To go home feeling they helped …
by Bill Kunkle
Government has no higher duty than to protect its citizens’ health and safety. South Dakota supports law enforcement and its citizens, who, for the most part, respect the law and the rights of their neighbors.
The police officer is the most visible symbol of our nation’s first line of defense. Their days are often busy and filled with unforseen events. They are embassadors of goodwill, often the first look at our government at work. Sometimes called “the thin blue line”, they must be prepared to risk their lives to protect public safety. They are the people we call when help is needed.
Kit Graham is Philip’s Chief of Police. He has served this department for 22 years. He said, “Thankfully, serious crime is not common in Philip.” But he recalls some scary events, including the capture of a fleeing murderer after an all-night stand-off.
Haakon County Sheriff Larry Hanes, a former Philip police officer, has been a resident for 19 years. Major local problems include accidents, some drugs, but have few domestic disputes. His only deputy is Mark Foley, 38, another long-time area resident. He is single and said, “I have always wanted to be in law enforcement.” They have all sworn to uphold the law in South Dakota.
There have been many memorable lawmen in Haakon County, including the colorful city cop, Paul Ratigan, and, probably the best, Mike Schofield.
Completing the criminal justice team here is States Attorney Ralph “Chip” Kemnitz, a man with gray hair and kind eyes. If you violate the peace and dignity of Philip and Haakon County, you will face him at the courthouse as a vigorous prosecutor. He said he loves it here, it has been a wonderful place to raise a family. He is also in private practice. He said, “I have had many opportunities to relocate to areas where I could make some money, but I’m staying here!” He also noted that law enforcement officers here do a good job for too little money.
Even in small towns, a cop never knows what to expect but it’s their responsibility to deal with it bravely and effectively. Prevention plays a large part and knowing your people does, too … and they must do it all with confidence and courage. No other job requires the mental instinct, temperament and skill to do this every day – and sometimes all night, too. It’s easy for a copy to become bitter when dealing with society’s outcasts (not too many here). They come home feeling that they helped someone every day.
And, they deserve respect and support.