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Continued: Going inside the Washington County Sheriff's Office

  • Article by: KEVIN GILES , Star Tribune
  • Last update: April 5, 2014 - 2:00 PM

The Citizens Academy, the first in Hutton’s tenure as sheriff, resulted from an initiative by Deputy Mark Rindfleisch, a theater major who planned to become a teacher when he turned to law enforcement. Rindfleisch, first in his family to become a police officer, got Hutton’s approval to teach the Academy classes.

Under Rindfleisch’s guidance, our class studied patrol geography, police history, criminal law, jail operations, court security, emergency communications, patrol functions, traffic stops, investigations, narcotics and interrogations. We also learned about the SWAT team from members who showed us their weapons and armor and told us about hostage negotiations. K-9 officers, who brought their dogs, talked about drug searches and apprehending suspects. And most of us went on patrol with Rindfleisch to observe how he did his job.

We also role-played. Reserve officers played crime victims, squabbling parents and even suspects. At least two dozen reserve deputies attended one or more of our classes, too, to help with the teaching.

The same night that our class practiced on the deadly force simulator — using practice “red guns” that were the same weight and shape of real guns — we also fired live rounds on the gun range. Our targets were in the shape of human forms.

Dealing with emotions

Law enforcement work requires substantial training, state licensing and a genuine understanding that it’s often a confrontational and emotional job. It also requires sound judgment, with deputies constantly balancing threats to public safety with violations of constitutional rights.

Another important component of our training dealt with service calls and understanding the “legal continuum,” which determines how law enforcement officers respond to various situations.

Some calls are merely advisory, others will require deadly force. Sometimes deputies will act on a hunch, or reasonable suspicion, probable cause or preponderance of evidence.

Hutton said many residents will have only one encounter with a sheriff’s deputy, or 911 dispatcher, or deputies in the jail and courts, and he wants people treated professionally.

“People see me and think I’m trained to see the worst in people, but I like to think the other,” Rindfleisch said.

Kevin Giles • 651-925-5037

  • related content

  • Richard Brainerd, inside the car, participates in a traffic stop roleplay where students posing as officers found jewelry stolen in a burglary and then, drugs and a handgun. Brainerd is a Mahtomedi City Council member. Deputy Mark Rindfleisch, foreground, was the academy instructor.

  • Washington County detective Bill Harrell, right, explains investigative procedures. From left, Richard Brainerd of Mahtomedi, detective Nick Loperfido, in doorway, Birchwood Village Mayor Mary Wingfield, Lori Lengsfeld of Landfall, Deputy Mark Rindfleisch and Amy Williams of Lakeland. Brainerd, Lengsfeld and Williams are City Council members.

  • The “red guns” are used to simulate the responsibilities of carrying a firearm. They’re like real handguns in shape and weight.

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