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SD Police Agencies Change Procedures to Prevent Coronavirus Spread

The Sioux Falls Police Department hopes people file more reports online so that officers can avoid spreading the new coronavirus. (Adobe Stock)
The Sioux Falls Police Department hopes people file more reports online so that officers can avoid spreading the new coronavirus. (Adobe Stock)
March 25, 2020

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. -- The spread of the coronavirus is changing how some police agencies deal with calls for service, including departments in South Dakota.

In Sioux Falls, police are being asked to issue citations instead of making arrests for low-level crimes. Police Chief Matt Burns said people need to know that public safety isn't being compromised and that arrests still will be made in situations where it's clear they need to happen.

"All of those things that the citizens would expect somebody should be taken to jail and made to post a bond are all still in effect," he said. "We're talking about petit-theft type offenses -- shoplifting, unauthorized use of a motor vehicle."

Burns said the decision was made after consulting with surrounding sheriffs' departments and the presiding judge in their district. He said people who receive citations still wtill be ordered to appear in court. The department said the policy is not only meant to protect workers who process arrests but the local jail population as well.

The Rapid City Police Department is exploring similar changes, and the South Dakota Highway Patrol has given troopers more discretion in dealing with some incidents. Burns said his department also is asking residents to do their part by filing reports online, instead of calling an officer to their home for incidents when a suspect isn't present.

"Where there are reports, calls that can be handled by a phone call or online to reduce those exposures, we think that's appropriate," he said, "and that's the direction we've gone."

Police departments in Denver and in Fort Worth, Texas, are among those nationwide that have issued mandates for officers to shift their arrest priorities in light of the pandemic.

The SFPD report is online at siouxfalls.org.

Mike Moen, Public News Service - SD