West Fargo Police Chief Arland Rasmussen awarded the 2009 'Chief's Medal' to Officer Eric Wiinanen, during a department meeting Sept. 1.
The award is presented to a sworn officer or civilian employee who distinguishes themself with an act that significantly benefits the department or the community, or by demonstrating outstanding leadership, professionalism, community service, or any act deemed by the Chief of Police to have significantly benefited the department towards the accomplishment of its mission and goals.
The award originated in 2008, with only one prior Chief's Medal awarded - in 2008 to Officer Brad Berg who worked for the department for over eight years without pay, donating all his time. Berg ended up working with the Federal Narcotics Task Force, solving some of the largest narcotics cases, to date, seen in the Fargo area.
Rasmussen said that the 2009 award winner is equally as worthy. In February of 1996, at age 20, Wiinanen was the youngest officer ever hired to serve in West Fargo. When applying for the job, Rasmussen recalled asking the young candidate why he should be hired at his young age when others would not. Wiinanen's reply was genuine and sincere, stating, "Sir, I really want this job and I will do a good job for you." Rasmussen said that response got Wiinanen hired "because I could tell he was sincere and he told me exactly what every employer wants to hear."
Prior to joining the West Fargo department, Wiinanen once served as a guard at a private federal prison. Shortly after being hired in West Fargo, he accepted a challenge from Rasmussen to develop a Web site, something that neither the City of West Fargo nor the West Fargo Police Department had. Wiinanen accepted the challenge, learning computer language on his own time, quickly bringing the West Fargo Police Department into the twentieth century with the realization of their Web site.
Since that time, Wiinanen has created Web sites for the City of West Fargo, the West Fargo Chamber of Commerce, and started his own business E-Web Designs.
Rasmussen went on to further credit Wiinanen for being instrumental in the development of the DARE program for the school children, noting he is highly respected by the youth he teaches, their parents, teachers and school administration.