Help people in crisis, uphold laws that keep residents safe, spend time meeting people, and build positive relationships with the community.
Erin Nordrum, police officer, St. Louis Park
Why she shows up: The most rewarding part of my job is when I hear little girls, their parents, or their authority figures point to me and say, “See, you can be whatever you want to be. She’s a police officer.” I still get that, even in this day and age. Every time I do a speaking engagement with little kids, I always ask them if they knew prior to meeting me that girls can be police officers, too. And many of them don’t.
St. Louis Park is very involved with engaging its community members. We are full-heartedly, 180 percent into community-involved policing, and have been for 20-plus years, which helps us serve our community better. Our officers are involved with our community in multiple ways, which has helped us get to know our community a lot more especially in such a turbulent time. We’re constantly trying to better ourselves.
How she got the job (and how you could too): I grew up in a really small town in Wisconsin. When I was in high school, the police chief of my hometown came in to speak to my class and talked about his job and how he doesn’t work within four walls, rather he works throughout the whole community. He’s out and about meeting new people and doing different things every single day. I was concerned I wouldn’t be able to do his job because I was 5’2”. So, I asked him that and he said that police officers need to be smart and able to communicate, and that it was no longer about how tall, big, or how many punches you can throw. That stuck with me, and from then on I was like, “Yep, I want to be a police officer.”
I went to University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and earned my bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, and then I went through Wisconsin’s police training. Then I moved to Minnesota and got a job as a community service officer for the city of St. Louis Park, and I needed to go through skills training (one semester of learning the theory and reasoning behind police work, and one semester of learning things such as driving a police car, shooting a gun, and conducting interrogation interviews, etc.) in Minnesota before I could be eligible to be licensed. I started as a licensed police officer in St. Louis Park in 2002.
What’s the job like? Every day is different, and I meet a lot of people in my community. I’m not confined to four walls, so I can meet with every different person in our society, including people new to our city and country and people who’ve lived in St. Louis Park their whole lives. I get to meet new people every single day and hear their stories. I get to see the city and the world from their eyes.
But we also see and hear bad things. We’re with people on the worst and scariest days of their lives, and that puts a toll on police officers. People forget that we’re human too.
I protect everyone regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, or religion. I just want to protect, serve, and make people feel safe. Whether they’re the victim, witness, or suspect of a crime, I treat everybody fairly. Everyone has the right to feel safe.
Why he shows up: Fixing and finding solutions to problems and issues—that’s what drives me. I’m a problem solver and I need to be challenged. However minimal it is, it’s fixing those little things before they become community issues and giving people the tools to do that too. If you can change one neighborhood at a time maybe you can change an entire community.
How he got the job (and how you could too): I grew up in West Fargo, North Dakota, graduated high school there, and went to Moorhead State. I took the first job I could get and I ended up being in Wahpeton, North Dakota, and then I moved over here to Alexandria. I didn’t grow up saying I wanted to be a patrol officer, but when I was in 7th and 8th grade there were a couple football coaches in that program that were police officers from the West Fargo Police Department. One of them was an investigator and one of them was a patrol officer. Those were cool guys. They didn’t come wearing uniforms but they were just cool guys, and we enjoyed the heck out of playing for them. Give or take three years of my class in high school there were at least two dozen graduates who went on to be police officers.
Here in Alexandria, we try to hire nice people that are approachable, that are kind, that understand other people’s situations in life. All those policing skills — like handcuffing and marksmanship — are trainable skills. But we cannot teach “nice.” There’s no way you can send someone to training to be a genuinely nice person. Humility, the ability to listen and think critically, coupled with being a nice person, allows that open interaction with people.
What’s the job like? In central Minnesota, I get to work and live in other people’s vacation spot. We want to provide a hometown community feel with a relaxed atmosphere. It’s not that we can’t turn it up and provide that service, that protection, but we try not to be on edge. We try to put people at ease. We’re trying to police a community the way it wants to be policed.
You can go from a traffic stop to responding to a fatality accident in the snap of a finger. This week we had a guy try to commit suicide with a rope, rat poison, and antifreeze. Our investigator was on the scene for that, and then he had to leave to go do a presentation on scams and fraud to residents of a nursing home. I’ve been in law enforcement for 21 years; I can honestly say I’ve never had two days that were even remotely the same.
Are you interested in learning more about a city career? One great way to get advice is to contact someone in your own city or a city nearby. You can ask questions about the job and learn more about training programs that may be available. Connect to city websites and city contact information through the League of Minnesota Cities.