Chief appreciates support in light accusations involving officer
When Kasson police chief Kent Berghuis became aware of the allegations of sexual misconduct against one of his officers, he knew it was going to be a black eye on the agency.
Having an officer accused of a crime, especially sexual abuse, is the worst nightmare for any law enforcement official. It’s the first time it has ever happened in the Kasson Police Department, according to Berghuis, who has been with the agency for 31 years. “It came as a shock to us. We were blown away. We had no clue,” he said.
“I was left wondering if they are going to have trust in us again,” Berghuis said. “You kind of walk with your head down for a while.”
But little did he realize how much support his little department would receive from the residents they are sworn to protect and serve. In the days since the charges became public, people have reached out to the department in a variety of ways, including in person and through social media.
“We’ve had well-wishers come up to us in the stores and on the streets,” Berghuis said. “Kasson residents are very supportive of us.”
He noted people have even been so kind to bring treats into the office, which they are typically used to happening around special holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Residents have left Berghuis and his officers know that “one bad apple doesn’t make the rest tainted.” Over the past several weeks, Berghuis has found a resounding positive response from citizens. “They believe in us and trust in us,” he said.
Many citizens have shared messages on the department’s Facebook page. “As a long-time Kasson resident, I think I speak for most when I say we are truly blessed to have some of the greatest men and women protecting our community,” Roger Berge posted. “Thank you for all you do and God bless the men and women who serve our community every day.”
Rita Arendt shared how there is always one bad apple in any agency. “You all keep your heads held high and do what you all do best,” Arendt said. “Sending you all much hugs and always says you all be safe out there,” she added.
Another resident posted how she has nothing but admiration and respect for Kasson’s officers. “Thank you for everything you all do to keep our town and families safe,” Sonya Wagenknecht said.
To all the people who have supported the police department, Berghuis has one thing to say. “Thank you for stepping forward,” he said. “It’s nice that the underspoken ones have our back. When push comes to shove, they have our back.”
Berghuis said his department needs the support at times like this. He related it to a child who needs constant positive reinforcement to support them in growing and developing. “They need to know they are doing well. It spurs them on,” he said.
The officers have also taken notice. “Words cannot express the appreciation we have for our communities support,” said Jesse Reding, a Kasson investigator. “Thank you to the people that have stopped into our office or approached us in public. It has been so incredibly unexpected,” he added.
Through all the embarrassment and turmoil surrounding the sexual allegations, Berghuis has tried to do one thing for his department. “I’ve always known you should be open with the public and don’t hide things,” he said.
Internally, Berghuis has reached out to his officers to help them cope with this ordeal. “If they feel they need support, they know it is there,” he says. He has also made sure his officers know that there is nothing they could have done to prevent the outcome.
“We have to keep on trudging around,” Berghuis said. “We can’t let this get in our way.”