Hodapp Defeats Cross in Beltrami County Sheriff’s Race

By: Molly Miron, Bemidji Pioneer

Incumbent Beltrami County Sheriff Phil Hodapp defeated challenger Bill Cross in one of the area’s most hotly contested election races.

With all 62 precincts reporting, Hodapp had 8,748 votes, or 55.6 percent. Cross had 6,976, or 44.3 percent.

Hodapp and Cross ran against each other four years ago. Hodapp was elected to his first term as sheriff, holding off Cross for the position.

This year, Hodapp was seeking a second term, and Cross wanted to return to Beltrami County to lead the Sheriff’s Office. He is currently Wadena County chief deputy.

On his campaign’s Facebook page, Hodapp expressed appreciation for his supporters:

“I would like to thank all the citizens of Beltrami County for the honor of having served as your sheriff for the past four years and for returning me to office. A special thank you to all my friends, campaign supporters and especially my family for all your help and support through this race. I look forward to serving the citizens of Beltrami County again for the next four years.”

Hodapp said he focused in his first term on reducing the effects of drugs, gangs, violent crime and dangerous driving. When he took office four years ago, Beltrami County was 13th in the state rankings for the number of fatal accidents. He initiated proactive policing, putting more deputies on the roads to watch for reckless or drunken driving and equipment violations.

Fatal accidents went from eight in 2006 to five in 2007, four in 2008 and two in 2009. Hodapp said social and educational factors – more people doing their drinking at home and more wearing seat belts – contributed to the decrease, as did the legal level of blood alcohol dropping from .10 to .08.

Cross began working for the Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office in 1971. He left in 2001 to become Wadena County chief deputy. During his years in Beltrami County, he held every position in the department from dispatcher and investigator to chief deputy.

His main message this election has been advocating for implementing increased technology.


Hodapp: Increased Deputy Presence Cuts Crime, Traffic Fatalities

Brad Swenson Bemidji Pioneer
Published Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Beltrami County Sheriff Phil Hodapp shares preliminary results of the department’s Safe Neighborhoods Project with members of the Bemidji Sunrise Rotary Club on Tuesday morning. The project has led to lower crime rates, he said. Pioneer Photo/Brad Swenson

Boosting deputy presence throughout rural Beltrami County results in a lower crime rate and fewer traffic fatalities, a product of the county’s Safe Neighborhoods Project.

“Our pro-active police contacts have gone up dramatically,” Beltrami County Sheriff Phil Hodapp said Tuesday. “Officers are stopping someone for whatever reason — it could be a minor infraction, a minor traffic violation, equipment violation, drunk driving — anything like that.”

The department’s number of contacts and written warnings nearly doubled from 2007 to 2008.

“That’s an effort that we started in the Sheriff’s Office to have our officers out patrolling, and actually pulling people over to just tell them they’ve got a headlight out,” Hodapp said in a presentation to the Bemidji Sunrise Rotary Club.

“A number of things happen,” he said. “One, they get to know these people that are out on the roads. They’re providing some information to the person. If that’s their only problem, they get to go along with a little warning to fix their headlight.”

That activity helps public safety by making that person’s car safer, Hodapp said.

“Occasionally, that’s how we catch a drunk driver,” he said. “That might be how they find somebody transporting narcotics, or carrying weapons or has a warrant.”

The Safe Neighborhoods Project is a pro-active policing strategy that deploys officers throughout the county to actively reduce criminal activity and the number of serious and fatal crashes, Hodapp said.

It includes work toward streamlining internal processes and procedures, improving data user availability and access by eventually using a Web-based system to chart where crime occurs in the county, and greater use of diversion programs.

Instituted over the last two years, the program has seen a trend that indicates a noticeable drop in the number of a variety of crimes, he said.

From 2007 to 2008, burglaries declined from 176 to 93, assaults dropped from 365 to 275, and there were only two robberies in 2008, down one from the previous year, Hodapp said. Property damage went from 411 to 345.

Thefts declined from 336 to 275 —thefts from vehicles were down 38 to 17, gas drive-offs down from 70 to 52, while the only uptick was in thefts from fish houses or boats, which increased from 17 to 55.

Vehicle thefts, which were at 93 in 2004, were at 52 in 2007 and in 2008.

“There’s a downtick in a lot of crimes,” the first-term sheriff said. “Our vehicle thefts have gone down, due in part to an effort we’ve had going in conjunction with the city to get out and work on auto thefts.”

