Good Character is the Cornerstone


Respect, Responsibility, Honor, Truth

These are the core values that are the cornerstone of everything we do at the Sheriff’s Office. Today, I want to talk about what it actually means to run an organization grounded in these principles and how doing so has transformed the Sheriff’s Office and become a model for policing nationwide.

First, let’s talk about what the four core values mean to us at the Sheriff’s Office.

  • Respect:  For the people you serve, yourself, and the organization you represent.
  • Responsibility:  To your community, the law, for peace keeping and to your state and nation’s constitutions.
  • Honor:  To your oath of office, protecting those who cannot defend themselves, and giving your best in public service-no matter what the task.
  • Truth:  Our transparency with the public, in dealing with co-workers, improving process and in our engagement with our system of justice.

Leading by Example

My role as Sheriff is to make sure, first and foremost, that I am living out these traits each and every day.  I am committed to continually examining our operations, standards, and policies to make sure that we are always getting better at our core mission of service to our community.

This innovative way of operating has attracted some attention! People from across the country have been looking at the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office as a model of what good policing looks like.

I was interviewed on the “Criminal (In)Justice” podcast aired on National Public Radio where I discussed character-based hiring.  You can listen here

I am being featured right now on HBO’s “Wyatt Cenac’s Problem Areas”. It's an unconventional look at problems in America, like policing, and features people who are providing solutions. You can watch the entire episode for free on YouTube. You'll see me - along with retired Sheriff Matt Bostrom and Falcon Heights Mayor Peter Lindstrom - at minute 18:31.

There are a couple of points that the host - and others - make that I think are worth noting (I'm paraphrasing here):

  1. The conversation about policing and solutions is difficult but worth having.
  2. It's hard to come up with solutions but the Ramsey County Sheriff's Office is working on it.  We know it is our responsibility and we aren't waiting for someone else to solve the problem.
  3. Hiring for character is great. But it doesn't stop at hiring. The culture of the organization must support continued good character and accountability. (Keep reading for more about how we do this at the Sheriff's Office.)


Building an organization made up of people of good character begins with hiring.  I created a new, innovative – and I’ll happily admit – unusual process for hiring.  Our hiring process reinforces the call to good character for all those who enter the Sheriff’s Office from Deputies and Correctional Officers to support staff and administration.  We can train many people for skills, but we cannot fundamentally change the character traits of those we hire.  Therefore, we work to hire those who possess the traits of respect, responsibility, honor, and truth.

By asking the tough questions in interviews, the background process, and reinforcing these standards throughout training and promotional processes, we end up hiring people who are immediately in alignment with our organizational philosophy, have more positive community contacts, and have excellent performance.

This method has proved to be incredibly successful.  In the last year alone, we have hired about 140 people into our agency, all people of high character who I’m proud to have representing the Sheriff’s Office.  While doing so, I have kept my promise to increase diversity in our agency.  In fact, I have been able to achieve historic levels of diversity in hiring and promotions.  Each new class of Correctional Officers and Deputies has been over 50% diverse for women and people of color!

Building Bridges and Opportunities

It's important for all law enforcement organizations to make sure they're making their organizations accessible for people from different communities to come in and work...and not just to work there, but to thrive there. It's one thing to build a bridge and say, 'Come work for us.' It's another thing to create opportunity ladders in our organization so now people can have a true career.  Just a couple of examples of how we’re doing this:

  • I created an employment recruiting initiative to continue efforts for racial and gender equity in our workforce called the Community Circle for Racial and Gender Equity as an Employer of Choice. It is an open forum to bring community leaders together with Sheriff’s Office and Emergency Communication Center leaders and recruiters to increase pathways to employment opportunities.
  • This coming June, we will be launching our first annual Women’s Academy to actively engage women in exploring a career in law enforcement.

Creating a Culture of Excellent Character

Reinforcing these values doesn’t stop with recruiting and hiring.  We make sure that all employees continually learn from the agency’s leadership at all levels why personal character is critical to the legitimacy of law enforcement organizations.  We create a culture of accountability and reward for living the values of the organization.

When we hold employees to these standards, we find that employees rise to the occasion and see this as an opportunity to show how character makes a difference in public service.
This methodology resonates with current employees who want only the best for their work environment and the community.  We repeatedly hear from our employees that they are proud to work in an organization that stresses character.

I am seeking the DFL endorsement. I ask for your support and your vote on May 6 at 12:00 pm at the CD4/County Convention at:
The University of Minnesota - St. Paul Student Center
North Star Ballroom
2017 Buford Ave, St. Paul, MN 55108

If you have any questions or comments for me, please contact me on my website or Facebook.

In service,