Police captain puts focus on quality

Captain Eric Tonder

FAIRMONT — Eric Tonder is a busy man, yet thoroughly enjoys his work.

Formerly a detective, Tonder has been promoted to the rank of captain in the Fairmont Police Department. Among other things, the change reflects his supervisory role and a much more hands-on approach to officer development.

Tonder began his career in Fairmont in 1997.

“I’m from Albert Lea originally, and didn’t hardly know Fairmont existed until I came over here,” he said. “I interned in Albert Lea and then I went through the interview process for patrol officer here and I got offered the job. In the meantime, I did some ride-alongs with the officers and got to meet people and I was just impressed.”

Tonder served for three years as a patrol officer, then tested for and got promoted to sergeant. The rest of his time has been spent as a plainclothes detective for 15 years.

His wife is a teacher at the high school and he has two daughters, one in college and one in her senior year in high school.

As captain, Tonder is now responsible for a host of duties, including supervising and directing police sergeants, officers and support staff; scheduling; evaluations; reviewing reports; and more.

“It’s a lot of managing, a lot of support,” he said. “I’m here to help all the officers succeed and provide professional service on a daily basis. It’s a pretty dynamic day, but our No. 1 job is to make sure we’re running a high-quality police department that is efficient, professional and providing the kind of service that the citizens of Fairmont deserve.”

Tonder said he enjoys his relationship with Police Chief Mike Hunter.

“One thing that we do, we both want to stay connected to the street as much as we can,” he said. “It’s real easy once you get into administrative positions, so we fill shifts if nobody’s willing to work it. So that way the guys can have the day off for the weekend.

“It also gets me in a squad car,” he continued. “It keeps me familiar with the equipment. I can make sure the guys on my side are keeping up things up and they look good and on the same side that stuff is all working right and the officers have what they need.”

Tonder said he is grateful for the support the department receives from the city.

“We really enjoy and appreciate the support of the citizens and the council and the city administrator,” he said. “Those aren’t small things, and we try to work to keep it that way.”

Tonder also had some parting words for those who may be thinking about pursuing a career in law enforcement.

“I would say they should certainly do some ride-alongs so they know what they’re getting into,” he said. “Also, work for a state that has high professional standards. Some states only require a high school diploma or GED. So you have some 18-year-old that gets in there and they have to make deadly-force decisions and has to have these kind of heavy responsibilities.

“When you have a higher standard, you have a higher-caliber officer. Minnesota pays well for officers, and you get what you pay for. We have a great group of officers that really do care, and I’m just lucky to be here.

“It’s not a thankless profession,” he continued. “It’s a tough job, police officers have to go places where other people run from, so I’m glad there’s certain people who want to do that. It’s not a casual decision, hopefully you have a calling for it.”