Continual improvement is honored cop’s ethic

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Sgt. Brent Murray is the Burnsville Police Department’s 2021 Officer of the Year.

Expertise includes search and seizure 

Burnsville police Sgt. Brent Murray’s ethic of continual self-improvement includes expertise in the Fourth Amendment.

He tracks influential court rulings and serves as a department resource on unreasonable search and seizure, which includes training new officers in that aspect of police procedure.

“It’s what the United States is founded on, right?” Murray said of the push-and-pull between individual rights and the law. “It’s a constant battle for legislators, public officials, as well as the courts to read that Constitution and apply it.”

Murray’s leadership and pursuit of excellence were cited by the Police Department committee that last month named him Burnsville’s 2021 Officer of the Year.

“Sgt. Murray is an outstanding leader who is universally respected by his staff,” a colleague wrote. “The entire Patrol Division looks to him as a resource due to his exceptional knowledge of law, case law and police procedure.”

Murray, 45, will mark 20 years with the department in April. He’s been a patrol sergeant for 12 years, preceded by three as an investigator and four as a patrol officer.

“To be honest with you, I enjoyed all of them,” he said. “I just tell people it’s different parts of my brain. With patrol you’re in the car, you’re responding, you’re seeing the community more, interacting with them, and of course responding to their calls for help.”

Murray grew up in Bloomington, where his memory of an officer coming to school, meeting the kids and letting them climb into his car still sticks.

“I didn’t set my mind at that age to be in this profession,” he said. “I definitely, though, credit my parents for my upbringing and trying to instill good morals and values in me, which ties into my passion for learning and teaching and passing that on as well. They kind of taught me to work hard and have fun and enjoy what you’re doing.”

He got his bachelor’s in law enforcement from Metro State University and a graduate degree in criminal justice leadership and education from Concordia College.

“I found my joy that came into play when I started taking law enforcement classes and I saw the potential impact I could make in communities, wherever I ended up,” Murray said. “Luckily enough, I ended up in Burnsville.”

He reads widely on law enforcement and has completed one of three courses needed for certification through FBI–LEEDA, the nonprofit Law Enforcement Executive Development Association.

Murray has worked his share of critical incidents over the years, including an active-shooter homicide case at the Dollar Tree store on Aldrich Avenue and an armed hostage situation at the Holiday station at Highway 13 and Nicollet Avenue.

He was asked about the Kim Potter case in Brooklyn Center, which led to manslaughter verdicts against the veteran cop for the accidental killing of 20-year-old Daunte Wright.

“I’ve had my own critical incidents, obviously, and we all have to make our own split-second decisions,” he said. “But I do have personal standards, if you want to call them that, for what I will or won’t stop (a vehicle) for and how I believe I would handle things.”

The Potter case “makes us have to stop and think personally about how would I handle this stop, this issue, if it were to be me. Because if we don’t then we’re not going to improve and learn for ourselves.”

He praised the Burnsville department’s training programs and hiring of a mental health contractor. Officer wellness is “a big thing for the organization,” Murray said.

“And my wife has been an incredible rock for me through a lot of the things we’ve gone through,” said the father of two. “This profession takes a toll on everyone mentally and physically, and she has been phenomenal for me as well.”

The “added stresses” of police work, done under a “microscope” these days, hinder recruiting, Murray said.

“We need quality, intelligent, good thinkers,” he said. “Trying to get those people, I worry, is going to be hard for the profession for a while.”

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