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A new sheriff in town

By Staff | Jan 15, 2010

A career in law enforcement became the goal for Matt Lunde when he was in high school, and now the 32-year-old Davenport, N.D. native has reached the office of sheriff. Lunde was appointed Pierce County Sheriff last November and officially took over the position in January, replacing the retiring Robert Graber. His appointment is for one year as the office will be up for election in November.

Although he is one of the youngest sheriffs in the state, Lunde has extensive experience. He has been in law enforcement for nearly 13 years, including nine as a deputy sheriff in Pierce County.

Q: Where did you grow up and where did you receive your law enforcement training and earlier job experience?

A: I grew up in Davenport, N.D., just southwest of Fargo. I graduated from Kindred High School. I attended law enforcement training in Alexandria, Minn., where I received my degree during a two-year training program.

I was a police officer in Forman, N.D. for two years, a part-time officer for the Rugby Police Department for approximately eight years, and a Deputy Sheriff for Pierce County for approximately nine years. I am a weapons instructor, concealed weapons instructor and a police subjects instructor through the state of North Dakota. I was also a co-owner/business manager for the last year. I have about 12 1/2 years of law enforcement experience.

Q: When did you become interested in a career in law enforcement?

A: I first became interested in law enforcement when I was a sophomore in high school, and that’s when I decided I wanted to make it a career.

Q: What was the motivation for pursuing the Pierce County Sheriff’s position after Sheriff Robert Graber announced his intention to step down and retire?

A: I had enjoyed working for Pierce County when I was here before. I have always enjoyed the county, the people, and the area. My father’s family grew up in Esmond, so I knew the area. I enjoy the outdoors, the hunting and the fishing that the area has to offer.

I knew my past employment with the county and my total job experiences prepared me for the position. I had new and innovative ideas that I now could implement to improve the department and community relations.

Q: You have only been on the job officially for a few weeks, but you did work in the department for about five weeks prior to that? What types of work or job shadowing did you do?

A: I mostly worked in the courthouse with county staff and officials. I had several meetings with local departments, other area agencies and state offices. I went to several hours of training last month throughout the state, including in Bismarck and Devils Lake. Former Sheriff Graber provided some insight on the position and the day-to-day duties of the sheriff’s position during that time period as well.

Q: You are one of the youngest county sheriffs across the state. How do you become an effective officer and administrator?

A: The best way I believe to become an effective officer/administrator is having a knowledgeable staff and openness to new ideas and suggestions from your employees. I believe that my experience and help from other area administrators will allow me to achieve goals that I have set for the department.

Q: What are those goals?

A: Building a sound relationship with the community and providing more community policing programs. Also, making sure the department has sufficient equipment and resources to effectively protect and serve the county. And working well with other law enforcement agencies.

Q: In addition to going out on patrol and conducting investigations, what are the other duties of being sheriff?

A: The sheriff deals a lot with community relations, civil process, and acts as coroner in the absence of a county coroner.

Q: Communication is an important part of any job, especially in law enforcement. What can be done to ensure there is good communication within the department and with other law enforcement agencies serving the area?

A: Meetings, training, and cooperation are all vital to ensure that good, strong communication is achieved. Joint meetings with area departments are being discussed to ensure everyone is on the same page and that assistance can be provided to each other when needed.

Q: Building a relationship with the public is important for all law enforcement entities. How do you plan to effectively do that? What can the public do to play a role in helping prevent crime and assist the department?

A: Community-orientated policing, such as: safety programs in the schools, drug abuse and awareness programs for schools and the general public, public events so citizens can get to know area law enforcement and emergency personnel. I have discussed starting a sheriff’s reserve program in conjunction with the Rugby Police Department to involve the public first hand. This would entail assisting local departments with special events and disasters.

The public’s help is always needed by law enforcement. We cannot do our job effectively without the help of the public. They are the eyes and ears of the things we don’t see and hear. The public needs to know that if you don’t call or inform us of what is happening we can’t achieve the same goal, which is to provide the best protection, safety, and service to the public that it needs. We encourage everyone to communicate with us whenever they can. Each matter will be attended to professionally.

Q: Probably the big misconception about rural law enforcement is they are “out to get people.” Obviously that’s not true. What message would you convey to the public about the mission of the department?

A: The mission of our department is that your safety and well-being is our number one concern. If you see us, whether it be in Rugby, other rural towns, or in the middle of the county on a farm-to-market road, we are there to make sure you are safe. Even though we drive around in vehicles, we are approachable any time. Officers are encouraged to stop and communicate with everyone. We are people too, and we all live together. The message I also want to convey is that if you’re unsure or have any doubts of whether to call or not, don’t be afraid to just call, that is what we are hired to do, 24 hours-a-day, seven days-a-week.

Q: There is a lot of ground to cover in terms of square miles for one sheriff and two full-time deputies. How does the department meet that challenge?

A: Yes, the area is quite large for a small department to cover. I also will be out on regular patrols along with the two deputies. Don’t be surprised to see me out in the county somewhere or in the middle of the night. I feel fortunate to be able to help the deputies and other officers wherever, or whenever, I can. We also have the assistance of agencies such as the N.D. Highway Patrol, Rugby Police Department, N.D. BCI, N.D. Game and Fish, N.D. Parole and Probation, and the U.S. Border Patrol. Other area counties and police departments are also willing to lend a hand if needed. The public will see increased patrols not only on the highways, but also in the rural areas.

Q: What illegal activity would you consider to be the biggest concern for your department? Drug use, domestic abuse, assaults, burglary, underage alcohol use, other crimes?

A: Drug use always seems to be a tough challenge for law enforcement to tackle. We try to educate kids as much as we can on the dangers and consequences if they use drugs. The general public also needs to be more informed on the dangers of drug use and what to look for to assist us in tackling this issue. The Pierce County Sheriff’s Department and the Rugby Police Department would like to work more in conjunction with the schools and the public with more informative and community awareness programs. All the illegal activities are major concerns for any department. Some activities we have seen an increase, some decreased, but all need attention.

Q: Tell me about your family, children, etc.

A: My wife, Stacey, and I have been married for about three years. She grew up in Rugby. Both our families are still in those locations. We have a 2 yr. old daughter, Jaelyn, and we are expecting a little boy in March. We are looking forward to raising our family in Pierce County. It’s definitely a great place to raise a family.

Q: Anything else to add?

A: My thoughts and comments are that I would like to thank Pierce County for the opportunity for the position of Sheriff. I will be running for the four-year term of sheriff this year while I finish this one-year term. I would like people to remember that I am here for them and I am approachable at any time about any subject matter.

I consider Pierce County as my home, and would like to be in the position for a long time. I am here to raise my family, make friends, and do the best possible job I can do for the people of Pierce County.

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