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State Patrol legacy follows father's footsteps

A lot of people dream of following in their fathers' footsteps. Dane Lazenberry, left, is the rare man who actually did it, he said. He is working the same job his father, Dennis, worked. Dennis says his son has the demeanor and work ethic to be a fine Minnesota State Trooper. (Photo by Mathias Baden)1 / 10
Dane Lazenberry, a Woodbury High School graduate, wore his full uniform at Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis, where the Minnesota State Patrol held its graduation ceremony for 50 cadets who had completed 16 weeks of grueling law enforcement training. (Submitted photo)2 / 10
Jake Bredsted, left, and Dane Lazenberry takes an oath to serve the people of Minnesota as he becomes a state trooper, alongside 48 other cadets in mid-May. (Submitted photo)3 / 10
Retired Lt. Col. Dennis Lazenberry poses in uniform during his days as a Minnesota State Trooper. The Woodbury resident returned to the State Patrol and now works to recruit diverse candidates to the department. (Submitted photo)4 / 10
On the day Dennis Lazenberry, center, was named lieutenant colonel (assistant chief) of the Minnesota State Patrol, Dane, left, was just a baby. Also pictured are Debby, Blake, Aleka, and Kristie -- all at the Minnesota State Capitol for the ceremony. That was a special day for Dennis, but nothing like the day Dane graduated and became a State Trooper, too. (Submitted photo)5 / 10
Dane Lazenberry wears Badge No. 140, the same number his father once wore, as a Minnesota State Trooper. (Photo by Mathias Baden)6 / 10
Dennis Lazenberry pins his old Badge No. 140 on his son as Dane becomes a Minnesota State Trooper. (Submitted photo)7 / 10
Dennis Lazenberry pins his old Badge No. 140 on his son as Dane becomes a Minnesota State Trooper. (Submitted photo)8 / 10
Pictured are, from left, Blake, Debby, Dane, Aleka, Dennis and Kristie Lazenberry of Woodbury. About the day Dane graduated and became a Minnesota State Trooper, Dennis said: "We're all happy campers." (Submitted photo)9 / 10
A lot of people dream of following in their fathers' footsteps. Dane Lazenberry, left, is the rare man who actually did it, he said. He is working the same job his father, Dennis, worked. Dennis says his son has the demeanor and work ethic to be a fine Minnesota State Trooper. (Photo by Mathias Baden)10 / 10

Dane Lazenberry is following in his father’s footsteps. 

He thought he’d probably be a nurse or teacher, someone who helps others. For a while he intended to try marine biology. “I always wanted to be a fighter pilot,” Dane said. 

This spring, Dane graduated from a grueling 16-week Minnesota State Patrol Academy, and this week he is entering his 12th week as a state trooper. His dad, Dennis, graduated in 1977 and retired as a lieutenant colonel in 2001, only to return in 2005 for a desk job. 

“Some kids want to be like their dad, and I get to do that,” said Dane, the youngest of three siblings who went to Bailey Elementary and Woodbury High School. “I’m doing the same job as my dad. He would’ve been proud wherever I ended up.”

The new state trooper said he expected the long hours, weekend work, bizarre rotating schedule, and a busy call load. The young state trooper spoke to the Woodbury Bulletin immediately after a string of 11 straight overnights during which he arrested 11 drivers for alleged DWI and wrote up 35 crashes on the northwest side of the Twin Cities, where he regularly works. 

Dennis said the role of a state trooper is not just to write tickets. Dane will run across drug traffickers and felons with warrants out for their arrests. 

“If they’re just busy enough, their shift doesn’t end,” Dennis said of the state patrol.

Most recently, Dane is done with his initiation. 

“I run the show completely,” he said.

Dane describes his approach with drivers as service minded. He takes after his dad when it comes to the community policing model they follow. 

“He is super charismatic,” Dane said of his father, who puts others before himself.

And Dane has tried to put a positive face on the state patrol, and law enforcement in general. 

“There’s a certain respect, how you approach somebody,” Dennis said. “I always thought policing was humble first. You’re a humble warrior. You can’t get offended.”

Dennis said state troopers are taught to treat drivers as kings and queens but also to have a plan if things go sour.

The slick maroon uniforms, including a hat, and a military-style training in the academy put troopers in a position to give and receive respect, Dennis said. “The hat makes a difference.”

A good reputation as an agency helps the State Patrol avoid an us-vs.-them mentality, Dennis and Dane said.

