(Editor’s note: Two candidates have announced plans to run for Stearns County sheriff. This week Waite Park Police Chief Dave Bentrud is profiled. Next week Lt. Robert Dickhaus of the Stearns County Sheriff’s Office will be profiled.,)
by Dennis Dalman
The surest path to effective law enforcement, not to mention crime prevention, is a tightly interconnected, collaborative approach, according to Stearns County sheriff candidate Dave Bentrud.
“In this modern era, there are many sophisticated problems,“ he said. “That is why we need to be more collaborative, working together in a multi-jurisdictional, multi-disciplinary way. We need improvements in the ways we should share information.”
As an example, Bentrud noted some people commit crimes in many places – in a whole string of cities or counties – and nobody connects the dots. And connecting the dots, he said, is not just important to catch the offenders but to try to get them the help they need before their multiple offenses continue.
The kind of connection Bentrud envisions and wants to improve includes record-keeping, how the dispatching system works, sharing of data among departments and other agencies, and technology updates.
The problems of crime and crime prevention often involve mental-health issues, Bentrud emphasized. That is why law enforcement must develop a network with mental-health professionals and other agencies that could include referrals (or mandated) counseling, medications, medical treatments and so forth, Bentrud said.
“We are often interacting repeatedly with the same people, the same families, and there are often legal roadblocks to the sharing of information,” he said. “We have to improve that to open the lines of communication. I plan to contact legislators to work to eliminate some of those roadblocks.“
One of the biggest challenges to law enforcement is the increasing prevalence of sex trafficking in Minnesota, as well as elsewhere.
There have been more than 2,000 arrests for that crime in recent years in central Minnesota. At least a half dozen of the more violent offenders are now in prison. Sex trafficking is another reason, Bentrud said, that a multi-disciplinary, networking approach must be adopted and approved. That would include safe housing and counseling for victims abused by pimps who use drugs, physical abuse and coercion against girls and women to get them to perform repeated sex acts with multiple paying “customers.”
That kind of multi-dimensional approach is already working. Bentrud said there is an excellent working relationship thanks to Stearns County Sheriff Don Gudmandson, who was appointed last year as interim sheriff to fill in for John Sanner, who retired. A recent killing in Waite Park was recently solved and the perpetrator arrested quickly in North Dakota because of swift communications among Waite Park and St. Cloud police departments and law enforcement personnel in North Dakota. Bentrud said he is still impressed by how well those almost instant communications happened to make the arrest. That particular incident involved a shooting death of a man in a Waite Park apartment by another man.
Bentrud said he is determined to strengthen all those kinds of connections in a holistic “community policing” concept in which all residents will pitch in to prevent crimes and to help solve them.
Dave Bentrud, 59, was born in Glenwood. He enrolled in the University of St. Thomas and later earned a master’s degree in criminal justice from St. Cloud State University.
For 16 years he served as a police officer on the St. Cloud Police Department, 10 of them as a sergeant. He has served on the Waite Park Police Department for 10 years.
His wife Beth is a para in the literacy program of Rice Elementary School. The family lives near Little Rock Lake in Rice, but Bentrud is in the process of selling the family home in Benton County and relocating to Stearns County during his run for sheriff.
The Bentruds have four children: Lucas, a sophomore at Bethel University; Cassie, who lives in Florida and works for Disney World; Allie, who lives in Bloomington; and Jared, a freshman at Sauk Rapids-Rice High School.
Bentrud said he is very proud of the work he and others have done to fight all forms of human trafficking not just in Waite Park but elsewhere in central Minnesota. A recent state grant will help create a permanent sex-trafficking task force with members from various local departments.
He is also proud the clearance rate for crimes in Waite Park improved by 8 percent since he became police chief.
“We have good initial reports, good investigations and good follow-ups,“ he said. “I’m very proud of our team.“
Bentrud sums up modern law-enforcement work this way, emphasizing its holistic approach.
“We are no longer in our individual silos,” he said. “We are all in the same big sandbox, playing together.”