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People urged to share their positive interactions with law enforcement

Apple Valley Police Officer Dan Schyma said he believes many “false claims” about police officers have been circulating in the media in recent months.

Schyma, a 13-year veteran with the department and union president of Law Enforcement Labor Services Local 71, addressed Apple Valley City Council members July 23, saying he was speaking on behalf of Apple Valley officers to encourage community members to show their support for police officers.

He said false claims have “turned into a blanket issue that police officers routinely discriminate against individuals.” He added this claim is not consistent with his own experiences.

“I can honestly say that not once throughout the course of my career, (have I) ever witnessed an officer discriminate against somebody based on their race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability or age. It simply does not happen as often as the media portrays. The media makes it sound like the majority of individuals in law enforcement discriminate,” he said. “Our profession is by no means perfect. We have some bad apples just like any other organization. There are bad representatives in every field, but clearly they do not represent the professions as a whole.”

Schyma said he’s is not condoning the actions taken by former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin before the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, died during a May 25 arrest in which Chauvin restrained him by kneeling on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

It’s time for a message to be sent that countless officers across the state and country are still doing a great job serving and protecting communities, Schyma said. Police officers enter the profession because they want to help people.

The Apple Valley Police Department’s mission is to protect the community and improve quality of life through service, education and enforcement. Apple Valley officers work hard to promote the values of service, integrity, responsibility, accountability, professionalism, pride and satisfaction.

“If you were to look at other agencies around this county and the state, you would find similar mission statements and values. Officers from this city, county around the state, operate and adhere to these standards each and every day. It’s difficult to understand what it’s like to be in law enforcement unless you have worn a badge and taken the oath to put others before yourself on a daily basis,” Schyma said.

Schyma said the stresses officers absorb while at work and outside of work are incredible and those are some of the reasons why peace officers statistically don’t live long past retirement. The last thing officers want to do is take a community member’s life.

Officers nowadays are asked to wear a number of different hats – problem solver, counselor, social worker, medic and mediators, Schyma said. He added many people forget officers are human beings who are required to make split second decisions. It’s often over looked that officers also serve as role models, mentors, youth sports coaches and volunteers outside of work hours, Schyma said.

Schyma said of recent police reforms that have been called for, the Apple Valley Police Department already trains to that level. For example, the department has gotten more training for mental health and implicit bias.

“Our agency has already done this because we’re constantly looking for ways to better serve the citizens of our community. I’m here to say that we are not perfect and we are open to change. To the politicians, don’t leave us out of the discussion,” he said. “Some politicians are proposing and advocating for reforms who have no idea what it’s like to do this job. Proposals to defund the police seem to dominate the news. That proposal is not realistic. Thank you to our mayor and council members for your support and not entertaining a radical idea like this.”

Schyma said in recent years there’s been a significant decrease in the number of police officer applicants for his department, which is a trend nationally. He believes there will be mass exodus of officers from the field and he asked who will fill the vacancies.

Schyma asked supporters of police officers to let their support be heard and to showcase the positives of law enforcement.

“Voice your opinion at a council meeting. Send a video, a letter or make a phone call showing the positive impact a police officer made on your day. We need your help,” he said.

Police departments are willing to work toward a common goal of eliminating discrimination, Schyma said.

After Schyma’s comments, City Council members voiced their support for Apple Valley police and said they appreciate their service in the community.

“We applaud you. We stand with you and we stand with our community,” Mayor Mary Hamann-Roland said.

Council Member Tom Goodwin said he feels safe when he sees a police officer. Council Member Clint Hooppaw agreed that more positive news needs to be shared about what officers do each day.

“You know, in some ways, you’re probably too humble and you talk about sharing the good stuff, right,” Hooppaw said. “That good stuff that seems like everyday activity to you is a huge interaction day in and day out.”

Patty Dexter can be reached at patty.dexter@apgecm.com.

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