Although the State of Minnesota is filled with political excitement with strongly contested races from Governor to State Auditor (do we even vote for that?) the local scene has been somewhat quiet. The Bemidji City races for Mayor and for City Council have been civil and relatively respectable (which is a pleasant change). The one race that seems to have turned into a dogfight is the race for Sherrif which pits incumbant Sheriff Phil Hodapp against challenger Bill Cross.
Current Sheriff Phil Hodapp has been a police officer since 1976 and was with the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension for Minnesota from 1985 to 2006. He became Beltrami County Sheriff in 2007 and is seeking his 2nd term. Bill CrossÂ was aÂ Beltrami County Sheriff from 1974 to 1998 and again from 2000 till 2007 and is currently a Wadena County Sheriff. He ran agains Mr. Hodapp in 2006 and loss and took the job in Wadena County.
Several challengesÂ have been leveled in a fairly aggressive campaign byÂ Â Deputy Cross against the current Sheriff. Those include a recent accusation of racial profiling by the Beltrami Sheriffs department whichÂ was made at a recent candidate forum in Red Lake. DeputyÂ Cross indicated that the cooperation between Red Lake and the county seemed stronger when he was on the Beltrami force with Red Lake officers often assisting deputies with nearby calls. He also has criticizedÂ Sheriff Hodapp on his reluctance on adopting the 800 megahertz state recommended radio system which most agencies are transitioning to. AlsoÂ Deputy Cross has questioned what he calls the policy of “trivial traffic stops” for minor violations and would rather “go in bars and talk to patrons and help prevent drunks from driving”. Lastly the Sheriff has been challenged in regards to a record management system upgrade withÂ Deputy Cross stating the county already had a significant investment in the current system.
In regards to his critics, Sheriff Hodapp says he actually has increased cooperation with Red Lake and Leech Lake with officers on joint task forces. He says the investment in 800 megahertz radio system would cost Beltrami County $5.4 to $9 million dollars to convert, and says 14 other counties in Northwestern MN have also decided to skip the system. As far as racial profiling, he says video recorders in vehicles document every move of an officer. He agrees that not everyone who leaves a bar is legally drunk, and would not promote waiting outside a bar for a drunk patron to drive off. But he has gone on record saying being near a bar would be a factor in their decision to stop a car if an officer has probable cause, such as someone driving erratically.
While trying not to take sides here, DeputyÂ Cross’ allegations of racial profiling involving a standing Sheriff is a serious charge and needs to be backed up with proof, of which nothing has been shown. This is even more damaging when the statement is made at a candidate forum at Red Lake. I also question the idea of anÂ officerÂ walking through bars talking to patrons about their beverage intake. It seems again interesting this is promoted by Deputy Cross at a political forum sponsored by bar owners. Â I am no expert but I have never heard or seen anything done like that elsewhere. Also, while I know the county is now making money off of lower level traffic citations, the law is the law and my opinion is enforce it. I do know the State Patrol and most major agencies have adopted the 800 megahertz radio system and it will probably be made mandatory by the state. Bottom line, toÂ me this is the most contested and interesting race around and one to be scrutinized and watched closely.
(editors note: I have been informed that the State of MN will not force counties to the 800 mghtz. system andÂ the State Patrol will monitor counties like Beltrami who will be using a “narrow band” radio system)
both candidates websites: