Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association
Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association

Faces Behind the Badge Podcast Series

Telling the stories of cops across Minnesota.

Faces Behind the Badge is a program that highlights the enormous value that individual police officers provide every day in communities large and small throughout Minnesota. An objective of the effort is to heighten the awareness of the caliber of Minnesota police officers and to introduce them as their neighbors and friends, not only as the peace keepers for society.

Faces Behind the Badge places a human face on those who protect and serve our neighborhoods, downtowns, small towns and rural communities. It not only tells the story of the heroic measures taken to protect someone during dangerous situations, but their everyday involvement in making our communities a better place to live. The stories demonstrate Minnesota police's involvement with kids, seniors and the disadvantaged and show just how much of that work is done as a volunteer.


To submit nominations for officers deserving of being featured in an upcoming segment of Faces Behind the Badge, please email the name, department name and short description of their efforts in the community to Dennis Flaherty at dflaherty@mppoa.com


FACES BEHIND THE BADGE WEEKLY WCCO-AM 830 FEATURES

Sgt. Mark Ficcadenti is no stranger to the streets of St. Paul. As a sergeant with the St. Paul Police Department, he has spent his career working many areas of the city, but the past few years, has spent countless hours, both on and off duty, getting to know St. Paul’s newest community, the East and West African immigrant population. Ficcadenti developed a program called the East African Police Academy. He realizes the importance of initiating activities with young people to help create healthy relationships, expose children to potential career opportunities and create open dialog in these groups.

Sgt. Ficcadenti was recently named the 2015 Police Officer of the Year by the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association. Thank you for going above and beyond in the community.

Sgt. Mark Ficcadenti

Week 1

St. Paul Police Department

Podcast

Officer Bill Jacobson with the Centennial Lakes Police Department is an integral part of a local elementary school where for the past several years he has “adopted” students who are either having trouble in school or at home. Officer Jacobson spends 1-2 hours each week with the students, playing catch, board games or just talking with the students. He creates a positive rapport with these kids to provide them an outlet to talk with an adult. He also is a familiar face in “the Zone”, which is a group meeting of students who have a more difficult time in the classroom setting. Each year during the holidays, Officer Jacobson buys several board games to donate to this program out of his own pocket and at the end of the school year, they celebrate the students’ successes with a pizza party which he also pays for and delivers to the school. Officer Jacobson has never asked for anything in return and truly understands what it means to volunteer in his community.

Officer Bill Jacobson

Week 2

Centennial Lakes Police Department

Podcast

No matter where Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension Agent Jake May lives in Minnesota, he is volunteering in his community. As a Hutchinson police officer, Agent May was a volunteer youth football, wresting and baseball coach for 10 years. When Agent May isn’t wearing his coaching hat, he’s working with students on stage where he volunteers at SOAR regional arts academy and with the St. Michael High School theater production department. Agent May is also a school reading mentor at Fieldstone Elementary in St. Michael. We’re proud of the work that BCA Agent Jake May does on the sports fields, on stage and in the classrooms – all in our community.

Agent Jake May

Week 3

Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension

Podcast

Rochester police officer Joel Blahnik spends a considerable amount of his personal time volunteering with the youth sports programs in the City of Rochester. He organizes an after school basketball program through the Boys and Girls Club that utilizes “community stars” to work with coach and mentor at-risk youth in addition to being a past board member for the Boys and Girls Club. The “Community Stars” program includes everyone from teachers, principals, police officers, firefighters and even NFL football players. Additionally, Officer Blahnik has spent many years coaching the Police Athletic League football teams and is the chief organizer behind the annual Police vs. Fire charity football game that has raised thousands of dollars for the organization over the past decade.

Joel Blahnik

Week 4

Police Department, City of Rochester

Podcast

For the past 11 years, Dakota County Deputy Jen Lenarz has taken the lead as a volunteer in both the Law Enforcement Torch Run and the Polar Plunge for the Special Olympics.  Year in and year out, Deputy Lenarz has volunteered her time and spent countless hours coordinating events. In 2006, she led the first ever Polar Plunge in Dakota County and this year, the 10th Annual South Metro Polar Plunge took place where they raised over $200,000.  Deputy Lenarz also organizes and participates in the Torch Run. Deputy Lenarz was awarded introduction into the Law Enforcement Torch Run Hall of Fame from Special Olympics Minnesota. Special Olympics has opened up a whole new world for children with special needs and Deputy Lenarz is a key in that success.  

