Wyoming police earn accolades

Wyoming police officer Matt Paavola was recently awarded for his courage during a SWAT team operation.

Amy Doeun
Wyoming Reporter

The Wyoming Police Department recently won the Innovation Award at the Chief of Police Association Gathering. Chief Paul Hoppe told the City Council about the award at the May 2 City Council meeting.

“We had two awards presented at last week’s conference,” he explained. “The first award was a department-wide award — Excellence in Innovation.”

Hoppe said the award is in recognition of innovative policing methods and is given to both a large and small municipal department. There are four criteria the award looks at: the level of innovation, effectiveness, ability to replicate and overall impact.

Hoppe then presented a video featuring him and officer Scott Thomas. Thomas talked about the department’s social media campaign, specifically through Twitter. Through this campaign the department works to share public safety information with a touch of humor. Some of the department’s tweets have been shared, or retweeted, thousands of times across the country.

“People resonate with tongue-in-cheek humor,” Hoppe said.

Thomas said that he often hears things like, “We follow you on social media and you guys are so funny.” Hoppe added, “We are just folks here with a unique job.”

The second award the department received was an individual award presented to officer Matt Paavola. Paavola received the Medal of Honor.

“I don’t even know what to say,” Paavola told The Times. “It was more of a team effort. I was on the SWAT team for Wyoming and Chisago County.”

Hoppe said that the criteria to receive the award was “a single event that involved sacrifice and voluntary course of action; it involved the risk of life and preservation of life.”

Hoppe then gave the background story that led to the award. A man allegedly wanted to commit suicide and threatened to “shoot up” the Almelund Applefest, an event that was taking place last September right outside the suspect’s door. The SWAT team, including Paavola, arrived in an armored vehicle, said Hoppe, and almost immediately, bullets started ricocheting off the vehicle. The suspect left his home and began advancing on the festival. Due to concerns for the festival-goers and officers on foot preserving the perimeter, Paavola exited the armored vehicle and fired twice at the man, who went down.

Then, Hoppe said, Paavola “quickly switched to a life-saving mode” with the suspect, maintaining presence of mind throughout the ordeal. The man survived, and his case is currently still in the court system.

“I would like to personally thank the officers for what they do,” Mayor Lisa Iverson said. “Thank you for what you do every day. To all of the Wyoming Police Department, I always say that we want to be innovative, and you are doing a really great job.”

New playground equipment

The Parks Committee has voted on new playground equipment for Banta Park. Originally, the committee hoped to put in new equipment at several parks, but a new parking lot and lighting at Goodview Park, which has been designated by the city as a “showcase” park, will take precedence with this year’s budget.

The city has recently seen a rash of vandalism at area parks. Public Works Supervisor Marty Powers shared that Banta Park had to have a slide and a platform removed and that a second metal slide was vandalized with rocks.

“If the equipment is not safe, I have no problem spending the money,” Councilman Joe Zerwas said of replacing the equipment. Councilwoman Claire Luger agreed.

However, Councilwoman Linda Nanko-Yeager did not agree. She was concerned about the budget.

“You will spend your budget down by three-fourths,” she said. “This is not something that I would do in my own home. This is not something I am comfortable with.”

She suggested a more modest option, but Luger said: “this is one of the most modest prices. Playground equipment is expensive. We need to appease the residents.”

“And be safe for the kids,” Zerwas said.

Councilman Don Waller was also concerned about spending and the lack of a budget. The Parks and Recreation Committee is working on a budget for 2018, but currently there is no line-by-line budget for 2017. Kevin Teel is the new chairman of the committee. He has been working for two months.

“The parking lot was not in our plans,” Teel said. “We probably could have done three or four parks (with our budget).”

“They (the park committee) have had a couple curve balls thrown at them and had to shift things around. … I think they are doing a great job,” Iverson said. “Mr. Teel was not present last year. I think we need to walk in their shoes and give them some time to get (their budget).”

The resolution to replace the equipment was approved with Nanko-Yeager and Waller opposing.