Four new police officers officially joined the University force Friday in a ceremony held at the University’s Transportation and Safety Building.
Kurtis Hallstrom, Michael Joslyn, Jean Ladwig and Erik Stenemann replace four recently retired officers, University Police Sgt. Joe May said. The total number of University Police officers is now 41.
Joslyn, who graduated from North Hennepin Community College with a degree in law enforcement, said he always wanted to be a police officer.
“When I was a kid, it was the person behind the badge. He seemed like one that was professional and had good character,” he said. “I wanted to be like him.”
Ladwig and Stenemann both completed their police officer schooling at Metropolitan State University. Hallstrom completed his skills training at the St. Paul-based Center for Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement.
All four officers recently finished a month’s worth of orientation classes and sessions that included weapons training and defensive tactics.
University Police Chief Joy Rikala said that for the next few months the new officers will patrol campus with a veteran of the University Police force.
“We set the expectations for what we want in a University peace officer,” Rikala said. “We want to help them learn the skills to be an officer.”
But the new officers’ training is also aimed at improving their mental and psychological control of potentially dangerous situations.
One portion of the training involves “verbal judo,” a relatively new law enforcement strategy.
Using verbal judo, officers learn to talk to suspects instead of trying to physically confront them. For example, if a suspect is wielding a broken bottle, officers could offer one of two choices. The first would be to take a citation, pay a fine and go home. The other would be to continue the physical confrontation and turn a minor violation into a felony and a night in jail.
Regan Metcalf, a 23-year veteran of the University Police, said having mental and psychological control over a situation is often more important than physical control.
“I think police officers are surprised at how effective (verbal judo) is,” Metcalf said. “We’re seeing a softening of the authoritarian image.”
University Police Lt. John Enger said the strategy helps suspects consider actions or words they might later regret.
“We think for others as they might think for themselves 48 to 72 hours later,” he said.
As their law enforcement careers begin, all four recruits said it was a relief that the first stage of training is over.
“I’ve been striving for this for six years,” Hallstrom said. “Whatever they want me to do, that’s what I’m going to do next. That’s pretty much what it boils down to.”