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Amidon's ruse keeping the roads safer

Press Photo by April Baumgarten For the last two decades a Slope County Sheriff's car with a dummy doll has helped slow down traffic in the small town of Amidon. The dummy has gone missing due to vandalism, and the car, shown in this April 14 photo, has been moved from the fire hall to the center of town.

Someone kidnapped the policewoman in Amidon last spring and she has yet to be located, but not to worry -- she's not real.

For the last two decades drivers traveling through Amidon, a tiny town of about 20 residents along U.S. Highway 85, may have noticed the Slope County Sherriff's Department patrol car sitting within city limits. When they get closer, they may see the officer sitting behind the wheel is just a dummy.

It has helped slow down traffic for anyone new to the area, Mayor Jerry Erickson said.

"At least the first time they went through, they saw that and hit the brakes, but after that they quit slowing down after they knew it was not a real thing," he said. "I'm not sure if it works for its original purpose."

Four cruisers have watched over the town, which is about an hour southwest of Dickinson, since 1990, Slope County Sherriff Pat Lorge said. The town has no police department, but has a few houses and is home to the Slope County Courthouse.

"If someone has an old car, we just paint it white and stick it out there," he said, adding the cars don't run.

The doll makes it more realistic, officials said. Radar guns aid the dummy in keeping drivers under the speed limit.

The fake patroller is an oddity that identifies the town, Erickson said.

However, the "officer on duty" has a tendency to disappear.

"Every so often somebody has to bust the window out and steal the dummy," Lorge said, adding it has been lifted out of the vehicle two or three times.

The most recent abduction happened last spring. The car was sitting near the fire hall when the window was smashed and the female doll was kidnapped, Erickson said.

The dummy has not been found, but the department is looking for a replacement to take over her position as Amidon's watchdog.

The town replaced the car. It now sits north of the highway between Main Street and West Street.

It is a landmark for the tiny town, resident Kurt Merkel said, adding when he tells people he lives in Amidon, they reply, "Oh, that's where that police car is at."