Sheriff Bostrom policy changes


Ramsey County Sheriff Bostrom has a new policy manual  demonstrating the policy implementation of election promises. Now, granted, a policy manual is not certain execution. However, this new manual has enough detail in it to be a living executable document.  A planned revision process is already in place. The Sheriff can and will supersede the manual with Sheriff’s Directives and Special Orders. The Sheriff’s Directives will then get incorporated into the manual. The manual is providing the basis of performance evaluations.

As a person who likes to stand on a street corner and hold a  peace sign, this is the part of new manual that warms my heart:


All employees shall observe and comply with every person’s clearly established rights under the United States and Minnesota Constitutions.

The previous Sheriff had a policy manual that had not been updated in 15 years, which obviously did not take into account changing needs and was obviously not an actively used manual. So within the Sheriff’s department, this new manual represents a sense of order and relief at actually having a  clear written policy, instead of circumstantial uncertain verbal policy.  Also, many obvious changes are reflected in this policy manual from the observed policies of the previous Sheriff.

Previously, the reporting structure of the Sheriff’s department was re-organized to be functional, clear and streamlined. the processes of working within the structure are clearly identified within the manual. The decision making for the unforeseen circumstances are also laid out. Although the unforeseen circumstances might be few, given that a disaster plan is already laid out. A frequent problem under the previous Sheriff was that unforeseen decision making could only be done by the Sheriff, who was not always available.

Clearly, Sheriff Bostrom clearly has high expectations of his law enforcement officers. The manual starts with an impressive Law Enforcement Code of Ethics. Consideration of promotion is not just based on performance but also on character traits like emotional stability, maturity, stress tolerance, sound judgment, personal integrity, ethical conduct, leadership, initiative, flexibility, and a positive attitude. Personal appearance, personal physical fitness, education and ongoing training  are also emphasized.  

Below is a detailed consideration of the new policy manual.

Obviously, I can only provide highlights of a very large manual. The folks concerned with second amendment rights should be happy to note that there are several pages detailing the processing of handgun permits. Obvious consideration is given to women in a having a lactation policy. Special consideration is given to the needs of the older people.

I have pulled some of the parts of the manual that deserve to be quoted in highlighting policy changes.

  1. Use of Force

    The use-of-force guidelines are the most important aspect of any law enforcement management because here is where abuses result in death and injury. The use-of-force is the trust that we put into the Sheriff’s office. In the new manual, the use of force guidelines are detailed and explicit under the principle of

    “use only that amount of force that reasonably appears necessary under the circumstances to successfully accomplish the legitimate law enforcement purpose in accordance with this policy.”  

  2. Chemical Agents

    I like the policy that the use of chemical agents is only under the authorization of the Incident Commander or SWAT Commander for crowd control. I think that law enforcement should be more cautious in using chemical agents.


    The use of chemical agents for crowd control/dispersal or against barricaded suspects shall be based on the circumstances. The Incident Commander or SWAT Commander may authorize the delivery and use of chemical agents for these situations, evaluating all conditions known at the time and determining that such force reasonably appears necessary. When practicable, fire personnel should be alerted or summoned to the scene to control any fires and to assist in providing medical aid or gas evacuation when the scene is safe.

  3. Taser

    Since Tasers have been used as a generally less lethal method, there has been wide spread abuse across the US. So I was pleased to see that specific incidents like tasering a restrained person are specifically forbidden.

    TASER/Electronic Control Device (ECD) Policy


    When properly applied in accordance with this policy, the ECD device is considered a nondeadly control device which is intended to temporarily incapacitate a violent or potentially violent individual without causing serious injury. It is anticipated that the appropriate use of such a device will result in fewer serious injuries to Correctional Officers/Deputies and suspects.


    The use of the TASER Device should generally be avoided in the following situations unless the totality of the circumstances indicate that other available options reasonably appear ineffective, impractical, or would present a greater danger to the officer/deputy, the subject or others, and the officer/deputy reasonably believes that the need to control the individual outweighs the risk of using the TASER Device:

    (a) Pregnant females.
    (b) Elderly individuals or obvious juveniles.
    (c) Individuals who are handcuffed or otherwise restrained.
    (d) Individuals who have been recently sprayed with a flammable chemical agent or who are otherwise in close proximity to any flammable material.
    (e) Individuals whose position or activity may result in collateral injury (e.g., falls from height, operating vehicles).

    Because the application of the TASER Device in the drive­stun mode (i.e., direct contact without darts) relies primarily on pain compliance and requires close proximity to the subject, additional caution should be exercised. The application in drive­stun mode should be limited to brief applications in which pain compliance would reasonably appear necessary to achieve control.

    The TASER Device shall not be used to torture, psychologically torment, elicit statements or to punish any individual.

  4. Car Chases

    Current police pursuit is being questioned because the process of pursuit can lead to injury of innocent bystanders. This consideration is solidly in place in the new manual.