Deputy Jen Lenarz

Week 5

Dakota County Sheriff's Office

Podcast

Officer Tom Minster of the Brooklyn Park Police Department was dispatched to the home of an elderly, handicapped resident who had had her purse stolen earlier in the day when she was out. She was concerned for her safety due to the fact that her driver’s license and key to her house were inside the purse.  The elderly woman told Officer Minster that she didn’t think she had anyone to change the lock for her.  After his work shift was over for the day, Officer Minster went to Home Depot and purchased new door locks with his own money and went back to her residence and installed the locks on his own time.  Officer Minster went above and beyond his duties to make sure one of the seniors in his community felt safe in her home.   

Officer Tom Minster

Week 6

Brooklyn Park PD

Podcast

Last fall, St. Paul Police Officers Mary Alberg and Theresa Spencer encountered a homeless woman living in a car with her three children and two grandchildren.  They learned the woman was fleeing a domestic violence situation, returning home to Minnesota from Florida. Understanding the plight of this family, the officers collected money from their co-workers, to put the family up in a hotel and to buy the family necessities like toiletries and winter clothes for the children.  Officer Alberg even opened her home to the family allowing them to use the laundry and to feed them. As word spread, the family was able to get into a shelter, the woman found a job and the family was able to get back on their feet. A family is safe and sound thanks to these two officers going above and beyond the call of duty.  

Mary Alberg & Theresa Spencer

Week 7

St. Paul PD

Podcast

Last December, St. Cloud Police Officer Jeremiah Lund was dispatched to a domestic assault call. The home was occupied by a family comprised of a grandmother, mom and two little girls.  There was a Christmas tree in the home, but no decorations and no presents under the tree.  A few days later, Officer Lund and Officer Jennifer Orn went shopping on their own time to buy tree decorations, so the family could decorate their Christmas tree.  Additionally, the officers took their own money and time to purchase clothes, toiletries, and of course, gifts for the two little girls, the mom and the grandma.  The officers wrapped and delivered the presents so the family could have a brighter holiday season.  

Jeremiah Lund & Jennifer Orn

Week 8

St. Cloud PD

Podcast

St. Paul Police Sergeant Shawn Shanley believes that giving back to your hometown is important and in Shanley’s case, his hometown is also where he serves as a police officer.  Sgt. Shanley is a board member of the Harding High School Alumni “H Club” where he has organized the annual charity golf tournament since 2005.  Through that event, they’ve raised over $40,000 for the Harding High School athletic department, all of which goes to offset participation costs and fees for students participating in athletics.  Additionally, Shanley has been a youth hockey coach for the past 10 years, coaching both boys and girls of all ages and abilities.  

Sgt. Shawn Shanley

Week 9

St. Paul PD

Podcast

Owen Rice is not only a Hennepin County Sheriff’s Deputy, but is also a retired, 24-year veteran of the United States Army, earning a Purple Heart from injuries sustained in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan in 2004.  He volunteers as a peer mentor with the Wounded Warrior Project, assisting others in reintegration from deployment to personal and civilian life. He volunteers his time to attend Project Odyssey, where Wounded Warriors attend a week long camp where they learn life skills, coping skills, and learn how to trust themselves and others again.  Deputy Rice is also on call to help a fellow Warrior or veteran at any time through the project.  

Deputy Owen Rice

Week 10

Hennepin CO SO

Podcast

Since 2004, State Trooper Sgt. Scott Fredell has run the Bears that Care Program as their lead volunteer. Uniformed Troopers along with Smokey Bear and McGruff the Crime Dog visit twin cities hospitals and pass out stuffed animals and goodie bags full of candy and toys to children facing extremely serious medical challenges.   Over the last 11 years, Sgt. Fredell has donated countless hours to Bears that Care, organizing all of the hospital visits and fundraising for the program.  The Bears that Care program is successful because of his strong commitment and devotion.  Sgt. Fredell has commented that his “pay” is the smiles on the faces of the ill children the troopers visit.  

