Benson and Willmar law enforcement agencies receive honors

WILLMAR -- Law enforcement agencies in west central Minnesota had an MVP year, mopping up two of six state awards issued by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, Office of Traffic Safety.

WILLMAR -- Law enforcement agencies in west central Minnesota had an MVP year, mopping up two of six state awards issued by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, Office of Traffic Safety.

The Star Awards were issued Nov. 3 by the Office of Traffic Safety to departments participating in the Safe and Sober campaign. Two star awards -- an individual award and a department award -- were issued in each of three Minnesota districts.

Both the Benson and Willmar Police departments were recipients of the awards. Stearns County also received two of the awards, putting four of the six within 60 miles of Willmar. Benson received the Star Award for a department as a whole, while Willmar Police Officer Marilee Dorn won the individual award.

"Both these agencies and people have saved lives," said Brad Kollmann, Safe and Sober liaison for southern Minnesota.

Kollmann was responsible for nominating an agency and individual for the awards from southern Minnesota. The awards stem from Safe and Sober campaigns, which focus on reducing vehicle fatalities through everything from increased enforcement of laws against driving while impaired and speeding to safety presentations about child seats and seatbelt use.


"They don't just do enforcement, they try to convince people that this is the thing to do," Kollmann said.

"These are two agencies that think that way."

Benson Police Chief Jim Crace said he is proud of the Star Award earned by his department.

"It's just really nice for the state to recognize those agencies putting forth extra effort," he said.

The Benson Police Department was also recognized as a first-place winner in 2005 along with 10 other departments as part of a Safe and Sober challenge. Although Benson won high praise again this year, Kollmann elaborated in an e-mail to Crace about why he nominated the department.

"A few short years ago, the Benson Police Department was in the medium of traffic safety," Kollmann stated. "With your leadership, and (Officer Nancy Dosdall's) dedication as well as the dedication and commitment of every agency member, your agency went from where it was to being outstanding in both outreach, education and enforcement."

Crace said he also is proud of Willmar's achievements.

"If they're only giving out six of them and Willmar and Benson got two of them, that's saying something," Crace said about the Star Awards.


Dorn said she was surprised when she was presented the award Nov. 3, but Kollmann saw it differently. He said that "Marilee's been kind of a cornerstone." She's always looking forward, organized and is a great source for up-to-date statistics, he continued.

But even after years of consistently addressing traffic safety concerns, speaking to new drivers, being available for interviews with media and other agencies and winning an award, Dorn still sees more work ahead.

"So often I see the things that don't get done," she said.

Dorn pointed out that more needs to be done to communicate traffic safety issues to the Spanish-speaking and Somali communities. Kollmann echoed Dorn's concerns, saying that traffic safety issues are the No. 1 cause of death for the young and the No. 1 preventable cause of death for all ages.

That's part of the reason why authorities from Kandiyohi County have teamed up with authorities from Swift County for the fiscal year of 2007.

The Willmar, Atwater and Benson Police departments along with the Kandiyohi County Sheriff's Department and Swift County Sheriff's Department coordinated their efforts for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1. The five agencies began a synchronized effort backed by $34,400 -- including 840 overtime hours -- to spread the message about traffic safety.

Dorn said the effort is just getting under way and hasn't seen much change from normal yet, but she expects the departments to do a lot more work together during the spring Safe and Sober campaigns.

What To Read Next
Get Local