    Pursuit is justified when:

    (a) Vehicle operator fails to stop after being given a visual or audible signal to stop by a peace officer.
    (b) There is reasonable expectation of a successful apprehension of the suspect.

    Other factors to be considered:

    (a) The initial decision to engage in a pursuit shall rest primarily with the officer who has initiated the vehicular stop, after considering the elements of this policy;
    (b) These elements shall include, but are not limited to: the crime for which the suspect is wanted (the need to apprehend immediately), and the risk to the community created by the pursuit (traffic, area of pursuit, environmental factors, and weather conditions);
    (c) The officer must continually consider the risks created by the pursuit, as those risks may change during a pursuit;
    (d) Terminating a pursuit shall be considered a decision made in the interest of public safety;
    (e) The officer’s decision to continue a pursuit may be overridden by a supervisor at any time.

    Standards applied to the evaluation of a pursuit, as well as the decision to continue a pursuit shall include the following:

    (a) Is the need to immediately apprehend the suspect more important than the risk created by the pursuit?
    (b) Do the dangers created by the pursuit exceed the danger posed by allowing the perpetrator to escape?

  5. Control of symbols and power

    In the past, the use of symbols of the Sheriff’s office have been uncontrolled. Under the last Sheriff, there was an employee without a peace officer’s license who sure did act like a peace officer. So throughout the new manual are now specific controls on how the symbols of Sheriff’s authority are used. Here is an example:

    In order to ensure that the letterhead and name of the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office are not misused, all official external correspondence shall be on Sheriff’s Office letterhead. All Sheriff’s Office letterhead shall bear the signature element of the Sheriff – or ­ will have printed name and rank of the Sheriff of the Office, followed by four spaces for a signature block, followed by the printed name of the employee, with the employee’s title or rank listed below their name; …

  6. Financial Responsibility

    The new frugal economic policy is also reflected:

    It is incumbent upon the employee and the employer to be good stewards of public funds used for this purpose. It is a management right to manage the use of overtime and to end an employee time of work when necessary to conserve the use of public funds used for overtime compensation

  7. Use of Video Cameras

    I was most upset at the way that video cameras were being used by the previous sheriff by untrained people in unsupervised ways. The new policy is much more reassuring.


    The cameras only record images and do not record sound. Recorded images may be used for a variety of purposes, including criminal investigations and monitoring of activity around high­value or high­threat areas…


    Video monitoring will be conducted in a professional, ethical and legal manner. The public safety camera system will not be used to invade the privacy of individuals, to look into private areas or areas where the reasonable expectation of privacy exists. All reasonable efforts will be taken to protect these rights. Video monitoring shall not be used to harass, intimidate or discriminate against any individual or group.


    Except in the case of covert operations or confidential investigations, all public areas that are monitored by public safety cameras shall be marked in a conspicuous manner with appropriate signs to inform the public that the area is under sheriff’s surveillance. Signs shall be well lit to ensure visibility

  8. Fair Law Enforcement

    Fair law enforcement is always a concern. Frequently, many groups feel as they are stopped because of “Driving while black (or fill in the blank).” A section details ensuring that law enforcement is for cause not a prejudice.

    The Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office strives to provide law enforcement to our community with due regard to the racial, cultural or other inherent differences of those we serve. It shall therefore be the policy and practice of this office to provide law enforcement services and to enforce the law equally and fairly without discrimination toward any individual(s) or group (Minn. Stat. § 626.8471 Subd 4).

  9. Petty Cash Policy

    The audit earlier this year highlighted cash management concerns that also came up during the election. New more stringent rules ensure that cash is treated carefully.

    Cash Handling, Security and Management


    The proper handling and documentation of cash transactions and the maintenance of accurate records of cash transactions is important to protect the integrity of sheriff’s operations and ensure the public trust.


    Employees designated as fund managers and authorized to maintain and manage petty cash funds are … These persons may delegate this responsibility to another person in their absence with the approval of their supervisor. All funds require the creation and maintenance of an accurate and current transaction ledger and filing of invoices, receipts and expense reports by the fund manager.


    The fund manager(s) shall require all transactions have a receipt attesting to the entry. Transactions not documented by a receipt, invoice or cash transfer form require an expense report. Original receipts shall be attached to a voucher which must be submitted to the County in order to reimburse funds.


    The manager of a petty cash fund shall audit the fund no less than once every 3 months. This audit requires that the manager and at least one other person, selected by the fund manager, review the ledger, records, receipts and funds, verifying the accuracy of the accounting.

  10. Responding to Data Requests

    Reporters, citizen journalists and citizens could not get data from the previous sheriff without going to court. So this policy is particularly refreshing:

    Data practices requests shall be processed and handled in accordance with the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act (MGDPA) (Minnesota Statutes Chapter 13).

  11. Enforcing the policies

    And with this Sheriff I would trust that complaints are going to be investigated. There is a lengthy section on how complaints are handled.


