KENYON, Minn. - He works the streets miles from Minnesota's Capitol City, in a quiet town of 2,000 people.
And yet words penned by Kenyon Police Chief Lee Sjolander have spread from coast to coast in the wake of a violent week that has left a country divided, and trust between police and citizens teetering on the brink.
Sjolander, who was gathering a growing following on the department's Facebook page even before the police shootings in Baton Rouge and Falcon Heights, and the slaying of five officers in Dallas, wrote a post July 8 that has been shared nearly 2,000 times and gathered nearly 5,000 likes. It is an open letter to the law enforcement community, urging each and every person who dons a uniform and wears a badge to do better. It reads:
If I was your chief, and we worked for the same agency, serving the same great community, I would attend rollcall, and here is what I would say...
We have calls for service that we need to respond to. We have a grateful public that needs us, we have responsibilities... Yes, there are those out here who do not like us, or what we represent. It's been that way long before you or I became officers, and it will be that way long after we're gone.
I, as well as the public we serve have certain expectations, and we would all like them met when you can.
Here are just a few...
We expect you to be kind, we expect you to be fair, we expect you to be professional, and we expect you to do the best you can on every call for service.
We expect you to know the difference between the letter of the law, and the spirit of the law, and when to use your best discretion.
We expect you to leave people better than you found them when you can, and never take away someone's dignity.
We expect you to be well-trained, and to know when, and when not to apply your training.
We expect you to be human. That means it's ok to laugh, cry, and be scared at times.
I want you to remember why you chose to answer this public service calling. I hope it was to be part of something bigger than yourself, I hope it was to serve the public that we love, and I hope it was to build relationships with coworkers, as well as our public.
I hope you chose this calling because you love having a front row seat into the lives of people, love problem solving, and know that what you do makes your family and friends proud.
Yes, we are all sharing in some dark times right now. But, we still expect you to be brilliant at the basics and do your job to the best of your abilities.
As your chief, I also wanted to add these expectations. I expect you to patrol your areas with a smile on your face, kindness in your heart, calmness in your soul, and a wave to those you see.
I expect you to get out of your patrol car, and visit. I want you to listen to the compliments, the concerns, take them all in, and remember, it's not "us vs. them"
I expect you to show others that we are better than these tragedies and we are striving to be better in so many ways.
I expect you to be safe at work, and at home. I hope you visit with your family openly about the current state of our nation, and how if we give into fear, violence, propaganda, etc. we will not be part of the solution.
If you, or another member of our public service family is struggling, I expect you to get help, and I expect you to help others. I promise you, there is no shame in seeking help and being well.
I, as well as so many others are here for you. If you need me, I will be just a phone call, or radio call away.
I truly appreciate, and love each and everyone of you.
A post by Sjolander Monday thanks new followers of the Kenyon Police Department Facebook page for comments and kind words shared in the wake of his "If I was your chief" message. "We are not perfect here, nor is our small town. We focus on the good, work through the bad, and we don't judge a book by its cover or a person during a bad chapter," he wrote.