Eight years to the day after a bullet tore through his left triceps in a close firefight with Taliban militants in Afghanistan, Chang Lee was sworn-in as one of the Metro Transit Police Department’s newest police officers.
Seven other men and seven women were also sworn in before family, friends and fellow officers on Thursday, June 20. With the additional officers, the Metro Transit Police Department has around 140 full-time officers and more than 50 part-time officers.
After his injury, Lee spent a year in physical therapy at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center working to regain use of his left arm and hand.
Even so, he didn’t hesitate to take another oath to serve. Lee said he wants to repay a debt of gratitude on behalf of his parents, who were born in Laos and eventually made their way to Minnesota.
“The United States gave my parents an opportunity to have a good life and to live in freedom,” he said.
Chang Lee (far right) is sworn in alongside his colleagues.
Public service also runs in the family. A cousin is a Roseville police officer. That cousin allowed Lee to ride along with him after returning from Afghanistan, sparking an interest in law enforcement. An uncle, Fue Vang, is a train operator and his stepfather, Soua Moua, is a bus operator.
Gratitude motivated new officer Samuel Klimmek, too. A St. Paul couple adopted him and his twin brother, who are from Hong Kong. Klimmek’s twin brother is a Minneapolis police officer; both are veterans.
“They (our adoptive parents) taught us that you have to give back to the country that’s given us so much,” Klimmek said.
Other new officers were motivated by positive experiences with law enforcement during their childhood. One said police helped arrange custody transfers when her parents separated; another said they were influenced by an officer they met through the DARE program.
Alexandra Wagner thought she’d study fashion design or law until she joined the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Department’s Explorers’ program, which provides youth a chance to learn about law enforcement through volunteer service.
Wagner is now working on a master’s degree in clinical social work, focusing on treating Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and ways departments can better handle mental health issues.
The other new police officers are: Sarah Baker, Lisa Bistodeau, Sarah Boltz, Brooklyn Carroll, Peter Fry, Alexis Junker, Tyler Lo, Hela Maurer, Liam Pham, Daniel Swenson, Toua Vang, and Brett Volkmann.
In addition to English, the 15 new recruits know American Sign Language, Amharic (which is spoken in Ethiopia), French, Hmong, Korean and Vietnamese. Three of the new recruits previously served as Metro Transit community service officers.
Before being sworn in, the recruits completed the department’s custom, nine-week academy. They will now spend another four months working alongside field training officers.
Metro Transit police officers primarily focus on patrolling the transit network but respond to calls for service throughout the seven-county region.