Dec. 10 2022 08:01 AM

One Minnesota college offers a unique course for future police officers focused on agriculture.

The author is a dairy farmer from Brainerd, Minn.

Law enforcement students at Central Lakes College attended a training session on cattle transportation safety.

Central Lakes College in Minnesota has a law enforcement training course that teaches young recruits to respond to emergency and nonemergency calls for service. This includes traffic enforcement duties such as responses to crashes, training to investigate crimes, and the enforcement of state and federal statutes. There are many parts to the training, and students must take courses in criminal law, traffic law, and criminal justice.

The students must also be able to operate emergency vehicles safely when responding to emergency situations. Part of the training involves getting behind the wheel of new state-of-the-art squad cars that come with the same software officers use on the streets today.

A focus on ag

Central Lakes College (CLC) has the only law enforcement program in the entire state that also covers agricultural issues and topics. Mike Sams, who is a CLC instructor, realized there was a gap in the law enforcement training that should be served. In addition to teaching at the college, Mike and his wife, Mary, own a beef ranch (Y4Ranch) and also have horses they use to round up the cattle.

With this experience and help of two county chapters of Farm Bureau, they put together a training course that would give recruits hands-on experience and a chance to talk with farmers about actual situations they might encounter when on duty. I was invited to be a speaker at this program and had the opportunity to witness the training firsthand.

This supplemental training occurred at our county fairgrounds in June. There were about 20 young law enforcement college students present.

Some beef animals were housed in one of the fair buildings. Different brands and sizes of cattle trailers were on site along with combines, tractors, manure spreaders, and other ag equipment that were brought in for the day to give demonstrations on the dangers that might confront the students.

None of the college students had farm backgrounds, and everything they learned was new to them. They were very interested in interacting with farmers and asking questions.

On the road

Sams put on an educational program on the proper ways to haul cattle, some of the transportation issues that might arise, and methods of dealing with animals. Parts of the discussion concerned quick ways to change tires on cattle trailers, including the proper blocking to have along. Sams discussed proper ways to hook up cattle trailers, what was legal and not legal (which varies from state to state), and he showed the students how to quickly open the trailer doors. Sams also demonstrated how middle partitions worked to divide groups of cattle.

He discussed proper loading of trailers and explained that many traffic accidents occur because there is too much weight in the rear of the trailer, causing steering problems for the truck. The lack of proper weight distribution is a major cause of single vehicle accidents. Sams covered new engineering on cattle trailers that provides better visibility at night and some of the features to look for.

Of particular importance, he talked with the students about what to do if a trailer tips over into a ditch. Sometimes you have to open up the top of the trailer and take the cattle out that way. Sams suggested that the law enforcement officers consider contacting local neighbors or friends of the farmer to help in that type of situation.

Once cattle are free from the trailer, it is important to have cattle panels to contain them. If cattle panels are not available, Brad Thesing, a county sheriff sergeant with law enforcement agricultural experience, suggested that the students use large vehicles placed end to end if possible to make a temporary containment system. An emphasis was put on cattle moving strategies, the value of staying calm, what equipment can be helpful, and the importance of working together with the farmer to alleviate the problem.

Dealing with emergencies

After this portion of the program concluded, the students went inside the public safety and law enforcement building. Veterinarian and cattle farmer Gib Mouser gave a presentation on how to properly put down an animal injured from a transportation accident, fire, or building collapse.

Mouser showed the proper weapons to use for euthanasia and diagrammed the area to target in different species so as not to cause suffering. Again, it was emphasized that farmers do not make the decision to put animals down lightly. About 30 minutes were devoted to euthanasia and animal abuse issues.

After this, the students considered situations where they would be called in for equipment emergencies, such as a farmer being wound up in a power takeoff (PTO) drive shaft or trapped by a combine or a round baler. Typical accident scenarios were explained using equipment such as manure spreaders and TMR mixers to show what might happen. Former farmer Richard Leino taught students how to turn the equipment off and how farm accidents can cause fatalities or lost limbs.

After this demonstration, some human safety issues were covered, including rescuing farmers from grain bins. Other dangerous scenarios covered included the silent and deadly silo gases common right after filling upright silos and why it is imperative to get fresh air into those facilities before entering. In a similar vein, the dangers of hazardous gases in the manure pits under livestock barns were discussed in detail. The students were quite fascinated by this because they were not aware these potential threats lurked on what would otherwise appear to be a peaceful farm setting.

Finally, in the dairy segment of the program, the situation in which dairy cattle have broken out of pastures was also discussed. In the age of cellphones, law enforcement sometimes knows what is going on before the owners of the cattle. Working with farmers was stressed as the key to solving these problems.

After this segment, the program was then devoted to moving and working with injured animals. Sometimes a vet may need to be consulted on what to do before making a final decision.

A valuable course

After being involved with this class, I’ve come to think it is really important training for our future law enforcement officers. The recruits developed a rapport with farmers and learned animal control lessons with live animals. They learned what type of farming accidents they might encounter and how to respond to such calls. The training was rewarding and comprehensive.

Sams said this course is so popular that he gets phone calls from people in other states wanting to know how to put together such a program. If you believe a short course like this offers future law enforcement students necessary training, perhaps you can work with some of your local farm organizations to help sponsor a clinic in your state.