(Editor’s note: Two candidates have announced plans to run for Stearns County sheriff. This week Lt. Robert Dickhaus of the Stearns County Sheriff’s Office is profiled. Waite Park Police Chief Dave Bentrud was featured in the Feb. 9 edition.)
by Dennis Dalman
In the 28 years of his law-enforcement career, Lt. Robert Dickhaus, a Melrose resident, has served in so many diverse jobs he is confident he would make a good choice for Stearns County sheriff.
Dickhaus recently announced his candidacy for that position and has begun campaigning for the Nov. 6 election. Thus far, Waite Park Police Chief Dave Bentrud is also vying for the sheriff job.
Dickhaus has been with the Stearns County Sheriff’s Department for 25 years. He is currently a patrol lieutenant and now serves as administrative assistant for the department’s patrol division. He began his career in 1990 as a police officer with the Richmond Police Department, then later joined the Cold Spring Police Department. Then, one day in 1993, then-sheriff Jim Kostreba called Dickhaus and asked him if he was still interested in working with the Stearns Sheriff’s Department. Dickhaus leaped at the chance and joined.
“It was always what I wanted most to do,“ he said during an interview with the Newsleader. “That was always my goal.”
His first job was as a correctional officer for the department. In 1995, he was promoted to senior patrol officer. Since then he has held the positions of patrol deputy, patrol sergeant, detective and detective-deputy medical examiner. He became patrol lieutenant in 2012.
In 2008, Dickhaus became communications supervisor in charge of the 911 center and its 24 full-time operators. During that time, he helped with statewide Allied Radio Matrix for Emergency Responders system, which required a remodeling of the communications center and training almost every police, fire and EMS user outside the city of St. Cloud on how to use the new radio system.
Currently, as administrative lieutenant, Dickhaus is in charge of special projects and future budget planning for the sheriff’s department.
What Dickhaus said he would like to achieve if elected sheriff is to help come up with solutions to the department’s aging infrastructure, its overcrowded jail, improvement of communications and working relationships between the sheriff’s department and many local agencies and to improve training for all area law-enforcement employees so other departments don’t have to spend time and money duplicating training. As part of that, the department’s investigative unit would be expanded so every theft, burglary and assault would be reviewed by an investigator to determine if follow-ups are needed or arrests made.
Raised in Melrose, Dickhaus graduated from Melrose High School, then attended Willmar Community College to earn a law-enforcement degree. He then graduated from a police skills course in the law-enforcement program in 1990 at Alexandria Area Technical College.
Dickhaus and his wife, Kristine, have three sons: Wesley, who sells insurance in Owatonna; Jacob, a business major at St. Cloud State University; and Eddie, 10. Dickhaus is a member of St. Mary’s Catholic Church of Melrose and also a member of the Melrose Lions Club.
Dickhaus’s hobbies are golfing and flying an airplane. He belongs to a flying club based in Alexandria.
Dickhaus discussed his philosophy on several issues relating to crime prevention and law enforcement.
His work as a police officer in Richmond and Cold Spring taught him early on the importance of knowing the people one is expected to protect.
“We’ve got to get to know people, whether it’s a farmer in a field or someone filing a complaint,” he said. “It‘s important to know how to relate to people so you can put them at ease, listen to them, understand what they’re going through. That’s especially important in domestic (disturbances) in order to defuse the situation.”
Law-enforcement work is always most effective when officers and residents get to know and trust one another, Dickhaus noted.
Substance abuse (drugs and/or alcohol) are perhaps the biggest challenges in society, Dickhaus said.
“So many problems start with substance abuse,“ he said. “Breakdowns happen when drugs or liquor are abused, and mental illness can lead to people doing substance abuse. People abusing drugs often steal money and do other crimes.“
That is why Dickhaus favors a strong network among law enforcement and social and medical agencies that deal with mental illness and substance abuse. He also advocates cross training between law enforcement and those agencies.
Dickhaus said it was an honor and a pleasure to work under the supervision of three sheriffs to whom he gives high marks: Jim Kostreba, John Sanner and current interim sheriff Don Gudmundson.
“They’re great guys who always got the job done.”
Lack of personnel
Dickhaus said he’s concerned about a lack of interest in law enforcement as a career option. He recalls the times when law enforcement personnel would be standing in long lines to take tests for just one or two job openings – as many as 200 to 300 men and women. Now, he said, it’s lucky if there are 30 or so candidates for such jobs.
There are many easy but effective ways for the public to help law enforcement do its job, Dickhaus said. Do not hesitate to call 911, even if the cause seems minor.
“If you see something, like a strange car in the neighborhood, say something,“ he said. “Call us.”
Many crimes are prevented or solved by law enforcement putting together a series of tips that, in and of themselves, would seem insignificant, he said.