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'An important first step' -- DCSO hosts largest promotional ceremony in recent history

Emotions ran high during the Dunn County Sheriff's Office "Pinning On Ceremony" at the Dunn County Courthouse in Manning, N.D. Photo by James B. Miller, Jr. / The Dickinson Press1 / 4
Dunn County Sheriff, Gary Kuhn, outlined future plans for the department before a packed crowd. Photo by James B. Miller, Jr. / The Dickinson Press2 / 4
Friday's promotion ceremony was the largest promotional ceremony the agency has had in recent history, with five Dunn County Sheriff's Office deputies promoted. Photo by James B. Miller, Jr. / The Dickinson Press3 / 4
Patrol Deputy Matt Rodke, an Air Force veteran, receives his promotion to corporal with the Dunn County Sheriff's Office. Photo by James B. Miller, Jr. / The Dickinson Press4 / 4

The Dunn County Sheriff's Office held one of the largest promotional ceremonies the agency has had in recent history on Friday, Feb 15. An audience of more than two dozen witnesses, many of whom were friends and family of the soon-to-be-promoted deputies, listened closely as Sheriff Gary Kuhn addressed the future of the sheriff's office from the commissioner's room in Manning.

"This is a milestone for us because when I took over we had one sergeant and two corporals," Kuhn said. "This is an important first step in restructuring the Dunn County Sheriff's Office to better serve the community with each shift now having a commander to organize and oversee the daily patrol operations."

Kuhn announced the promotion of five veteran deputies to higher ranks within the department, stating that each was chosen after a challenging and competitive selection process.

Kuhn said it's an accomplishment of which they should be proud.

"Before becoming the sheriff I was on the streets for a long time," he said. "I have dealt with a lot of the situations that they will face now."

Pausing to regather himself, Kuhn explained why this promotion meant so much to him as the new sheriff.

"I get emotional because I know that the command staff sometimes forgets the hardships that are faced by our deputies when they have to go to a death investigation or to a house where children have been abused," he said. "It's important that we remember that these deputies are the ones that are out there working nights, weekends, holidays, and when that call comes in, (they) are always ready to respond with professionalism."

According to the sheriff, the promotion process was a rigorous affair and produced the caliber of people needed for the job. Speaking to the transition currently underway at the sheriff's office, Kuhn said those promoted to their new ranks will help bring Dunn County into line with his vision for the department—a vision that includes an emphasis on lateral and cooperative agency networking, effective policing and community involvement.

The "Pinning on Ceremony" saw K-9 Deputy Fred Whittingham promoted to patrol sergeant; Patrol Deputy Nick Barnhard promoted to patrol sergeant, Patrol Deputy Matt Rodke promoted to corporal; Patrol Deputy Dan Halonen promoted to corporal; and Patrol Deputy Tim Sul promoted to detective.

"It's pretty exciting, and it's definitely one of my career goals," Sul said following the promotion. "I look forward to taking on this new position. I'm very proud to work here and I'm very thankful that we have such great support from the community, and I hope that I can give back to them in my new role as a detective."

Halonen said that it's especially nice to be recognized by the sheriff and community, given the misconceptions and negative public perception law enforcement are shown in in the media.

"Ever since I started my career in law enforcement, it's been one of those things I've always tried to do. I do the best I can, always. It's nice to be finally recognized for the work that I put in and for the leadership abilities that I have," he said. "I want to specifically thank the people of Dunn County for the continued support they've shown me after all the years that I have been here, and we're kind of in a trying time in this career field. It's hard to dig deep and go serve the community when there is such a negative perception of what we do. I'm happy that the people of Dunn County are so supportive of our sheriff and the men and women who make up our department."

Speaking directly to the citizens of Dunn County, Kuhn expressed his appreciation for their vote of confidence that he is "the man for the job" and said that he will continue to make the sheriff's office a place of trust and transparency.

"If the public perceives us as an agency that they can trust and know that they can call and we'll respond to their needs, I think that would be my biggest goal," he said. "We are going to be a visible and transparent agency, we are going to regain the trust of the community and we are going to provide the best safety we can."

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