Mentoring Future Law Enforcement Officers with Real-World Stories
In less than three minutes, Officer Chad Sanow’s life changed forever. On Oct. 26, 2010, the Fairmont, Minn. police officer kissed his family goodbye, got in his squad car and responded to what he thought was a house fire. When he arrived, a man armed with a shotgun opened fire hitting him in the chest and again in the hip.
“Within two minutes and 30 seconds of leaving my driveway, I got shot twice and almost lost my life,” said Sanow.
He survived that tragic event and today he’s going around the state telling his story of that terrifying night and talking about the struggles he faced with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). He was recently the guest speaker at a Rasmussen College Law Enforcement Mentor Program event, where he spoke to nearly a dozen Justice Studies students and alumni at the Bloomington campus.
The program matches criminal justice students at the Twin Cities campuses with alumni working in the law enforcement field. Currently, there are six mentors and mentees. They meet about once a month and often talk about what it takes to get from the classroom to a police station.
“Sometimes students think they’re going to graduate and become a detective right away, and that’s not necessarily the case,” said Anne Sumangil, Director of the Rasmussen College Alumni Association. “They’re going to have to work their way up and a mentor can help them through that process.”
Speakers like Sanow are brought in as a way to educate students about life on-the-job.
“He has such an incredible story,” said Sumangil. “We knew both our current students and alum would learn a lot from hearing his story.”
In his presentation, Officer Sanow broke down minute by minute the moments before and after the shooting. He also played the 911 and dispatch recordings.
“I never saw the shooter,” said Sanow. “It’s something that haunted me for months because I never got a chance to shoot back.”
Sanow credits his vest for saving his life. He showed images of the vest, as well as his uniform, which has holes from where the bullet fragments struck him. He spoke about the importance of wearing a vest every time you put on the uniform because what may seem like a house fire may turn into a gunfight.
Sanow also talked about what he calls his “emotional rollercoaster” following the shooting. He went from being angry to sad to being afraid to go outside.
“I wouldn’t even go in my garage without my gun,” said Sanow. “I didn’t know if the shooter had a partner who was going to try and kill me.”
He decided to go see a psychologist who suggested he try to get back to normal as soon as possible. It turned out to be best thing he ever did.
“I was suffering from PTSD,” said Sanow. “It has nothing to do with how good of an officer you are. It happens to a lot of people and not by choice. You can get through it, but recovery does not happen on its own.”
Sanow says he hopes his story teaches fellow and future police officers that it’s OK to ask for help.
“Never be afraid to share how you feel because even though you’re a police officer, it’s OK to be scared,” said Sanow.
Are you interested in learning more about the Law Enforcement Mentor Program? Contact Anne Sumangil at firstname.lastname@example.org.