A public campaign has included safety tips such as not leaving the keys in the car, he said. “All of those efforts have helped reduce the thefts.”

Weapons offenses totaled 62 in 2008, down from 75 the previous year, and controlled substance crimes dropped from 45 to 35.

“We’ve been really concentrating on trying to interdict the flow of drugs that come into the county and pass through the county,” Hodapp said, “and I think it’s been working.”

A real problem in Beltrami County is suicides, he said, but that number dropped from eight in 2006 to two in 2007 and again in 2008. Suicide attempts were 18 in 2007 and 13 last year.

“This is a definite problem,” he said, adding that there is a support structure in the community to aid with suicide prevention. “I do wonder if we’re not going to see an uptick in this now with the economy going the way it is.”

With the rate of crime down in most areas, the effect of the current recession hasn’t fully hit yet, Hodapp thought.

Hodapp said in 2006, Beltrami County was No. 13 on the Minnesota Public Safety Department’s Top 13 most deadliest counties with eight fatalities. That figure dropped to four last year.

“Any lives lost out on the road is just a shame,” he said. “Who do you want to get killed out on the road this year? That’s the kind of question we have to ask ourselves every time we get behind the wheel of a car.”

As a result, Hodapp said, “our efforts have been directed at improving the safety for our motoring public too. We want you, when you get in your car, to know you’re going to have a safe trip home and your kids, when they’re out driving around, they will be safe.”

One statistic did go up — serious injury crashes when up from 59 to 80. Driving while intoxicated arrests also went up — from 257 to 332.

Hodapp pointed out that the statistics are for rural Beltrami County under the Sheriff’s Department jurisdiction and outside of the city of Bemidji.

But the Sheriff’s Department handles dispatch duties for both the county and the city. In 2008, a total 35,228 calls for service were made, with 18,782 involving the Sheriff’s Department.

“The crime rate right in town here (Bemidji) is equivalent to the crime rate in Minneapolis,” Hodapp said. “We track everything here; we’ve got a very good records management system. So part of it is we’re reporting accurately.”

Also, Bemidji is a regional hub, he said. “This is where everybody comes to shop and to drink and everything else, and then make their way back home. Bad things start to happen when people start drinking or using drugs, and usually that’s right here.”

The Sheriff’s Department’s main patrolling is outside the city, he added., “so we try to interdict a lot of that stuff, moving back and forth from the rural areas.”

But in the scheme of things, he said, “this is a very safe place to live, especially if you start to look at some of this stuff (statistics) you see that our efforts are starting to pay off.”

The Safe Neighborhoods Project not only involves the Sheriff’s Department, he said, adding that it is a part of an overall outcome-based system the county plans to implement.

The system, Strategy Aligned Management Initiative, adopted by County Administrator Tony Murphy, is a countywide effort to change the way the county does business.

“Our county structure is set up as a service delivery structure,” Hodapp said. “We do a really great job of delivering services to the clients. … (The new system) looks at what does the public expect from us, what do the citizens want from their government, what kind of outcomes do they expect to obtain, and then focus on delivering those outcomes.”

County outcome areas include resource excellence, safe neighborhoods, expanding opportunity, caring communities and results-oriented government, the sheriff said.

The Safe Neighborhoods Project “doesn’t simply involve the Sheriff’s Office,” he said. “It involves the County Highway Department, because they’re working on improving the safety of the roads and work with us on signage. They engineer new roads so that they’re safer.”

Similarly, Hodapp said his office works with the County Health and Human Services Department, both in public health and in human services on such issues as child protection cases.

“Everybody has to pull in the same direction,” he said.

The Safe Neighborhoods concept included:

  • Safe roads and bridges will be constructed to meet current and anticipated traffic needs.
  • Law enforcement services will target those efforts to ensure the highest level of compliance with law and effectively reduce crime in our communities.
  • Provide a high level of safety for those using the county infrastructure.
  • Maintaining and improving the safety for those people and their property in the county.
  • Maintain and improve safety for children in the county.
  • Provide effective justice for residents and law violators.
  • The county will support public safety initiatives that reduce recidivism.

The latter, he said, is key as much of the problem is caused by a small number of people who keep repeating through the system, he said.

“We’re just breaking the water on this, we’ve got a long ways to go to address the problem,” he said. “In our jail population, we house a lot of people who are repeat offenders, such as in the drunk-driving realm.”

Hodapp says that “we don’t know what the solutions are, but we’re willing to try some different things.”

