From high-risk calls for the Dickinson Police Department’s Criminal Investigations Division to moving one step forward with the fire department’s volunteer firefighter title change, officials from the City of Dickinson Public Safety Center had much to brief commissioners on during this week's meeting at City Hall.

During the public hearing section of the meeting Tuesday, Nov. 16, the Dickinson City Commission approved the first reading of two ordinances that would abolish the city’s volunteer firefighter program and change those volunteer firefighters to part-time city employees. From there, Lt. Matt Hanson provided a monthly report to the board of commissioners.

DPD call load down, higher risk calls intensify

In October, DPD completed a total of 2,353 calls for service, which is a decrease from September’s report of 2,520 calls for service.

“(This is) very much in line still with some of our busier months,” Hanson said. “You can see we’re down a little bit from July and September. We’re going to probably start seeing a little bit of a slowdown as we start getting a little bit colder and cooler into our months.”

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Despite a decrease in calls for service last month, DPD’s Criminal Investigations Division was immersed in “higher risk calls,” Hanson continued. From 52 open cases and 29 new cases/incidents, investigators saw an increase in higher intensity incidents such as one robbery, two burglaries, two aggravated assaults and one weapon offense.

“So we had a couple different instances where we had shootings in town. We had a stabbing in town. We had a robbery happen in town, so we had a couple major incidents that really drew resources and we were having to bring investigations out,” he said, adding that there were 13 callouts. “... It’s good to know that on nearly all of these injuries were minor; people were treated and investigations had done a really good job as far as working with the street resources and resolving these situations as quickly and properly as we could.”

As mental health cases continue to be a growing issue in southwestern North Dakota, Dickinson Police officers responded to 79 total calls pertaining to behavioral health — which included 57 welfare checks, 12 suicidal threats, seven intoxicated subjects and three mental health-related calls.

“I don’t have the exact numbers, but I do know on those suicidal threat calls that we were able to resolve most of these with just our tip 2-1-1, bringing Badlands Human Service Centers in. Using outside resources that we have here, most of those were resolved with just our communication with officers and such,” Hanson said.

Lt. Matt Hanson walks through a slideshow presentation, providing a monthly report to the Dickinson City Commission Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021, at City Hall. (Jackie Jahfetson / The Dickinson Press)
Lt. Matt Hanson walks through a slideshow presentation, providing a monthly report to the Dickinson City Commission Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021, at City Hall. (Jackie Jahfetson / The Dickinson Press)

The top cited traffic violation for October was speeding with 36 incidents, followed by 23 violations for driving without insurance, 17 infractions for failure to register vehicle, 12 stops cited for care required and eight stop sign violations. DPD conducted a total of 449 traffic stops, with 232 warnings and 139 citations.

In October, Dickinson Police officers responded to 57 accidents, varying from 40 property accidents, 13 hit and runs, three injuries and one pedestrian. Hanson highlighted that one pedestrian accident in his report to the commission.

“We had a situation in about the 800 block of 10th Avenue East where we had a pedestrian crossing the road and (the vehicle) was at a very low mileage; but it was about a 5-mile an hour accident where they were transported to the hospital with no visible injuries. They just wanted to make sure things were okay. But I know that one on there always jump out at the screen, wondering what happened in that situation,” he said.

Arrest numbers were down in October compared to the last three months of DPD reports, Hanson added.

Though call load was down in October, DPD — sworn and non-sworn officers — completed 592 hours of training. Hanson attributed this high amount of training to the fact that restrictions brought forth by the coronavirus pandemic have loosened since 2020 for law enforcement agencies across the state to return to normal training operations. Through grant projects, the police department brought in a couple of different leadership courses, he said, noting, “Building the Leader Within” was a three-day in-house training session where multiple agencies took part.

“Some of these things are echoing still from last month’s report,” he said, adding, “Some of the similar things (such as) parking complaints, you’re probably going to see come higher here now especially now that we’re moving into November months with our campers, boats and those things that the public is going to be calling us more on. You’re probably going to see next month that even move higher.”

City approves first reading to abolish volunteer firefighter program

On the other side of the City of Dickinson Public Safety Center, Dickinson Fire Chief Jeremy Presnell presented two ordinances during the public hearing of the commission meeting, centering on the title change for volunteer firefighters.

The Dickinson Fire Department currently has 21 volunteer firefighters. In a previous work session, Presnell said that he hopes that this change would be effective beginning Jan. 1, 2022. This would also be a recruitment tool for new hires, he added.

Dickinson Fire Chief Jeremy Presnell speaks to the Dickinson City Commission Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021, at City Hall. (Jackie Jahfetson / The Dickinson Press)
Dickinson Fire Chief Jeremy Presnell speaks to the Dickinson City Commission Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021, at City Hall. (Jackie Jahfetson / The Dickinson Press)

“In the long run, we feel that changing their title to part-time firefighter will help in our recruitment efforts because it more accurately reflects the position and job duties and that they are being paid whereas volunteer implies that there is no compensation,” Presnell said in a previous Press article.

Commissioner John Odermann asked Presnell during the public hearing if there would be any repercussions with this title change.

“I really don’t see any because we’re already currently paying them. It really is just a title change and I will say it was unanimously voted on by the volunteer body and also by the retirement board to make these changes,” Presnell said.

Presnell then presented ordinance 1732 to the commission.

“The second ordinance before you tonight is to modify the terminology in Chapter 32 when it refers to volunteer firefighters to part-time firefighters as part of that retirement,” Presnell noted.

Ordinances 1731 and 1732 were both unanimously passed in a 5-0 vote, and will return to the commission in a second reading in December.