Mayor's Message: Thanking the officers who protect our community

By Mayor Dan Toland
Posted 5/22/24

Typically, I use the spring newsletter column to write about the new growth around us with trees and plants budding and flowering, houses and buildings springing up, and the anticipation of all of …

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Mayor's Message: Thanking the officers who protect our community


Typically, I use the spring newsletter column to write about the new growth around us with trees and plants budding and flowering, houses and buildings springing up, and the anticipation of all of our school children transforming from second graders to third graders and seniors to graduates.
This spring, I want to steer our attention towards a different type of growth: the ever-evolving role of the city’s police department.
I have always been vocal about my pride in our public safety employees and first responders. Today, I would like to spotlight the dedication of our Police Department, whose motto is “To Protect with Courage and Serve with Compassion.”
Police officers are responsible for upholding the law, keeping our community safe, and responding when someone is in need. However, we often forget that officers are human beings, too. They not only protect the community but are members of it. They are our neighbors, their children are friends with ours, and they also experience the day-to-day struggles we all do.
In mid-April, I had the honor of accompanying one of our police sergeants on a ride-along. I arrived at the police department well before my appointment time of 10 p.m. so they didn’t have to wait on me. First impressions are everything, and I wanted him to know he could count on me. I suppose I was also a little intimidated, not knowing what to expect. I was nervous my night would start off by immediately needing to respond to a call, requiring us to jump right into the patrol car to get into action.
Instead, we started the night off by going over the features of his patrol car. He explained all the equipment to me, including how each feature integrates with one another and collaborates with other agencies to make his job both more effective and safer. While these new investments have been presented at council meetings, it was captivating to see the impact they have while in action. Being able to witness how these tools are utilized in the field reaffirmed the value of our city’s investments in public safety: money very well spent.
It turned out to be a quiet Friday night, marked by only a few routine stops for speeding and brief check-ins with fellow officers conducting their own stops. While I was glad the officers had relatively uneventful night, I couldn’t help but feel a bit selfish in hoping for more excitement.
My conversations with the Sergeant left a lasting impression on me. Our discussion spanned a variety of topics, both personal and professional. I gained insights that I otherwise would not have thought of, which offered me numerous new perspectives. We talked about the challenges law enforcement officers often face when living in the same community that they work in. People may hold grudges for tickets or arrests one might have made while on-duty, and this tension may be passed on to an officer’s family or friends. This then causes these family members and friends to feel uncomfortable or unsafe within the very community the officers are sworn to serve.
We talked about the profound impact of helping people improve their lives and the pride officers experience when they witness people they have aided succeed or rebuild relationships with friends and family members. We also talked about how painful it can be to watch community members that officers have spent time working with begin to faulter, some even sinking into a downward spiral. We forget that the same officers that protect us, whom we see as courageous and resilient, experience personal hardships as a result of their duty to serve the community. Officers form relationships with and become personally invested in our community members – this investment does not end when they take their uniforms off and clock out of their shift.
This newsletter is well timed, as it falls near National Police Week, which was May 12-18 and Peace Officers Memorial Day, which was May 15. I encourage all of us to remember that our community’s police officers put their lives and personal wellbeing on the line every time they step into their uniform. They are charged with keeping us safe from criminals and even sometimes from ourselves, while also preserving the overall welfare of our community. They are not just officers, but are our neighbors and friends committed to ensuring our safety, wellbeing, and prosperity. They deserve our respect, and for us to teach our children and grandchildren to do the same. Despite the inherent dangers and challenges of their profession, they carry out their duties with care and compassion for each and every member of our community.
Always remember that police officers are ordinary citizens doing an extraordinary job. I ask you to take a moment to thank our officers whenever you see them out in the community.
Remember it’s your city, get out there and enjoy it.

Mayor's Message, Dan Toland, police appreciation, River Falls, Wisconsin