French Academy Teacher Sought On Charge Of Molesting Boy At School Camp

The French citizen fled the country a day before an arrest warrant was issued, and authorities are seeking to bring him back.


A former computer science teacher at the French Academy of Minnesota in St. Louis Park has been charged with molesting a 10-year-old student during a trip to the Concordia Language Village in Bemidji, Minn., according to a criminal complaint released Friday.

Adrien Massy, 29 and a French citizen, was fired and left the country, according to the complaint filed in Beltrami County and a search warrant and complaint filed in Hennepin County.

On June 9, the Beltrami County sheriff received the first of two reports of alleged sexual assaults on academy students who were at the camp for a school retreat in late May, according to the warrant.

On June 11, an arrest warrant for suspicion of criminal sexual conduct was issued for the male teacher, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement was notified. But it was too late. The teacher left the United States on June 10, the search warrant said.

Beltrami County Sheriff Phil Hodapp said Massy’s last known location was Iceland. “We’re working with the federal authorities to get him tracked down and returned to the country,” Hodapp said. Iceland is a major hub for connecting flights to Europe from Minneapolis.

On June 10, a Medina boy told investigators that Massy touched him on the genitals through his pajamas while he was at the camp, the complaint said. The boy said Massy molested him while he was trying to sleep on his bunk. The boy said he sat up and told Massy to stop. Massy responded, “OK” and left the dorm, the boy said.

The boy also said he saw Massy “pretend to take pictures” of another boy in the shower. The boy said Massy claimed the camera wasn’t on.
A second boy told investigators on June 11 that Massy touched his genitals and took pictures of him in the shower. The complaint against Massy said the investigation is still underway regarding the second boy.

Veronique Liebmann, director of the French Academy, confiscated the teacher’s laptop and camera when she fired him. The Sheriff’s Office took the computer and camera with the warrant. Investigators searched them for pornographic images of children. The sheriff declined to comment on what images, if any, were found.

Liebmann said, “We were shocked and saddened by the allegations. We are cooperating fully with the investigating authorities.” She declined to answer questions.

Massy was in the country on an exchange program through the San Diego-based Amity Institute. The director of the institute told investigators that when Massy was fired, his visa was canceled, and he was given 30 days to leave the country.

Tiffany Bettancourt, a spokeswoman for the institute, said she couldn’t comment on the case. She said Amity checks backgrounds on the several hundred teachers who come to the United States yearly. She said any criminal history would bar a teacher from participating in the program.
“We work with a great group of teachers,” she said. “We bring international teachers here in an effort to build friendships, share culture, and then they return home.”

The academy at 9400 Cedar Lake Road is an immersion school for students in preschool through fifth grade.

Christine Schulze, executive director of the language villages, said French Academy students are the only ones who were at the camp for a retreat. Massy was neither an employee of the villages, nor was he on contract with them. “We’re obviously very concerned,” she said. “The safety and well-being of students in any of our programs is absolutely our primary concern.”

‘DWI Enforcer All-Stars’ Honored At Twins Game

The 2010 “DWI Enforcer All-Stars” were honored at Target Field at a Minnesota Twins game Thursday.

Those honored include 30 law enforcement officers and three prosecutors from the Twin Cities and greater Minnesota selected for outstanding service in enforcement and prosecution of impaired driving. Minnesota State Patrol Trooper Jack Tiegs is Minnesota’s Most Valuable Enforcer leading all law enforcement with 133 DWI arrests in 2009.

Local honorees are Beltrami County Sheriff’s Deputy Lyan Karger with 80 arrests and Pike Bay Police Officer Anthony Bermel with 23 arrests.

Rescue Volunteers Honored

Members of the Blackduck Fire Department accepting awards from Beltrami County Sheriff Phil Hodapp for their quick response to the boating accident on Blackduck Lake are, from left to right: Blackduck Fire Chief Rick Bogart, Brian Larsen, Jon Ross, Daryl Lundberg, Joby Looker, Andy Thienes, Don Jones, Festus Rockensock, Joe Cheney, Terry Frenzel and Sheriff Hodapp.

Area rescue volunteers came together Aug. 10 to accept certificates of commendations for their efforts in assisting with the boating accident that occurred on Blackduck Lake July 14.

Those honored with certificates were members of the Blackduck Fire Department, the Lakes Area dive team, the sheriff’s posse, ham radio club as well as Monte Sharbono from White Birch Resort. Sharbono was the first one on the scene following the accident.

Beltrami County Sheriff Phil Hodapp was on hand to present everyone involved with the search and rescue with awards.

