U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) this week recognized personnel at the Rapid City Police Department and the Pennington County Sheriff’s Office for their service to the community. Thune remarked on the significant decline in Rapid City’s crime rates after an aggressive, years-long campaign conducted by Rapid City law enforcement officers.
Remarks (as prepared for delivery):
“Mr. President, I’d like to take a few minutes to talk about the two ride-alongs I was privileged to take with Rapid City, South Dakota, law enforcement officers at the end of March.
“Mr. President, we live in a climate where police officers are often made to sound like criminals, and criminals are often portrayed as victims.
“And the result of that, Mr. President, is that we forget about the real victims out there – the people who have suffered crimes or are forced to live in crime-ridden neighborhoods.
“And we forget about the work that police officers do in making our communities places we can live.
“Three weeks ago, I got to meet with law enforcement officers from the Rapid City Police Department and the Pennington County Sheriff’s Office.
“And after our meeting, I got to take a ride through Rapid Valley with Sheriff’s Deputy Brandon Akley and a ride through Rapid City with Rapid City police officer Jim Hansen.
“Mr. President, not very long ago, some neighborhoods in Rapid City had their share of challenges.
“Law enforcement officers frequently responded to drug and alcohol abuse calls, domestic violence, break-ins, and other violent crimes.
“Just imagine what it’s like to live in a neighborhood like that, Mr. President.
“Coming home after dark is dangerous.
“It may not be safe for your children to play in your yard.
“It’s certainly not safe to send them to the playground.
“Your children constantly see things no child should see, and hear things no child should have to hear.
“Your property isn’t secure – your car and your home are at risk all the time.
“And there are no economic opportunities in your area, because businesses don’t want to locate in areas where it is not safe to do business.
“That’s what life is like in some of these neighborhoods, Mr. President.
“In one instance in Rapid City, law enforcement officers responded to over 600 calls to one building over a period of a single year.
“By partnering with residents in impacted neighborhoods, Rapid City law enforcement stepped in and conducted an aggressive, years-long campaign to rid this area of crime.
“Today, residents can let their children play outside without fear, and new economic opportunities are opening up for residents as businesses move in.
“It’s no exaggeration to say that what these police officers did changed the lives of countless Rapid City residents.
“Mr. President, every day, in every community in the United States, the men and women who make up our nation’s police forces and sheriff’s departments put their lives on the line for the rest of us.
“They are first on the scene when someone is in danger, the first to come running when you call for help.
“When evil threatens, they step in.
“I’m grateful to the men and women of the Rapid City Police Department and the Pennington County Sheriff’s Department, and to all the law enforcement officers keeping the peace in South Dakota and around our nation.
“Because of their service, we live in safety.
“Mr. President, I yield the floor.”