Deputies talk about their job
National Police Week is May 12-18, and to help our readers better understand the job that puts men and women in harm’s way to protect their neighbors, the PJ interviewed members of the Wadena County Sheriff’s Office about what they do.
Deputy Joe Schoon is originally from Sebeka, got his Criminal Justice degree from Brainerd Central Lakes College and now lives in Menahga. He’s been with the sheriff’s office for 16 years, eight of which were part-time while also working for the Menahga Police Department and eight as a full-time deputy. To Schoon, the best part of being on patrol is the variety as well as when he is able to help people in a way that causes them to thank him, and thereby offer Schoon proof he’s doing a good job. The most difficult part is when the exact opposite occurs: deputies are unable to help the citizens of Wadena County by closing a case; or they find themselves coming back to a particular place or person again and again with no progress. Particularly troubling are the domestic disturbance calls, which Schoon has seen more of in recent years as the economy struggles.
“Whenever there’s kids involved, that makes it really hard,” he said. “If there’s kids involved, they’re caught in the middle; you can see the frustration on the kid’s face.”
Schoon talked about several different pieces of advice given to those new to the force about how to deal with the emotionally negative aspects of the job. In a profession where deputies often deal with hostility from the civilians they encounter while working, it’s important not to take things personally, Schoon said.
“You’ve got to remember; these people aren’t angry with you,” he said. “They’re angry with your uniform.”
It’s also important for new deputies to remember not to bottle up their bad experiences and shut out their families from what’s going on. Don’t take the job home with you, Schoon said, but don’t be afraid to open up, either.
“If you got a bad call, and you come home and you’re totally quiet and don’t say anything... it causes tension,” Schoon said.
Wadena County is advantageous territory for deputies because it’s a small county with relatively few residents. That means deputies can quickly get to know everyone, Schoon said. The sheriff’s office itself also benefits from being smaller, because it gives deputies the chance to form a tight-knit group rather than working in a huge department full of anonymous faces.
“There’s a lot of camaraderie amongst all the officers -- doesn’t matter if they’re with the sheriff’s office or the local P.D.,” he said.
The only interview question Schoon was hesitant to answer was about his favorite cop movie. He finally settled on the first Lethal Weapon, but added that the series went downhill in the sequels that followed.
Investigator Amy Ament grew up in Sebeka, graduating from high school there in 2002. She graduated from Alexandria Technical College in 2004, and currently lives in rural Wadena with her husband and two children. She began working in law enforcement in 2004, and was promoted to investigations in 2007. The challenge of the investigations job has been an enjoyable aspect of working for the sheriff’s office , she said.
Ament echoed Schoon in saying that there’s no such thing as a typical day while working as a cop.
“An ideal day is one that runs smoothly,” Ament said. “A bad day is one that does not.”
When asked to name one thing she’d like the average citizen to know about law enforcement, Ament responded by warning people not to assume something fishy is going on when they see police visit their neighbors.
“Just because you see law enforcement at someone’s house does not mean someone is going to jail,” she said. “We also deal with many civil aspects of the job, assist with medicals and sometimes just randomly stop out to visit with people.”
Ament described the technological advancement she’s seen during her nearly ten years in law enforcement as “mind blowing”, and said one “huge change” was Wadena County’s switch to paperless operations.