“These kinds of tragic events are really tough on everybody in the community,” Hodapp said. “Luckily we had several gracious and helpful volunteers.”

The first award was given to Sharbono for his thoughtful actions and for saving the lives of two of the boating accident victims.
“Monte was one of the first people to respond to the accident,” Hodapp said. “He was able to rescue two of the boaters and get them to shore safely.”

The sheriff noted that Sharbono assisted in the search for the other two boaters the night of the accident as well as the next day. He was also commended for opening the doors of his resort to provide a place for the dive team to stay.

“He is an exceptional citizen and host for a situation like this,” said Hodapp.

Brandon Schmickle and Greg Moen were present to represent the Lakes Area dive team.

“We had quite a crew here from the team,” Hodapp said. “Their efforts were very impressive to the victim’s families as well as to everyone else involved in the search.”

Hodapp acknowledged that the dive team was able to recover the two bodies very quickly despite high winds and murky water.

“We had tremendous support from the resort owners and from people who were lined up to carry our gear for us,” Moen said.

“Everything was ready for us to go when we hit the water and we can’t thank everyone enough for that. We greatly appreciate it.”
“For us at the sheriff’s office, one of the premier groups of volunteers is the Blackduck Fire Department,” Hodapp said. “We know we can always count on this group to come out and help us out whenever we need them.”

Hodapp was extremely grateful and proud of the Blackduck Fire Department for their efforts and couldn’t thank them enough for everything they did during the boating accident and for what they do overall.

“Our fire department has had a history in Blackduck since 1901 and we’ve always been able to count on them,” said Blackduck Mayor Scott Palmer.

Members of the sheriff’s posse and Paul Bunyan Amateur Radio Club were also given certificates for their contributions during the search and recovery.

Mayor Palmer ended the ceremony with powerful words of gratitude, “As the mayor of Blackduck, I would like to thank all the emergency services that came together for doing such a fine job for us on that tragic day.”

Officers Take On Torch Run Challenge

Bemidji Pioneer

From left, Clearwater County Deputy Matt Grossell, Paul Bunyan Drug Task Force officer Shannon Trepannier, Bemidji Police officer Mike Mestemacher, Beltrami County Deputy Jake Hodapp and Minnesota State Patrol Trooper Kelly Johnson enter the Bemidji city limits in the Law Enforcement Torch Run for the Special Olympics. Runners carried the torch in a relay from the Bagley City Park to MarketPlace Food & Drug in Bemidji to raise funds for and awareness of Special Olympics. Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper.

On Thursday, local law enforcement agencies participated in the Law Enforcement Torch Run for the Special Olympics.

The torch was carried from Bagley City Park to Marketplace Foods in Bemidji, approximately 26 miles along U.S. Highway 2. Several local law enforcement agencies participated including the Bagley Police Department, Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office, Bemidji Police Department, Clearwater County Sheriff’s Office, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Leech Lake Tribal Police, and the United States Border Patrol. The event was organized by the Fraternal Order of Police, Headwaters Lodge No. 12.

The Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics is known as the largest grassroots fundraising program benefiting Special Olympics. It began in 1981 in Wichita, Kan., when Police Chief Richard LaMunyon saw an urgent need to raise funds for, and increase awareness of Special Olympics.

In Minnesota, the first Torch Run was organized in 1988. Special Olympics Minnesota now has the support of the Minnesota Association of Chiefs of Police, the Minnesota State Patrol Troopers Association and the Minnesota Fraternal Order of Police.

Man Thanks Firefighters By Paying Their Bill At Restaurant

Bemidji Pioneer

Bemidji firefighter Kent Minske was one of 33 firefighters who responded early Saturday morning to a house fire in Beltrami County. The temperatures then dipped as low as 40 degrees below zero. Submitted Photo Courtesy Bemidji Fire Department.

While battling an 11-hour fire Saturday in Turtle Lake Township, Acting Fire Chief Kelly Skime went to Hardee’s to buy firefighters some lunch.

The total was about $93, he said.

But when he placed his credit card on the counter, a customer from one of the booths approached him.

“I’m going to get this,” Skime said the man said.

Skime told him he didn’t have to do that, but the unknown man insisted.

The Hardee’s encounter took place about eight hours after firefighters responded to the house fire.

Other people bought the firefighters pizza. Bemidji School District furnished a bus so firefighters could stay warm on the site, where it was about 40 below zero. Beltrami County Sheriff Phil Hodapp personally served firefighters coffee.

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