Learning from disaster

     It was a beautiful day in August 2007 when interstate bridge I-35W linking north and south Minneapolis was filled with early evening rush hour traffic. The 40-year-old bridge had been undergoing some minor road construction, with four of the lanes closed for construction equipment. Hundreds of cars, semi-trucks and school busses lined the bridge, no one suspecting anything might be wrong. Then, the unthinkable happened.

     At the height of rush hour traffic the bridge suddenly collapsed. In an instant, all of those vehicles were sent into the Mississippi River. Twisted wreckage, whirling waters and fires added to the chaos of victims trapped. Moreover, the city's cell phone towers jammed and the 911 system was flooded with calls. More than 100 people were reported injured and 13 were killed in what was one of the greatest disasters to strike Minnesota.

     The response, rescue and subsequent recovery effort was a team effort involving local police, sheriffs, state patrol, fire, EMS, military and federal agencies. Since the Hennepin County Sheriffs Office had jurisdiction over the water, coordinating these agencies became the ultimate responsibility of Sheriff Rich Stanek. For the next several weeks, Stanek's office worked with local and federal agencies on the recovery efforts after the initial rescue of survivors. His office conducted news briefings and even a tour of the disaster site when President Bush visited, offering federal assistance.

     One year later, on August 13, Stanek will conduct the keynote address for Enforcement Expo at the Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio. He will discuss the bridge collapse and talk about the heroic efforts of extrication and rescue in the hours after the tragedy occurred, interagency cooperation and how Minneapolis disaster planning was implemented.

     Stanek's career in law enforcement spans 24 years, and he has earned several promotions for his dedication to public safety. Rising through the ranks within the Minneapolis Police Department, Stanek served the department as commander of the Criminal Investigations Division, and oversaw investigations in the areas of homicide, robbery, assault, family violence, organized crime, narcotics, gangs and sex crimes prior to being elected sheriff of Hennepin County.

     As a five-term legislator in the Minnesota House of Representatives, Stanek chaired the House Crime Policy and Finance Committee. He has also managed the largest law enforcement agency in the state, and in 2003 was appointed Minnesota's Commissioner of Public Safety and Director of Homeland Security.

     Stanek is considered to be one of Minnesota's foremost experts on crime policy, law enforcement and intelligence-led policing. He co-chairs the national Criminal Intelligence Coordinating Council, advising the U.S. Attorney General and U.S. Department of Homeland Security. He is also an active member of the National Major County Sheriff's Association and the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

     The keynote address is free to all registered attendees of the show. There is no charge to attend Enforcement Expo, and all pre-registered attendees receive free parking at the event.

     Visit www.enforcementexpo.com for more information on this year's show.