Excellence in Innovation Awardees Epitomize ‘Great Ideas in Policing’

Below is a preview article from the Summer 2016 edition of Minnesota Police Chief. To see the full issue: click here for .pdf or here for the web portal

From a partnering with the county to deliver more efficient mental health services to developing a program curbing juvenile crime, the nominees for MCPA’s inaugural Excellence in Innovation awards demonstrate Minnesota’s Great Ideas in Policing. The Executive Committee had a tough job figuring out which applications best demonstrated the awards criteria, but in the end four agencies stood out. 

Congratulations to Top Prize Winners:

Breezy Point Police – Chief Kevin Merschman (Small Department)

Duluth Police – Chief Mike Tusken (Large Department)

Honorable Mention

Breckinridge Police – Chief Nate Harder (Small Department)

Savage Police – Chief Rodney Seurer (Large Department)

Other programs include:

During the awards ceremony luncheon, we were also honored to welcome former Gophers football coach Jerry Kill to help present the awards and share his leadership insight.

The Association’s Board of Directors developed the Excellence in Innovation Award to recognize and highlight the creative and revolutionary initiatives Minnesota agencies are implementing to enhance the effectiveness of law enforcement and community safety.

The MCPA’s Executive Committee reviewed all the nominations and judged the nominees’ initiatives on four criteria.

  • Level of Innovation of the program or initiative
  • Effectiveness of the program or initiative
  • Ability to Replicate the program or initiative
  • Overall Impact the program or initiative is having

Among those in the small agency category (fewer than 15 officers), Breezy Point’s police paramedic program clearly exceeded the four criteria. Two of the department’s six full-time police officers are also paramedics. They respond to medical calls in squad cars equipped with the same advanced life support equipment as an ambulance.

With local ambulances stationed at least 11 miles from the city, this substantially cuts response times, which would be at least 15-20 minutes.

Breezy makes this happen thru a unique private-public partnership with North Memorial Ambulance Service. North Memorial provides medical direction, medical equipment and supplies to the Breezy Point PD at no cost.

“Government agencies have a duty to innovate, providing quality services at a rate the taxpayers can accept,” said Chief Kevin Merschman, Breezy Point Police Department. “Our police paramedic program is a cost effective solution that is very popular with residents and visitors.”

Since 2007, the Department has responded to over 1100 medical calls for service and the city estimates it has saved about $3.5 million in that time with this unique program and partnership.

Gaining an honorable mention, the Breckenridge Police Department’s outstanding community outreach programs, which involves everyone from children and teenagers and seniors, has helped build public trust and strong connections.

Not awarded, but an important program in its community program is the Eveleth Police Department’s K-9 unit, which is assisting Iron Range and Quad Cities area agencies in a variety of ways.

The large agency category had six nominations. Like the small agencies, all are doing outstanding work, but the Executive Committee felt Duluth’s program was particularly innovative at a time when addressing mental health calls has increased dramatically.

By partnering with St. Louis County’s Public Health and Human Services Department, Duluth PD is able to more quickly connect individuals with mental illness to the most appropriate resources and services. This lessens the chances of police involvement in the future. The goal is to also improve interactions by assisting with de-escalating situations. The aim is to reduce use of force incidents and avoid criminalizing the mentally ill.

“This partnership expands our resources and speeds access to vital human services information,” said Lt. Chad Nagorski, Duluth Police Department’s East Area Commander. “Embedding a human services professional in the PD also gives our officers a level of public health expertise we normally wouldn’t have in the fields.”

The Savage Police Department received Honorable Mention for its communications initiatives aimed at keeping residents of all ages better informed about crimes and police activities.

Congratulations to all of the police departments innovating to bring better public safety services to their communities.