In January, the Dickinson Police Department responded to nearly 2,000 calls for service and Chief Dustin Dassinger touched on some of the concerning hurdles and challenges the department faced one month into the new year. Among the most pressing concerns are challenges laying ahead from the volume of behavioral health calls, as well as officer retention rates.

Dassinger briefed the Dickinson City Commission Tuesday evening at City Hall with a presentation, detailing a recap of January’s reports. In January, DPD responded to 1,939 calls for service with the top five dispatched calls being suspicious persons or vehicles (82), warrants and papers service (65), traffic crash responses (62), requests to speak with an officer (62) and welfare checks (46). On the behavioral health side, DPD officers dealt with 65 total calls for service — 46 involving welfare checks, eight mental health incidents, six intoxicated subjects and five suicidal threats.

“The volume of mental health and drug/alcohol related calls is continuingly increasing in our community and I guess of the lack of resources in our community and in southwest North Dakota to deal with these is definitely an issue ,” Dassinger said, adding that he encourages city officials to speak with state legislators regarding this ongoing issue.

Behavioral health calls require extended time compared to other calls for service, Dassinger noted, explaining that a typical theft or traffic accident call takes approximately 25 minutes depending on the severity of the situation.

“They’re very time consuming, depending on the call. But often times, we have to transport them to the hospital basically for a review. Often times, we have to basically spend time at the hospital with this individual. So there’s times that these calls could take an excessive two hours. And depending on the behavior of that individual, it may tie up more than one officer,” he said, adding, “From there, sometimes we have the transport time in which they have to be transported to potentially the Southwest Multi-County Correction Center or if they’re a juvenile, sometimes we’ll actually have to call in another individual and then we’ll have to transport them outside of Dickinson to a location.”

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Another hurdle facing the DPD is staffing, and January saw a very much “depleted bench,” Dassinger continued. The department is allocated to have 43 sworn positions. Currently, there are three open positions.

“There’s not a whole lot of people getting involved in the criminal justice field (and) becoming police officers right now. I think that’s the national trend. We’re competing with most of the agencies not only in southwestern North Dakota but in the upper Midwest for talented individuals that want to be police officers,” Dassinger said. “We’re certainly getting applications. If I want to be filled tomorrow, I could be. But we are looking for individuals that would make good law enforcement officers for the city of Dickinson; individuals that have a good solid background, good moral aptitude and can make good decisions.”

Four officers are in the Field Training Officer process, two are at the North Dakota Law Enforcement Training Center, three off at military deployment and one who’s in extended medical leave. At the dispatch center, one open position remains.

“... Competition wise, we’re having a tough time competing for talent right now with basically our current salary and the benefit package. Right now, we have a very difficult time competing with other agencies in our backyard for that. We’re going to be losing one individual here in March that’s going to work for North Dakota BCI (Bureau of Criminal Investigation) for a decent size pay increase and (they’re) a very good officer,” he said. “We’re coming to the point where we’re starting to become a training ground for other agencies again.”

The total accidents reported by the DPD in January were 62, which is down from 104 total accidents in January 2019, Dassinger said, adding that the warmer weather at the beginning of the month helped with road conditions. The DPD responded to three injury accidents and 17 hit and run accidents, which was down from 22 in January 2019.

The DPD conducted 133 criminal citation and arrests in January including 35 warrants, 29 drug related arrests, 16 refusals and DUI’s and 11 theft/fraud incidents. DPD officers also responded and assisted the Dickinson Fire Department with 27 related calls for service and 61 ambulance calls for service. The DPD’s Criminal Investigative Unit dived into 36 new cases, and the Dakota Children’s Advocacy Center satellite office is officially up and running, which allows investigations to increase opportunity to have children interviewed in a forensic setting.

For the month of January, the DPD conducted 472 traffic stops, which included 259 warnings and 131 citations. Traffic violations ranged from 45 speeding citations, 22 with no liability insurance, 18 failures to register motor vehicle, 18 care required write-ups and six stop sign citations.