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COLUMN: Todd Sandahl was an uncommon cop

Cops, for the most part, are little boys who just got bigger.

An exception to that gross exaggeration, however, is the guy who just retired from the Perham Police Department: Todd Sandahl.

I've had lots of contacts with police officers over the years. For the most part, those contacts were in a law-abiding context.

Sandahl, who worked his final day last week after a quarter-century with the Perham police force, is one of the few cops I've met who didn't act like an overgrown teenager.

Cops are supreme practical jokers. They're big talkers. They like big toys--like big squad cars with all the bells, whistles and gear.

Cops are why we have city councils. Because, if unchecked and left to their own devices, local police departments would have fleets of Hummers. And, on weekends, they would be driving the city's Hummers to fishing waters in the remote frontier of the county--pulling 14-foot Lund bass boats disguised as emergency water rescue rigs.

I'm kidding--mostly.

But it is true that Sandahl was an uncommon cop.

Solid, even-tempered, low-key, unexcitable, fair, good judgement.

Those aren't my words. Those are the words of his boss, Perham Police Chief Brian Nelson.

Chief Nelson? Embellish? Exaggerate?

Well, of course. Nelson's a cop.

But when it comes to his description of Sandahl, I think Nelson was shooting straight.

"I've worked with Todd for five years," said Nelson, at Sandahl's farewell open house May 1. "He was a huge asset. He knew everybody in town. I relied on him a lot."

But alas, as is the case at these sentimental and reflective farewell gatherings--the truth will rise to the surface.

Sandahl was a "sleeper," as Chief Nelson revealed.

One Halloween eve, Perham's "Keystone Cops," the Police Reserve volunteers, were patrolling for pumpkin-smashers.

Officer "low-key and subdued" Sandahl decided--under cover of darkness--to pelt the unfortunate volunteer cops with water balloons.

The Reserve cops freaked out. They initiated a "full-scale dragnet" and all-points bulletin to seek and arrest the "punk kids" who were tossing water balloons.

Later that Halloween eve, it was time for true confessions. Sandahl was the culprit.

The Police Reserve guys got over it and, ultimately, got a good laugh out of it.

"Now, I need to make this perfectly clear," said Chief Nelson, adding a sternly delivered qualifier to the water balloon story. "That all occurred before I became chief five years ago. I never would have tolerated that kind of crap in my administration. I run a tight ship..."

Spoken like a true cop.

As for Sandahl, now that his "dark side;" his "inner cop-demon;" has been revealed and exorcised, he can proceed with life after law enforcement.

The truth, as the Bible says, will set you free.