Chief deputy speaks to the realities of being an officer | Mille Lacs Messenger
Kyle Burton, Chief Deputy of Mille Lacs County spoke to Messenger and shared examples of the kind of things law enforcement officers face on a daily basis. Over the years, Burton had many close life and death conversations.
In March 2020, Burton and other officials were looking for a man for whom an arrest warrant was issued in the Bradbury community south of Onamia. A police officer located the vehicle of the suspect, who refused to stop for the officer, and led him to his mother’s house, where he fled on foot.
The officer was shot at, the officer shot back. Nobody was hit.
Burton, who was a sergeant at the time, responded to the scene with his K9 officer, Bongo. The area had to be closed and the SWAT team and state patrol helicopter were called.
It was dark and Burton and Bongo went out to confront the suspect, not knowing whether or not he was going to shoot in their direction.
Fortunately, the man disarmed himself by throwing his gun in a nearby trailer so that police could arrest the man.
“When I heard that call, ice ran through my veins because you want to be there for your partner. The radio went silent so I didn’t know what happened, ”Burton said. “It’s been the longest 30 miles of my life.”
On another occasion, almost a year ago, Burton and his partner on Isle responded to a DANCO (Domestic Violence No Contact Order) violation. Gunfire broke out on arrival. The officers knocked on the door; Instead of opening the door, the suspect shot the officers with an AR15. Burton’s partner fell back and Burton didn’t know if he had been shot. The bullets narrowly missed the officer as his partner shot back.
Burton and his partner retired to a nearby garage. A stalemate ensued for almost four hours, while officers later learned that the suspect’s nephew was in the house during the shooting and stalemate.
At some point during the stalemate, the suspect’s grandmother entered the house. She was able to take one of the suspect’s gun magazines with her and hand it over to the officers. Unfortunately, the negotiations were unsuccessful in getting the man to surrender and he took his own life. However, no one else was injured.
“I looked at the door afterward and remembered where we were,” Burton recalled. “It was a miracle that no MPs were harmed.”
“Even though no MPs have been injured, there is emotional and psychological damage when you go through these things. Not only do we see shootings, but also car accidents and deaths, ”noted Burton. “We see good and bad people on their worst days.”
Burton’s partner decided to stop working in law enforcement after the event.
Most officers don’t have time to process what happened when they are at work. “You just don’t have time to work on a 12-hour shift,” says Burton. “You can do CPR on an infant, respond to a car accident that resulted in a death, and then you could end an argument somewhere. You just stuff it in and it could catch up with you. But then you do it again the next day. “
Burton said the sheriff’s office is in the early stages of establishing a mental health program that allows officials to check-in and talk about what’s on their mind. “There’s the old school mentality that we’re bulletproof and don’t have to talk about what’s going on in our industry. I think it was once a sign of weakness, ”Burton said. “But mental health is important to our work. It can be very exhausting for you. “
He added that the Hennepin County sheriff’s office has established an officer’s wellness unit with full-time wellness coaches on staff with nutrition, exercise and spiritual guidance as part of the program. “You take it very seriously,” said Burton. “I think we’ve got to a point where doing nothing is not an option.” He noted that some employees may be hesitant because it’s something new. They may be asked to go to the appointment, but they cannot ask to speak about anything.
“I think having a culture where mental health is taken seriously is important to the public,” said Burton. “Ninety-nine percent of officials do what they’re supposed to, but it’s very important to keep ourselves in check and not ignore our own mental health.”
Burton concluded by saying that officials are grateful to be where they are and have that fellowship when asked about some people’s recent attitudes toward law enforcement. “We have nowhere to go, subway or anytime, without two or three people arguing about who gets our food,” he quipped.