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Bemidji Police Detective Sgt. Mark Nelson retires

BEMIDJI — Police scanner frequencies are rarely used for anything other than emergency traffic — stabbings, shootings, assaults, robberies, burglaries, car accidents and fires dominate the airwaves.

But there are rare exceptions, and one took place just before 6 p.m. Thursday. At that time, Beryl Wernberg, director of emergency management longtime dispatch operator put out a special message for retiring Bemidji Detective Sgt. Mark Nelson.

"Mark has served the citizens of Bemidji and all of Beltrami County and the surrounding areas with professionalism, distinction and compassion. …" Wernberg said in part.

Nelson has served on Chief Mike Mastin’s force for 27 years, investigating untold amounts of cases involving the neglect or abuse of children.

"That wears on people," Mastin said.

Nelson will be replaced by David LaZella, on the force since 2004.

In an email, Wernberg agreed with Mastin’s assessment of the difficulty of dealing with cases where children are harmed.

"(Twenty-seven) years is a long time in this business, especially who deal with the most draining and emotional cases, including awful offenses perpetrated on children," she wrote. "He deserves a big pat on the back."

Nelson was escorted home by his fellow officers, where he turned over the keys to his unmarked vehicle.

"It’s always nice to send guys home after their last shift," Mastin said. "To hear their biography over the air. … It also gives time for everyone else to see him home safe, which is the goal for each officer, each day."

Mastin praised Nelson’s straightforward manner, saying the former detective could coax confessions out of even the most hardened criminals.

"From working with him as an officer and an investigator, the thing that stood out most about Mark was his ability to talk to people," Mastin said. "He treats people well in general."

As the seconds ticked down to 6 p.m. Wernberg read the final sentences of her statement, marking the end of Nelson’s career in law enforcement.

"For all your years Mark we salute you and wish you well in your retirement. You will be missed and your presence will remain in our departments for many years to come," she said. "Detective Sergeant Mark Nelson, Badge 8557, end of call, 1800 hours, May 30, 2013. God bless you and keep you in the next chapter in your life."

Justin Glawe
Reporting on crime, courts and Beltrami county government. Follow me on Twitter @JustinGlawe.
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