In complex investigations into sex trafficking, there’s a St. Paul police employee working behind the scenes to help investigators.
Melissa Flod is an analyst who Police Chief Todd Axtell recently recognized as the department’s Civilian Employee of the Year.
“The best way that I explain what I do is take all the pieces of information that we receive from multiple sources and put them into one place,” she said. “I get puzzle pieces and put them together, then I give the investigator the best information that I have for that puzzle.”
The St. Paul police department typically honors Officer, Detective and Civilian of the Year at an award ceremony in the spring, but it was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Axtell recently presented the awards to the recipients, which the department announced Wednesday.
OFFICERS, DETECTIVE OF YEAR
Axtell named Michael Capecchi and Zachary Schoen, who are partners on patrol on the East Side, as 2019 Officers of the Year.
Capecchi and Schoen received two Life Saving Awards from the department in 2019 for providing aid to people who had been shot. In Schoen’s case, he assisted two victims in a week’s span.
They also were involved in an initiative launched in 2019 to find people illegally carrying and shooting guns. The duo took 12 illegally-possessed guns off the streets last year, according to the department.
Axtell said he chose Sgt. Jason Giampolo, a sex crimes investigator, as Detective of the Year for his leadership and involvement with the Ramsey County Implementation Plan for System Change, aimed at improving the process for how sexual assaults are investigated from the initial call for help through the court proceedings.
FROM ARMY ANALYST TO POLICE
After growing up in Mounds View and graduating from Fridley High School, Flod said she worked in customer service, manufacturing and administrative jobs and was looking for, “What can I do that matters, big picture wise?” She joined the U.S. Army and became an intelligence analyst.
Flod loved the work, and went to Century College and Metropolitan State University to get her bachelor’s degree and a crime analyst certificate. She began working as an intern at the St. Paul police department in 2016 and was hired the next year.
She has mostly worked on sex trafficking investigations and is assigned to the Minnesota Human Trafficking Investigators Task Force, but she also gets called on for other analysis work, including the police department’s large-scale investigation into looting in St. Paul after the death of George Floyd.
In trafficking investigations, Flod uses law enforcement databases to follow up on leads — she’s looking for the most likely addresses and phone numbers for suspects to pass along to investigators. With her research, she builds association charts for investigators to show how people might be connected to each other.
“Having that analytical brain that doesn’t think like a police officer, she extrapolates things from data that helps figure out cases and hold people accountable,” said Sgt. John Linssen, who works with her on the trafficking taskforce.
The Minnesota Association of Criminal Intelligence Analysts also named Flod as the 2020 Analyst of the Year.
Last year, Flod worked on a case involving a human trafficking organization that included multiple suspects and a juvenile victim being trafficked throughout the region. Flod was able to identify almost 100 sex buyers and many were charged, according to the police department. Another case led to federal prosecution of multiple people in the United States and Mexico.
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