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Murphy: Eye-opening ride-along with a Dunn County sheriff’s deputy

By Sen. Phil Murphy / Guest Columnist

We climbed into the patrol car on a dark Sunday morning at 6 with a light rain freezing on the windshield.

I was getting a first-hand look at what it is like to be a sheriff’s deputy in the North Dakota Oil Patch by riding shotgun out of Killdeer on the first day of December. The young deputy pulled into the Dunn County fueling facility to gas up, something he does two to four times per 12-hour shift and then we eased into northbound traffic.

Sen. Phil Murphy

Just a couple miles out of city limits, the radar showed a semi tanker truck doing about 15 mph over the limit. Disco lights on with a siren whoop and a quick turnaround. The truck pulled over as the officer pushed some buttons on the dash-mounted computer, which told the command center the basic situation and location. He turned on the searchlight and swept the truck with it before getting out and walking along the semi, traffic whizzing nearby.

This deputy is the K-9 guy and as soon as he cracked the door, the dog let loose full-on. I plugged my ears as the officer climbed the steps to speak with the driver, keeping his left hand back towards his belt near the flashlight and Taser while clinging to the handle on the side of the truck with his right. He came back with the driver’s license and checked his record. From Georgia, it was good to go and was returned with whatever words of warning or ticket the deputy decided to deliver.

Hustling back, he cranked the squad SUV with multiple lights still on out into traffic and floored it to catch up to a vehicle fading into the distance. That driver had not slowed down nor moved over as the officer walked along the stopped semi.

We caught him and he pulled over. Lights pulsing, searchlight sweeping, computer used, traffic roaring, door cracked open and dog starts barking. I am beginning to see the pattern.

This particular driver gave the officer a hard time, telling him that he hated (swear word) cops while the flashlight played inside the vehicle and the left hand again stayed back on the utility belt. Return with the license, the dog stops barking. South Carolina this time, with some previous speeding tickets in North Dakota. I have always been incredulous at people who give law enforcement officials mouth. It’s about as intelligent as swearing at the judge while she adjudicates your case.

Meanwhile, the state radio dispatcher is calling officers to scenes just north and west of us as the freezing rain begins to take its toll in McKenzie County.

Highways 22 and 85 are piling them up. Two semis hit head-on, two pickups hit head-on, one semi rolled over with the driver bleeding and product spilled on the road. There is a car just over the county line with a lone driver injured and waiting for response.

It was not my first rodeo. It has been my great fortune over the years to do ride-alongs in Hennepin County (downtown Minneapolis) as well as in California with a game warden hunting poachers. They all had frightened me, as has this one in Dunn County.

All over our state, we should know what these people do for us every night and day so we can appreciate our law enforcement officers and treat them accordingly. I left that officer on Sunday so I could beat the freezing rain home back east. I shook his hand, thanked him, told him I was proud of him and asked him to pass along my gratitude to his colleagues at a department meeting scheduled for that afternoon. He ended up that shift trying to run down one of two stolen pickups that afternoon, but I do not know if they were caught.

My drive back along Highway 200 was pretty much within the speed limit as I thought of how I could probably not do that job and certainly would not want to.

I also hoped for the safety of that officer and all the others out there every day. But especially that Dunn County K-9 guy I rode with, because he is my son.

Murphy is a Democrat from Portland who represents District 20 in the North Dakota Senate. Email him at