By Kaylin Eidsness
Not many people can keep the same passion for their job after 36 years. However, Detective Erik Amundson is not one of those people. While his last day with the City of Edina will be Jan. 31, the zest he has for his career as a Police Officer will last forever.
“I’m sure Erik has just as much energy and enthusiasm as he did on Day 1,” said Sgt. Kevin Rofidal, who’s worked with Amundson for more than two decades.
After starting with the Edina Police Department as a Community Service Officer in 1983 when he was 21 years old, making $4.10 an hour, Amundson recalls when he first become a Patrol Officer three years later.
“When I started, it was so exciting. I used to go home every single night and switch everything out. I’d polish up my brass, polish up my leather and would lay it out, just like a firefighter would dive into, just in case they called me back in before my scheduled shift,” he said. “I would carry my badge around my apartment. It’s just a cool feeling. And if you honor it, and respect it, it’s a great profession.”
Today, Officers are celebrated at formal swearing-in ceremonies. When Amundson was sworn in, in August of 1986, it was a different story.
“I went to the Captain and said, ‘hey, do we need to get sworn in?’” Amundson recalled. “He looked at me and said, ‘you haven’t been sworn in yet, and you’ve been writing tickets and doing your job?’ He looked really mad, then grabbed the other new officer and marched us up to the City Clerk’s office at the time and said, ‘swear in these two.’ She put down her cigarette and opened up a book, sat at her desk and read off an oath. We took it, then went back out on the streets and did our job.”
A few years after becoming a Patrol Officer, Amundson got an itch to do more. The Special Entry Team, which later evolved into the SWAT team, was started around that time and Amundson was eager to join. Around the time the SWAT team was formalized, Amundson felt that itch again and started picking up more check and credit card fraud cases. This eventually morphed into the Flex Team, a duo that spent time fighting organized and commercial crime at Southdale Center. The pair once made nine felony arrests in one day.
“They were just unbelievable,” said Police Chief Dave Nelson, who as a Detective at the time processed a lot of the arrests the Flex Team made. “I’m going to miss Erik. Every morning he comes by and says, ‘good morning, Chief.’ If it’s a Tuesday through Friday and I don’t hear that, I’m like ‘where is he?’ I’ve always enjoyed working with him.”
Then the itch struck Amundson again 12 years later. He joined the multijurisdictional Financial Crimes Task Force and was sworn in as a U.S. Marshal, giving him nation-wide jurisdiction to fight organized crime on an even larger level. “It was a lot of fun -- way more stimulating, way more involved than what I was doing before,” he said.
As he got married and his family grew, the demands of the long hours and middle-of-the-night phone calls started to become more than he wanted. In 2006, he settled into his current position as a Detective in the Investigations Unit. He also went back to school to receive his bachelor’s degree in Police Science and master’s in Public Safety Administration from Saint Mary’s University.
While with Investigations, Amundson worked on a variety of cases. His coworkers say that his work ethic, attention to detail and empathy has led to his very successful career as a Detective.
“One thing I will always remember about Erik is his belief that ‘you can’t catch bad guys or solve cases sitting behind a desk.’ With that being said, when we would get out to try and ‘hunt bad guys,’ Erik would always say how much he loved ‘pushing a squad car around,’” said Detective Kenna Dick, who’s worked in Investigations with Amundson for the last four years. “Erik has hours, days and years of cases that he has been involved in over the years. He can keep an entire audience captive with his memories and storytelling abilities!”
One of those stories Amundson shared was when he arrested a regular shoplifter at Southdale Center. He says it’s a funny memory, because he built a relationship with this person who referred to him as “Officer Erik,” but also a lesson in empathy, which he carried with him throughout his career.
“I had dealt with this person three or four times before, and he was always happy, even when I arrested him,” said Amundson, remembering back 30-some years ago. “One of the last times I was driving him back to jail, like I had done before, I looked in my rearview mirror and he didn’t look as happy as he normally did. I said, ‘when was the last time you ate?’ and he said, ‘it’s been a couple days.’” So I pulled up to a drive-thru and ordered food for myself and for him, then parked the car and we talked for 15 minutes and ate our lunch.”
If Amundson could pass on any lesson to other officers, it would be to listen to everyone and know that there’s always something you can learn. This is for criminals and victims alike. He recalls when Mike Siitari, a previous Police Chief with the Edina Police Department, would say “treat everyone like you’d want your grandma to be treated if she was a victim of crime.”
“Don’t blow people off. You’ve got to empathize and show them that we’re here to do a job and partner with the community,” said Amundson, who also added that maintaining your relationship with the residents would be his second piece of advice for police officers. “The citizens here are amazing. They show up. I can see it; I can feel it [the community support].
“This is really the best place to work. I’m not saying that, or kissing up to anybody. It really is. And if you’re bored in this job, you’re not doing it right.”
Amundson doing his job right, and very well, was echoed by others in his Department.
“Erik is a true professional. He would go the extra distance to try and solve a crime. No stone was left unturned when Erik was assigned a case,” said Deputy Police Chief Jeff Elasky. “He worked hard for his crime victims, hoping for a positive outcome. If I had been a victim of some sort of crime, I’d want a detective like Erik being the primary investigator working my case.”
While Amundson says he’s ready to pass on the torch and see what comes next, it won’t be without missing the people he works with and being a Police Officer.
“I’m going to miss a lot about this job, the people and what it means to be a police officer. I don’t even know what it means to not be right now, but I’m going to find out pretty soon,” he said.
People regularly ask Amundson what it’s like to be a Police Officer, and retiring soon, he says there are some things that can’t be taken away from him even when he hangs up his badge.
“I love that I’ve learned to get through life and to cope with the oddities and the fragilities of human existence. When my wife asks how my day was, I can say, ‘I just saw a guy today that died six months ago. I was the one doing chest compressions and brought him back to life. I saw that guy raking leaves in his front yard today.’ Or hearing from somebody who calls up from jail and thanks me for doing something for them decades ago. It’s fun; it’s rewarding. I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” he said.
The last thing Amundson wants to leave with other officers is that being a Police Officer shouldn’t feel like a job.
“If it’s a job, then it’s time to go. I think if you’re in this job, you either need to pep it up, which I did over and over and over again, or you need to leave. It should be fun. You should become it, and it becomes you. Now I just want to make sure I can walk away and accept the fact that on Feb. 1, I’ll be different, legally. I’ll be that guy that walks up to the cops in a coffee shop and says, ‘hey, I used to be a cop’ and they’ll say ‘big deal,’” Amundson said, laughing.
Cake and ice cream will be served 2 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 31, in the Police Department lunch room to celebrate Amundson’s career.