South St. Paul Officer Michael Dahl was originally assigned to perform security during an event over the weekend, though his assignment quickly changed when he saw a group of children standing off to the side of a dance floor looking on while more than a dozen others confidently busted a move.
The Espinoza family was gathered at UFCW in South St. Paul Sunday to celebrate two of their sons' baptisms, with friends and relatives dancing the night away--except for a small group of kids who were feeling a little shy.
"So all of a sudden you see the officer that the hall had hired to keep everything in order kind of speed walk to the dance floor, and I’m like, 'Oh, he’s going to arrest somebody,'" Guadalupe Espinoza said. "And then next thing you know, nope, he’s starting to dance, pulling the kids forward."
It was a small gesture that made a big impact on many of those gathered, inspiring even the most apprehensive wallflower to dance like nobody was watching.
"Everybody was cheering me on, wanted to take pictures with me, everybody wanted to see the videos," Officer Dahl said. "I haven’t even seen the videos so I don’t even know what I looked like."
It's not exactly a new activity for the four-year veteran of the force, who was involved with theater in high school and says he loves music and dancing. It's all a way to establish a connection with the community his department serves, with many in the crowd saying afterword they were glad to see the positive impact law enforcement can have.
“Nowadays it’s a way different style of policing that you have to do to get people involved," Dahl said. "Say there was someone at this event and saw me, say I deal with them in two or three months, even a year later, they’re going to remember me, they’re going to cooperate with me and we’re going to have good rapport.”
Dahl is hoping the moment was able to inspire confidence in the kids he was dancing alongside, as well as changing people's perceptions of police and the work they do on a daily basis.
"If something little and fun like that can change somebody’s opinion and outlook on our profession, [good]," he said. "We’re just people."