Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Special license plates honor Minnesota's fallen heroes

Kasson man assisted in devising plan to help police survivors
“When you see the license plate, remember the pictures on there represent the people who are not here, that died protecting the freedoms that we have today.” Roger Berge Developed LEMA Plates

Fallen peacemakers are being recognized in a unique way as vehicles go cruising down the roadways. Special license plates are now available honoring Minnesota’s fallen heroes.

The special license plates are extra special for a Kasson man. Roger Berge was instrumental in getting the plates approved by Minnesota lawmakers more than a year ago. 

“They turned out beautiful—better than I imagined,” said Berge, who rushed out to buy them as soon as the Kasson DMV got them in. Berge was hoping to be the first one locally to buy them, but he was beat out by Kasson’s top cop, Kent Berghuis. Berge purchased two sets of license plates and has a third set on the way.

The plates cost $35 with proceeds going to the Law Enforcement Memorial Association (LEMA), a state organization that helps police families when they lose a loved one in the line of duty. Berge said only nine other states have this same type of license plate. 

“When you see the license plate, remember the pictures on there represent the people who are not here, that died protecting the freedoms that we have today,” Berge said. “We have solider overseas that protect our freedoms and we have peacekeepers here in the U.S., and thank God for both.”

Berge expects the license plates to raise around $15,000 per year for LEMA. While he hopes no police officer dies on duty, Berge said the money in one year would pay for two law enforcement funerals. 

Though Berge is not a police officer himself, he has been around law enforcement his entire life. His father has been working for the Olmsted County Sheriff’s Office for 51 years. And Berge knows first hand how the death of a police officer in the line of duty affects families.

On May 17, 1977, a partner of Berge’s father was shot and killed by the Apache Mall in Rochester. He also mourned the loss of Dodge County Sheriff’s Captain Loring Guenther in 2013 when he died in Kasson just after getting off work. 

Berge’s close ties to law enforcement led him to start a crusade to get license plates that would honor fallen members of law enforcement and donate money to their families through LEMA. He worked tirelessly with local police officials and state lawmakers to get the plates through the state legislature. 

Throughout the process, Berge was impressed with the support he received from Dodge County Sheriff Scott Rose. Rose traveled to St. Paul numerous times to testify at the State Capitol. “Dodge County sent three or more deputies each time,” Berge said. 

Widows and survivors of police officers killed in the line of duty also testified before lawmakers, according to Berge. “It would be hard to look at them and say no I don’t want you to have this plate,” he said. After an unsuccessful first attempt, the bill got passed in 2017. 

Berge was also impressed with the leadership of Sen. Dave Senjem in getting this bill passed through the legislature. 

“Thank you Roger Berge and Senator Senjem. Your efforts to get this passed will help LEMA and surviving families for years to come,” said Sheriff Rose.

See full story in this week’s print edition or subscribe online. Please subscribe here or current subscribers can login here.

Steele County Times & DCI

Steele County Times
507-583-4431
411 E. Main St.
P.O. Box 247
Blooming Prairie, MN 55917

Dodge County Independent
507-634-7503
121 West Main St.
Kasson, MN 55944

Dodge County Printing
507-634-2661
121 West Main St.
Kasson, MN 55944

 

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