Seen from the deck of a riverside restaurant, the Mississippi makes a scenic vista. Seen through the eyes of a cop, it can be perilous: Jumpers fling themselves from bridges; drug addicts linger along its banks, sometimes slipping in. Those who rush to save them face icy water and a confusing sea of currents set off by dams, spillways and power stations.

On Monday, the Minneapolis Police Department recognized heroics performed by officers over the past few months. Each award was preceded with the story of how it was earned, and the river was a powerful adversary in some.

"I was the guy on the other end of the rope," said Ben Erickson, a scientist at the St. Anthony Falls Laboratory, in describing officer Jeff Binfet's heroism in the Mississippi on an October afternoon. Erickson was standing outside the lab when Binfet ran to him, saying, "I have to get to the river!" A man had jumped off of the Hennepin Avenue bridge and was hurtling downstream.

The cop and the scientist ran to a viewing platform in time to see the man slide over St. Anthony Falls, his arms raised.

Erickson called his office and told co-workers to bring a rope and life vest. When they arrived, Binfet stripped out of his uniform, strapped on the vest and tied the rope around his chest, handing the other end to Erickson. The water temperature was about 54 degrees. Binfet plunged in and swam toward the man, who was now floating face down about 100 feet from shore.

Erickson said he hears about a jumper every year in the area. Many of them are dead by the time they're pulled from the river. Some get caught in underwater currents or entangled in the power plant.

Some of the awards, like those given to Carl Blad, Dan Lysholm and Jim Bulleigh, went to officers who talked people out of jumping off bridges above St. Anthony Falls. Another award went to Sgt. Calvin Noble of the Minneapolis Park police, who pulled a woman from the river after she overdosed and fell in.

The awards for river heroics were just some of those handed out, each a sobering reminder of the life-and-death dealings of the city's police force.

Chad Meyer was one of the officers who chased down an armed man in June after responding to a "shots fired" call in south Minneapolis. The man pointed a gun at police and was subdued only after he was shot in the arm.

Officers Larry Loonsfoot and Andy Enriquez risked their lives when they entered a house engulfed in flames to rescue those inside, including an elderly man who had to be carried out.

Officer Tyrone Barze, with his partner Richard Walker, was commended for saving the life of a 2-year-old when he diagnosed choking and administered several slaps to the child's back, as taught in safety classes. The child spit out a dime and began breathing.

Not all of the stories ended happily. Barze, still in his first year on the force, recently learned that because of budget cuts, he and five other rookies, along with 19 recruits scheduled to start Friday, will be laid off after working next Tuesday; Barze and at least some others could be hired back if grant money arrives soon, according to Chief Tim Dolan.

Jeff Binfet, the officer who strapped a rope around his chest to pull the man from the river, eventually got him to shore. Despite Binfet's bravery, it was too late. The river had won.

Matt McKinney • 612-673-7329


A LIEUTENANT whose name was not shared because of the nature of his work helped the FBI nab a murder suspect wanted for several years in another country.

OFFICER DALE HANSON, who prowls computer networks looking for child predators was recognized for launching 212 felony investigations in the past two years. His work was also responsible for the rescue of nine victims of child pornography.

OFFICER STEVE WUORINEN made 105 drunken-driving arrests last year.

V.J. SMITH of Minneapolis was recognized for his work with Minneapolis kids through his organization MAD DADS.