Breaking a barrier: Bryttany Wener is the Lake City Police Department's first full-time female officer
Bryttany Wener, who hails from a law enforcement family in Pepin, Wis., joined the department earlier this month.
LAKE CITY, Minn. — When 23-year-old Bryttany Wener started her new job at the Lake City Police Department on Jan. 10, that moment represented more than just a step forward in her career. On that day, Wener became the first woman to work as a full-time officer at the LCPD in the department's 101-year history.
"I think it's really cool," Wener said. "I think it's important that there's a mixture of people on a police force, being able to work with other females, too — certain calls, it's easier for a female to talk with another female."
She's now part of the LCPD's team of 10 full-time and three part-time officers who serve the lakeside community of about 5,000 people.
"It's unfortunate that it's the year 2023 and it's the first time that we've hired a full-time female officer," said Cory Kubista, chief of police for the LCPD, which was established in 1922. "We've had part-time officers who were female as well, but it's never worked out."
Kubista said many of LCPD's officers spend decades with the department. With low turnover in the small department, the opportunity to hire a new officer, in general, doesn't happen often.
"Bryttany beat several people who have some excellent experience in law enforcement, so it just took that one right person that gelled with the board when doing the interviews, and that's how Bryttany got number one," Kubista said.
In the family
At 4 p.m. on a snowy, gray Wednesday, Bryttany radioed in to the dispatch center to go into service for the evening. That day, she went on patrol with patrol officer Mike Becklund, who went over procedures with Wener as she drove around Lake City. Before Wener completed her first traffic stop of the day, Becklund quizzed her: "What do you try to accomplish when doing stops?"
Thirty minutes into her nearly 12-hour shift, Wener pulls over a white SUV that has a headlight out. She issued the driver a Lights On! voucher, which covers up to $250 for a bulb replacement done within 14 days of the traffic stop.
Traffic stops and other calls are not unfamiliar for Wener. A native of Pepin, Wis., Wener grew up in a law enforcement family. Her father, Joel Wener, is the Pepin County sheriff, and her mother works as a dispatcher within that county.
"My dad has been a cop ever since I was young," she said. "Watching him do the job growing up, I got to do a lot of ride-alongs with him. ... And it really pushed me to want to be in this job."
Community service is another aspect of Wener's desire to work in law enforcement.
"I think that's a big part of this job, too, working with the community and getting to know everyone," Wener said. "Being able to incorporate my volunteer work into my job is something that's really important to me."
Higher education brought Wener over the border — she graduated from Saint Mary's University in Winona and completed her training through Rochester Community and Technical College's Law Enforcement Program. In July 2021, she started her career with the Wabasha County Sheriff's Office. Before going to Lake City, she also worked with the Plainview Police Department.
"I just wanted something bigger," Wener said. "There's more traffic that goes through town. Their call volume's a little bit higher than Plainview. I'm a young officer, I like getting into things."
Lake City is also closer to her hometown of Pepin, where she currently lives.
"I'm looking at eventually moving here when the time is right," Wener said. "And I think that's important, too, being able to interact with everyone in the community so they can get to know me a little bit better."
Once her training is complete, Wener will transition into her regular late shift that begins at 7 p.m. When she's not working, Wener spends time at the gym, with her family and with her black Labrador retriever, Oakley.
Though she plans to move out of Pepin, one perk of working in Lake City is that she's closer to family, Wener said. And it helps that her new community reminds her of home.
"Lake City kind of reminds me of Pepin, in a way, even though Pepin is very small," she said. "Overall, I think it's a good town to work for. I've always heard good things about it."