Sioux Falls, SD
It's a period of time that nobody wants to see. Over the last two weeks, Sioux Falls Police officers have responded to at least five severe crashes, some of them with a fatal outcome.
"To have this many grouped together in such a short period of time, at least in my distant memory, I don't recall a period where we've had so many close together," Chief Doug Barthel said.
There is no connecting factor between any of these cases, but Chief Barthel wishes there were. That way, his officers could focus on ways to end this deadly trend.
"It can be a bit taxing, especially when you have these calls that are occurring in the off-hours and making sure they get enough sleep. In addition, they all have their-day-to-day duties they have to perform, so that work doesn't go away," Barthel said.
Because of the workload, Barthel has moved around officer schedules to make things easier, but he says they all must work together to be sure everyone is able to handle the job at hand.
"Some of these can be very horrific scenes, and we're still human. It still can have an impact on them. So we try and make sure that it doesn't impact them too much, at least emotionally and for their mental well-being," Barthel said.
After a stretch like this, events like Hot Summer Nights and JazzFest can offer a needed change of pace. Barthel says about 25 officers will be working during JazzFest and a weekend saturation patrol.
"Some of the ones that are involved in the crash investigations are also involved in our special events, so they are certainly seeing their fair share of duty over the last two weeks or so and into this weekend as we get into JazzFest," Barthel said.
However, the distraction doesn't take away from the work they've already had to do.
"We come in and take care of our duties, but the effects that are upon the families and those associated with the victims is life-lasting," Barthel said.
Barthel says the officers who have worked at these scenes are part of a special unit trained to handle many different types of crashes, and while seeing the worst could be part of the job, knowing how to handle what they see is part of the job as well.