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Safe South Dakota program aims to better connect state law enforcement

Law and justice concept - Themis statue, judge hammer and books. Courtroom.
NiseriN/Getty Images/iStockphoto
Law and justice concept - Themis statue, judge hammer and books. Courtroom.

Law enforcement agencies frequently cite ‘interagency collaboration’ as a reason for a closed case – and now there’s a new program aiming to make that easier.

Safe South Dakota is connecting elected municipal officials and law enforcement around the state, aiming to reduce issues like parole absconders and searches.

Rapid City Police Department Chief Don Hedrick said this effort comes from either end of the state.

“We noticed that our partners in Sioux Falls were noticing a similar trend," Hedrick said. "It caused us to pull together a small group between the mayors and chiefs and sheriffs and just talk about what we can do to collaborate together. If we’re seeing a lot of the same issues, how do we talk about that in a way that helps to move progress along?”

Pennington County Sheriff Brian Mueller said they’re already seeing results.

“Just the first couple of conversations we’ve had and talking through some of the impacts some of the violent, repeat offenders were having in our communities, I think we had some initial quick wins," Mueller said. "That led us to be able to hold people more accountable that were committing crimes in our community who are both on probation and parole.”

Cutting down on parole dippers is something Pennington County State’s Attorney Lara Roetzel said she’s proud of.

“If they’ve absconded from parole we don’t know where they are, and we were hitting almost 500 people in the State of South Dakota that were missing from parole – that’s a real safety issue," Roetzel said. "Not just for law enforcement, but for people across the whole state. We started talking about it, and then we thought ‘okay, how do we change this issue?’ The next thing you knew we had the Department of Corrections Secretary on our Zoom – wanting to be collaborative with us.”

A ‘parole absconder’ in this context is any person – from low-level drug offenders to violent criminals – who have failed to report to their officer and is actively being sought by law enforcement.

C.J. Keene is a Rapid City-based journalist covering the legal system, education, and culture