Law Enforcement Appreciation week has been recognized since 1962, when President John F. Kennedy signed into law May 15th as Peace Officers Memorial Day and the surrounding week as Police Week.
Recently there has been a number of events celebrating fallen police and other law enforcement personnel, but Wednesday the Optimist Club of Minot presented its annual Respect for Law Luncheon to honor area officials.
The event has taken place since at least 1988, according to Al Hanson, a member of the club who served as the master of ceremonies for the event, which took place in the third floor of the Student Center building at Minot State University.
Minot Police Chief Jason Olson speaks to the Optimist Club at Minot’s Respect for Law Luncheon Wednesday. The event was to show appreciation for enforcement officials of all stripes and featured an award ceremony to honor the Outstanding Law Enforcement Office of the Year.
During the event Technical Sergeant Nathan C. Drost, of the 5th Security Forces Squadron at Minot AFB, was recognized as the 2013 Outstanding Law Enforcement Officer of the Year. He serves as the lead investigator for the squadron.
Drost won out over several other nominees and was nominated by Lt. Col. John D. Swift, the commander of the 5th Security Forces Squadron.
"In my opinion, he is the complete law enforcement officer, mentor and person," Swift wrote in the nomination letter.
The letter paints Drost as a very professional member of the Air Force who has dedicated his entire life to law enforcement. Specifically it mentions that he was the investigator who identified Tiffany Shanice Anderson, Lompoc, Calif., as the woman who called in several bomb threats to the Minot AFB in late December 2012 and threatened the children there. It also mentioned his crisis management expertise when he was able to use "verbal judo techniques" to persuade a woman who had cut her wrists to allow medical attention to get to her, saving her life.
Drost, who was born and raised in Lincoln, Maine, said he spent 19 years of his life there before deciding to join the Air Force.
"Once I joined the Air Force I had an immediate desire for law enforcement. That's what I wanted to do," Drost said in his acceptance speech. "My original goal: Join the Air Force, do four years and then go back and go work for the Maine State Police. I remember sitting in the recruiter's office and he says 'Four years you don't get a sign-on bonus. Do another two years and you'll get a sign-on bonus, put a little extra money in your pocket.' Being the intelligent 19-year-old that I was, that sounded like a good idea to me."
The line got quite a bit of laughter from the crowd, as did several other remarks. He also thanked many people for all the help, support and guidance they have given him.
"I was expecting to get in, get in a patrol car, write some tickets, do some police work," he said of his expectations for what he would be doing, but the recruitment officer told him otherwise. "He said, 'There's a whole other side of being a cop in the military that you don't know about.' ... He tried to warn me. But I don't have any regrets."
Minot Police Chief Jason Olson also spoke at the event, chronicling his first year as police chief, a position he got in April 2012.
Minot City Council had approved positions for seven new officers during the time, increasing the force from 65 sworn officers to 72, four patrol officers and three detectives. They were also granted to dispatcher positions.
"We've had an issue with turnover over the last two years, which has also been a challenge for our department just in meeting the needs of the community," he said. "We've had probably around 85 percent staffing for the past two years at a time when we really needed to be at about 110 or 120 percent staffing to meet all the needs, so it's been quite a challenging time."
He also said that the largest pay increase in his memory has helped to slow turnover and that it has been over a month without any turnover of staff. He wants the department to be a "destination employer," one that people join to serve careers at rather than use as a stepping stone.
In that capacity the department has tried to stay up on all technology and has even been testing body-mounted cameras to join the dashboard cameras already employed in patrol cars. He pointed toward other plans for the future as the department will continue to expand.
"This is National Police Week, it gives us a chance to honor those who have chosen law enforcement as a career. It can be a tough job, it can be a stressful job," Olson said. "Many times people say it's a thankless job, but I have found in my career that law enforcement really isn't a thankless job. We have a lot of support in the community ... There is a wealth of public support."