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Alexandria police chief appointed to state peace officers board by Gov. Walz

As of Tuesday, July 5, Alexandria Police Chief Scott Kent replaced the chief of police of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe Tribal Police Department, Sara Rice, on the Minnesota Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training.

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Alexandria Police Chief Scott Kent listens to a comment from the crowd during a meeting at Alexandria City Hall on Feb. 1, 2022.
Echo Press file photo
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ALEXANDRIA — Alexandria Police Chief Scott Kent was appointed to the Minnesota Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training by Gov. Tim Walz effective as of Tuesday, July 5.

The board is responsible for licensing peace officers, establishing minimum qualifications and standards of conduct, and regulating professional peace officer education. Minnesota colleges and Universities that offer police officer training must be certified by the board.

According to Minnesota Statute 626.841, the board consists of:

  • Two sheriffs.
  • Four municipal police officers (at least two chiefs of police).
  • Two peace officers, one who is a member of the Minnesota Troopers Association.
  • Two members from peace officers or former peace officers currently employed in a professional peace officer education program.
  • One member from among administrators of Minnesota colleges or universities that offer professional peace officer education.
  • One member from among elected city officials from cities of under 5,000.
  • Four members from among the general public.
  • The superintendent of the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is an ex-officio member.

Douglas County Sheriff Troy Wolbersen is one of the two sheriffs on the board and has served since 2011.

Kent replaces the chief of police of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe Tribal Police Department, Sara Rice, who was appointed to the board in 2018. She announced her retirement from law enforcement last December, according to the Mille Lacs Messenger.

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“It’s a humble honor to be appointed by the governor to represent law enforcement at the POST board," Kent said. "I don't take those responsibilities lightly. And I want to just kind of come with an open mind and see where I can assist and help at the table.”

Kent said he's prepared for the appointment and will draw on the experience from others on the board.

"I did talk to somebody that does sit on the board," said Kent. "Their advice is just to keep your eyes wide open and your ears wide open and listen...Come with an open mind and be ready to have some challenging conversations...There's a lot of varying opinions on what should happen in law enforcement."

Other Alexandria residents who have served on the board:

  • Terry Eiler, former sheriff, from 1987 to 1991.
  • Jon Magnuson from 1996 to 2002, and 2010 to 2014.
  • John Phillips, 2001 to 2009.
  • Rebecca Swanson 2013 to 2022.

When asked what he hopes to accomplish in his appointment, Kent said he wants a deeper understanding of the rules and policies that are put into place.

"If there are going to be rule changes, policy development and model policy changes, (it's important) to understand the root causes of why those are coming and the legislative intent to help our agency stay on the progressive end on it, rather than the reactive," said Kent. "So many times it's, here's the rule, here's the change, then you're trying to catch up to that."

"I want to be at the table for our community, first off. And then for the connection in the region to the other chiefs to say, 'This is coming.' I'm a part of Region 4 Chiefs of Police that extends to Moorhead and down to Morris and up to Detroit Lakes."

Kent said the vision of the Alexandria Police Department is to be a national industry leader in law enforcement and remove barriers — to have something that other agencies desire or that can facilitate change in law enforcement.

"I love this industry, but there are some things that we can always do better," he said. "And if I can be at the table to help facilitate those changes positively — still working in this environment — that's where I'd like to be for our agency, for our community and for law enforcement in general."

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POST was formed in 1977 after the Minnesota Legislature created the first licensing system for peace officers in the United States.

In 1978, the board enacted the minimum education requirement of a two-year college degree for all new entry-level law enforcement officers. This resulted in Minnesota becoming the first state to mandate a college degree as a hiring requirement.

Officers hired before 1978 were “grandfathered” into the new licensing process.

The board is entrusted to revoke a peace officer's license if the officer is found guilty of a felony, while a gross misdemeanor results in a POST board review, but not necessarily discipline, according to a Star Tribune article .

When asked about his opinions about critics who oppose a recent rule change that allows the board to revoke an officer's license if they violate conduct guidelines — regardless of whether they committed a crime or not — and believe disciplinary action should be the responsibility of the officer's department, Kent opted against the critics.

"If we equate it to other professions, such as attorneys, or nursing, or other professions that hold licensing at a state level, most of those licensing review boards have ultimate, final, say in your license," Kent said. "And I think that's the appropriate place for the POST board to review the conduct, whether it be criminal or not, and say this is where the standard of your license should be."

Notably, the board has been involved in officer investigations after the 2016 killing of Philando Castile by officer Jeronimo Yanez and the 2020 murder of George Floyd.

When asked how he would go into a situation if he had to review a fellow officer who was involved in the death of a citizen such as in the case of Floyd and Castille, Kent said he would go into like a court case — looking at the facts.

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"Listen to the facts and the stories and try to leave the emotions out just like you do in any court case," he said. "Whether it's a criminal case or license review, take the facts as presented and try to put your biases aside for what you know and just look at the facts."

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