    Complaints consist of any allegation of misconduct or improper job performance against any Sheriff’s Office employee or member that if true would constitute a violation of Sheriff’s Office policy and procedure, Ramsey County Personnel Rules, federal, state or local law….


    Internal Affairs complaint forms will be maintained in a clearly visible location in the public lobby and on the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office website. Forms may also be available at other government offices and facilities. Internal Affairs complaint forms in languages other than English may also be provided as determined necessary or practicable. Internal Affairs Public Complaint Form

    Within 30 days of the final review by the Sheriff, written notice of the findings shall be sent to the complaining party. This notice shall indicate the findings but will not disclose the amount of discipline, if any, that was imposed. The complaining party should also be provided with a copy of his/her original complaint.

    Any complaining party who is not satisfied with the findings may contact the Sheriff to discuss the matter further.

  12. Safety in the jail

    Under the previous Sheriff, people were not safe in the jail. One person died from uncared for Diabetes, even though it took more than a day to happen. It is nice to see a requirement like visual inspection every hour and the possibility of always calling for help if needed.


    All prisoners shall be visually checked no less than once every hour. Visual checks shall be performed at least every 30 minutes on inmates known to be assaultive, potentially suicidal, mentally ill or who have demonstrated bizarre behavior. This check will be conducted through direct visual observation without the aid of surveillance cameras. There shall be a two ­way voice communication capability between the inmates and staff at all times.


    (e) During the booking procedure, the booking deputy shall evaluate each incoming prisoner to determine any apparent medical or health issues… The booking deputy shall promptly notify his/her supervisor of any conditions that may warrant immediate medical attention or other appropriate action.

  13. Release from jail with property

    At the 2008 Republican National Convention, the Ramsey County Sheriff’s office was releasing people without their property including shoes. Yeah for a change in policy!

    Inmates shall be released in accordance with state law. The releasing deputy will be responsible for the following:

    (a) All property, not to include evidence, contraband or dangerous weapons, shall be returned to the prisoner.
    (b) The inmate being released will be escorted from the Temporary Holding Facility by an employee of the Office. At no time will a released inmate be allowed in any secure area of the Patrol Station without personal supervision by an employee.

  14. Recording of Important Events

    One of the ways that law enforcement improves is through recording, both audio and visual. This works well in court. It also protects officers in the event of abuse accusations. It protects citizens of interest because the law enforcement actions are more carefully considered when they are recorded.

    Use of Audio Recorders


    The Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office has provided each of its licensed members with access to audio recorders for use while on ­duty. These recorders are intended to assist deputies in the performance of their duties by providing an unbiased audio record of a contact.


    TThe MVR system is designed to turn on whenever the unit emergency lights are activated. The system remains on until turned off manually. The audio portion is independently controlled and may be de­activated manually by the deputy whenever appropriate. When audio is being recorded, the video will also record.

    Deputies or non­sworn operators are encouraged to narrate events using the audio recording, so as to provide the best documentation for pretrial and courtroom presentation.


I have saved the best for last. Here is the beginning of the manual, where the emphasis on ethical character is clearly laid out:


Our character brings us to a career in law enforcement. Polices are a significant way we reflect our character in the written word. The following pages contain the policies of the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office and are a reflection of our pledge of professionalism to the public we serve. I trust you will find this document useful and I encourage your participation in shaping this document in the future as a continuing expression of our commitment to Ramsey County public safety.

Matt Bostrom, Sheriff

Law Enforcement Code of Ethics

As a law enforcement officer, my fundamental duty is to serve the community; to safeguard lives and property; to protect the innocent against deception, the weak against oppression or intimidation and the peaceful against abuse or disorder; and to respect the constitutional rights of all to liberty, equality and justice.

I will keep my private life unsullied as an example to all and will behave in a manner that does not bring discredit to me or to my agency. I will maintain courageous calm in the face of danger, scorn or ridicule; develop self­ restraint; and be constantly mindful of the welfare of others. Honest in thought and deed both in my personal and official life, I will be exemplary in obeying the law and the regulations of my department. Whatever I see or hear of a confidential nature or that is confided to me in my official capacity will be kept ever secret unless revelation is necessary in the performance of my duty.

I will never act officiously or permit personal feelings, prejudices, political beliefs, aspirations, animosities or friendships to influence my decisions. With no compromise for crime and with relentless prosecution of criminals, I will enforce the law courteously and appropriately without fear or favor, malice or ill will, never employing unnecessary force or abuse and never accepting gratuities.

I recognize the badge of my office as a symbol of public faith, and I accept it as a public trust to be held so long as I am true to the ethics of police service. I will never engage in acts of corruption or bribery, nor will I condone such acts by other police officers. I will cooperate with all legally authorized agencies and their representatives in the pursuit of justice.

I know that I alone am responsible for my own standard of professional performance and will take every reasonable opportunity to enhance and improve my level of knowledge and competence.

I will constantly strive to achieve these objectives and ideals, dedicating myself before God to my chosen profession . . . law enforcement.