Trooper Sgt. Fredell

Week 11

MN State Patrol

Podcast

Duluth Police Officer Tom Sewell oversees the Duluth Police Activities League. The mission of the program is to build positive relationships between cops and kids and is successful thanks in large part to the efforts of Officer Sewell who has donated a great deal of his own personal time, energy, and commitment. Programs include: the NFL Punt, Pass, and Kick; Get the Edge Fitness Camp and Basic Outdoor Survival Courses. Officer Sewell is a positive role model. His leadership and commitment to this program helps young people develop maturity, good citizenship, and other life skills that will serve them well in years to come.

Officer Tom Sewell

Week 12

Duluth PD

Podcast

Brooklyn Center Police Officer Kate Deering often elects to work the night shift, to fit in time to volunteer in her community.  For the past five years, Officer Deering has been a leading organizer for Special Olympics Minnesota.  She organizes the local Polar Plunge, Special Olympics 5K race, and raises money for the Cop on Top Program.  Officer Deering has also spent a great deal of time in a local classroom, and coordinated her whole patrol shift to volunteer 2 to 3 times a month mentoring students and participating in school events.  She’s a driving force and inspires her peers to match her enthusiasm to volunteer.  

Officer Kate Deering

Week 13

Brooklyn Center PD

Podcast

Sergeant Kelly Simondet of the St. Cloud Police Department is not only a dedicated police officer, but also a “Big Brother”.  Simondet participates in the Bigs in Blue Program through the Big Brothers, Big Sisters Program.  For the past two years, he’s spent countless hours with his little brother. Simondet believes his efforts will have a positive impact on him as well as other kids in the program.  On top of being a Big Brother, Simondet has helped the program with recruiting efforts of community members and other police officers. He attends many of their events and promotes police officers in a positive light to all the kids in the program. 

Sergeant Kelly Simondet

Week 14

St. Cloud PD

Podcast

State Trooper Sergeant Scott Wahl is the originator and organizer of Waterfowl for Warriors, an event benefitting Minnesota veterans.  Sgt. Wahl coordinates numerous volunteers for a duck and goose hunt that occur four times each fall at the Bunker Lake Regional Park. He invites veterans, who may have limitations with mobility, to participate in a hobby they have enjoyed their entire lives. He ends the event with a game dinner for each participant to return to enjoy the spoils of their hunt!  He has invited troopers to participate as volunteers, many of whom are military members themselves and enjoy giving back to these veterans.

Sgt. Scott Wahl

Week 15

Minnesota State Patrol

Podcast

St. Paul Police Officer Vern Simmons is the definition of Community Policing.  Officer Simmons’ day job is the School Resource Officer at Johnson High School on the city’s East Side.  He lives in that very area and after school he has been a constant face in the basketball gym for the past 15 years.  He is the head boys’ basketball coach at Johnson High School. Under his leadership over the years his teams have won a State Championship and12 conference titles   Officer Simmons has helped to shape the lives of kids in the neighborhood and has helped countless young men get into college through basketball and has been a positive force in their lives as they grow up to be successful members of society.

Officer Vern Simmons

Week 16

St. Paul PD

Podcast

For fifteen years, the “Cops and Kids” program has been delivering cheer to children who are patients at St. Paul’s Children’s and United Hospitals at Christmastime. The event is organized by St. Paul police officers Chris Byrne, Todd Feroni and Dean Koehnen. Each year they raise thousands of dollars through a motorcycle run, silent auction and other department wide events. “Cops and Kids” is strongly supported by members of the St. Paul Police Department who, just before Christmas, visit these hospitals with Santa, Mrs. Claus and a cast of elves. They arrive at the hospitals in a long police procession carrying gifts for every kid. Thanks to the leadership of officers Byrnes, Feroni and Koehnen and the support of so many police officers in St. Paul, the kids in the hospital get a chance to experience the joys of Christmas.

Officers Byrne, Feroni, Koehnen

Week 17

St. Paul Police Department

Podcast

Bloomington police officer Jerry Robertson has volunteered as a youth basketball coach committing hundreds of hours for over 28 years.  His teams have won numerous state and national championships. Jerry says, “The best part of teaching these kids is seeing the disadvantaged youth from the inner cities become successful not only in sports, but more importantly in life”.  Jerry started the Cops and Kids Basketball Program at the Bloomington Police Department where the cops take on the local youth in a fun game of basketball. Through Jerry’s coaching, many of these kids have gone on to college and some have even gone on to become professional athletes. 