Dane has great people skills, Dennis said, and his son put himself in position to succeed and grow. He’s proud of the man and the trooper Dane has become, Dennis said.

Pinning of the badge

Dennis, other family members, friends and even friends’ parents were present May 19 at the University of Minnesota’s Mariucci Arena, where 50 cadets received their badges. 

Dennis pinned Dane’s badge onto the new trooper’s uniform. It was No. 140, the same number Dennis wore on the street.

At the graduation ceremony, much was made of five kids who followed family members into the field of work, like Dane.

“The state patrol’s really proud of that,” Dane said. “I think what I have is unique.” 

It was a highly emotional ceremony.

“I think I smiled the whole time,” Dennis said.

Dane was just trying not to cry. “I couldn’t speak,” Dane said.

His dad shined up the badge after pinning it on Dane,  because Dennis had handled and accidentally smudged it.

Dennis takes pride in the look of a state trooper. Years ago, he made a practice of washing his patrol car daily when he parked it in Woodbury.

On the street

Two days after graduation, Dane hit the road. He also moved out of Woodbury, although he said he wouldn’t mind returning someday.

Dane deals with a transient public — always passing through. He writes more warnings than tickets, and he pays attention to the contributing factors in each highway crash.

Dane sees the value in doing his duty on the road. He anticipates not getting upset when, say, a drunk gets a lesser punishment than she deserves, despite all the hard work by troopers documenting the incident. He said he’ll keep in mind: “What’s your job? Your job is to take that drunk off the road.”

His experience has served him well so far. He’s got a toolbelt full of weapons and he hasn’t had to use them.

“Expect the worst, hope for the best,” Dane said.

“My wife always checked me for my body armor when I went to work,” Dennis said, “and he’s religious about his body armor.”

How he got here

During his sophomore year of college, Dane invented his own service project. During their vacation, Dane and a roommate equipped a Toyota Tundra with straps and shovels and spent their Christmastime driving around and digging people out of ditches. 

Dane graduated from Winona State University, completed skills training at Hennepin Technical College, worked security at the Mall of America, and interned with a police department that taught him the ropes on all different types of police work (a summer he calls the best of his life), and volunteered at second metro police department where he received important mentorships. 

With law enforcement’s stringent, thorough background checks in mind, Dane carefully picked his friends. His friends’ inner circle is small, although he got along with many classmates in various friend groups. 

Dane, who played football and wrestled at Woodbury High School and played rugby at college, never displayed “the cop wannabe stuff,” Dennis said. Dane was well behaved, and he chose good role models to emulate. 

Dennis said the extensive background checks that police officers undergo focus on character.

Soon-to-be law enforcement students begin building their resumes at a young age.

“Sometimes you realize you’re building it, and sometimes you don’t,” Dennis said.

He had warned his son as much.

Background checks include calls to friends. Luckily, Dane said, when the state patrol called an ex-girlfriend, she had nothing but positive things to say. 

He’s never gotten a ticket, and he tried to limit the amount of questionable actions about which he would be questioned during job interviews.

Early on, Dane learned not to associate with people who put him in risky situations.

Plus, he said: “I suck at lying.”

To get to where he is today, Dane underwent a strenuous residential academy, longer than those that initiate the St. Paul, Minneapolis, or other police agencies in Minnesota.

Dad’s job

While Dane was growing up in Woodbury, his father wasn’t on the road arresting drunks. Dennis was a state patrol administrator.

In 2001, Dennis retired from the state patrol as a lieutenant colonel. 

Years earlier, Dennis’ promotion to lieutenant colonel took place at the Minnesota State Capitol, in front of family and friends. Dane was a baby.

“That was a big day,” Dennis said.

But, he added, “it paled in comparison to that day” his son took his badge.

Four years after retirement, the state hired him back, in the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, to help with diversity recruiting. His tenured rank is major.

Dennis said that he’s proud of his time spent on the street with the state patrol and that he was welcomed back with open arms.

Son’s job

As Dane learned his father’s trade, the two of them would stand in the kitchen for sometimes hours, having long discussions about public safety. They both took away lessons learned.

Dane ended up following his father’s footsteps partly because he couldn’t imagine himself working as, say, an accountant or otherwise sitting behind a desk.

He likes the behind-the-scenes feel of the state patrol’s work and doesn’t mind that the job is relatively thankless.

“It’s kind of the cherry on top, wearing the same uniform that he did, wearing the same number,” Dane said. “It’s all pretty cool.”