking them up to St. Paul and they are so overwhelmed that in a vast majority of time, they are back home that night," Lindquist said.

Despite the challenges with mental health calls and demands on the police force, Farmington received the ranking of the third safest city in 2017 by Safe Choice Security News.