MANTORVILLE, Minn. – Fallen Hayfield Police Chief Doug Claasen was honored by the Dodge County Sheriff’s Office on Thursday.
In April of 1977 Chief Claasen was on duty when he noticed a vehicle failing to stop at stop signs. He pursued the vehicle with lights and sirens and noticed the driver appear to slump over, he then watched the vehicle go into a ditch. As Claasen approached the vehicle he saw the driver slumped over and took him out of the vehicle and began carrying the driver back to his squad car. The suspect, who was believed to be under the influence of narcotics, then became alert and combative kicking Claasen in the head and neck area.
During that altercation Chief Claasen suffered a life altering and careen ending spinal cord injury. As the years went on, his health declined rapidly and severe physical disabilities required him to use a wheel chair.
In 1999, Chief Doug Claasen suffered a heart attack which was determined to have been a direct result of his compromised condition. His passing is recognized as an “on duty death” by the State of Minnesota and Federal Government. However, it wasn’t until just recently that Dodge County Sheriff Scott Rose found out about the state and federal ruling while visiting with Claasen’s family.
“I didn’t find out until this last summer the details on what happened to him and the fact that is was a Line of Duty death that was recognized by the state and nationally as far as the death benefit is concerned” explains Rose. “But he was never formally recognized for his service so I felt it was important to get that done for him and his family.”
Sheriff Rose planned a memorial to honor Chief Claasen’s service and sacrifice. Community members, and various local law enforcement officials, and members of Claasen’s family attended the ceremony.
It may be nearly 40 years after he suffered that life altering injury, but Sheriff Rose says it’s never too late to give recognition.
“The men and women that take this risk on every day to help protect us, it’s important that if they give that ultimate sacrifice we have to remember them.”
The Minnesota Commissioner of Public Safety presented Claasen’s family with a Proclamation of Honor signed by Governor Mark Dayton.
“After further discussion and on behalf of Kathy and with Jean, we submitted Doug’s name to be added to the Minnesota Law Enforcement Memorial Association (LEMA) list. He was quickly approved by the LEMA board. We then submitted his name to be added to the Officer Down Memorial Page at the national level. He was again approved for that and is currently listed on the national website as Hayfield’s second Line of Duty death. Finally, we applied for and submitted his name for inclusion at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington DC. At the national level they maintain a much stricter criteria for inclusion,” according to Sheriff Rose.
He announced at the memorial that he had just gotten confirmation that Chief Doug Claasen’s name will be added to the memorial in D.C. and will be officially dedicated on May 13th.