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National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day recognizes officers’ sacrifices

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Minnesota State Patrol

ALBERT LEA, Minn. (KTTC) - A career in law enforcement comes with different threats while on the job. National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day thanks those who risk their lives facing crime on a daily basis.

"It's the line between citizens and what's evil out there," said Albert Lea Police Department Detective Sy Vanthavong. "We have a job to do."

"There is so much to worry about," said Mower County Steve Sandvik. "It's such a complex, multitasking job, that you can't just worry about one thing. You have to be alert all the time. It's kind of a never-ending procedure if you will."

Law enforcement officers say that the risk that comes with the job is important to keep in mind, but it can't be the only thing they're thinking about.

"The worst fear of a police officer is encountering a deadly situation," said Vanthavong. "You certainly don't let it weigh down on you so you can't function and do your job but it's not something as police officers we ignore."

"Officers, deputies, troopers can carry some of those things along with them," Sandvik said. "You can't unsee and unsmell things and those thoughts can stay with them for their entire career or their entire life."

Sheriff Sandvik remembers the death of colleague Brady Muelken in 2016 and says it was one of the hardest calls he has responded to.

"Yet we go home to our families, our kids and grandkids," said the sheriff. "You have to be able to put that behind you and go back to be a regular human being. It can be difficult."

"It's definitely a calling that's not for everybody," agreed the detective. "A thankless job sometimes but we don't do it for the praise, for sure."

While they don't seek recognition, being appreciated on days like today, does feel good.

"Cards and thanking you and really just people you see on the street who say 'Thank you for your service.' It's something really small but it does mean a lot," said Sandvik.

The sheriff also says that using employee assistance programs and having a strong support system outside of work helps officers deal with the mental stress of the job.

Alex Tejada

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