Officer Jerry Robertson

Week 18

Bloomington PD

Podcast

St. Cloud Police Officer Jeff Lester and Sgt. Jesse Douvier are the founders of the St. Cloud Police vs. Fire Annual Football Game benefitting the Tanners Team Foundation, an organization that helps families from Central Minnesota with children who are fighting a life-threatening illness or serious injury. The foundation covers housing, transportation and household expenses incurred during a child’s care and treatment.  Sgt. Douvier and Officer Lester spend countless hours of personal time planning the event’s logistics, arranging volunteers, promoting and raising money for this event.  In the past two years, the event has raised over $7,500. They have a goal of making each year bigger and better than the last.  

Officer Jeff Lester and Sgt. Jesse Douvier

Week 19

St. Cloud PD

Podcast

St. Paul Police Officer Rob Zink recently created the Cop Autism Response Education Project as a part of an effort to train fellow police officers on how to best respond in situations involving people with autism. As a father of two autistic sons himself, Zink understands the challenges that parents face. His priority has been finding a way for police to diffuse situations involving people with autism.  He has spent countless hours getting to know families with autistic children and is often called on his cell phone at all hours of the day and night to help deal with their situation. He often responds with comic books, candy or other items that calm the child down and solves the problem without an incident.  The CARE Project will teach other officers ways in which to keep situations from escalating.

Officer Rob Zink

Week 20

St. Paul PD

Podcast

In 2002, Bloomington police officer Chad Clausen saw a need and opportunity to help those less fortunate. Chad started collecting toys at Christmas time within the Bloomington Police Department, It started with one box that he delivered to Toys for Tots on Law Enforcement Day.  Chad worked hard to get other officers involved. As the number of toys collected grew, Chad challenged other city departments and Bloomington residents to participate. The goal is always to beat the number of toys collected in the previous year and they always do. Chad now utilizes the Bloomington Police Command Post to deliver the thousands of toys collected for kids of all ages.  

Office Chad Clausen

Week 21

Bloomington PD

Podcast

Duluth Police Officer Brian Jones organizes the annual Blue Santa/Shop with a Cop event to provide a memorable Christmas for less fortunate kids.  This year, in partnership with Target, over $4000 was raised and on December 14, kids received a gift card and went shopping at Target with a partner officer. Although he puts many hours of his own time into this event, Officer Jones is quick to defer all credit to the donors and volunteers. However, this event happens and is successful due to Officer Jones’ leadership, contagious excitement and dedication, to making Christmas a positive and memorable experience for the kids and for them to have a positive interaction with a police officer.

Brian Jones

Week 22

Duluth PD

Podcast

In 2008, Rochester Police Officer Don Bray, created and implemented a program to assist visiting law enforcement officers and their families with free housing as they receive treatment at the Mayo Clinic.  The “House of Shield’s” is comprised of three fully furnished apartments funded completely by donations.  It is free of charge to officers and their families regardless of the time it is needed.   So far over 300 individuals and families have been served. Officer Bray has worked tirelessly to raise money, administer and schedule the apartments that provide assistance to anyone who needs it.  Officer Bray’s efforts have inspired many others in the department to get involved in this program.

Officer Don Bray

Week 23

Rochester PD

Podcast

For the past several years the St. Cloud Police Department’s SWAT team has been volunteering at Miracle League baseball games. The Miracle League is a national non-profit organization founded in 1998 that provides an opportunity for children with disabilities to play baseball in an organized league without the barriers of a normal field, allowing for the use of walkers and wheelchairs. Whether these officers are coaching first or third base, umpiring, being a play by play announcer or making root beer floats for the kids, they are creating meaningful relationships with these children and their families. The officers often bring their police vehicles and other equipment to the games which makes more special opportunities for the kids. 

St. Cloud SWAT

Week 24

St. Cloud PD

Podcast

Besides being a deputy, wife and mother, Sherburne County Sheriff’s Deputy Nicole Stottlemyre finds time to organize field trips to the government center for school aged children that allows them to see how the court system works. She introduces them to judges and has even set up “mock trials” that help kids understand the justice system. Additionally, she coordinates the Volunteer Bailiff program that’s designed for seniors who want to give back to their communities.  It consists of many who volunteer their time as bailiffs once or twice a week within the courts for about seven hours a day. She is proud of what these dynamic seniors bring each day that they help out. In addition to all of this she has been a graduate student who is in the process of completing a doctorate degree.

Deputy Nicole Stottlemyre

Week 25

Sherburne CO SO

Podcast