Sturgis Police expand staff during annual rally Original

STURGIS, S.D. (KELO) — Each year since at least 2014, the city of Sturgis has included about $300,000 in police expenses for the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.

The city has included about $286,000 in its 2022 budget for police rally expenses, according to the 2022 budget published on the city’s website.

The money helps to pay additional officers who become 10-day members of the Sturgis Police Department during the 10 days of the rally.

Sturgis Police Chief Geody VanDewater cited safety reasons for not sharing how many officers are added for those 10 days. VanDewater did say the 17-person police department expands to become the third for fourth largest police department in the state during the rally.

The city of Sioux Falls has at least 200 police officers.

The Rapid City Police Department has 100 officers, according to Police 1.

The city of Aberdeen’s police department has 50 commissioned officers, nine civilian employees, and six volunteer reserve officers, according to its website.

According to the Police 1, the state’s fourth largest city, Brookings, has 27 officers on its police department.

The city will hire only certified officers who can work all 10 days of the rally. The officers who work during the rally are sworn in as officers of the Sturgis Police Department. They wear Sturgis Police attire. The city of Sturgis also pays for workers compensation insurance during those 10 days as well as the salary.

The police department’s rally expenses goes toward salaries but also to feeding and lodging those 10-day members of the force, VanDewater said.

The rally creates a police department expense but the city also nets a profit from the rally to cover those expenses. The city had a net profit of $1.4 million in 2018, $1 million in 2019 and $997,000 in 2020.

The number of officers hired each year has been the same for more than 25 years, he said.

“One thing we have never increased is staffing since the 50th (anniversary) rally (in 1990),” VanDeWater said. “The staffing has been the same, we’ve never cut.”

The size hasn’t been cut but it also hasn’t been increased.

The rally became a 10-day event in 2016 after being a seven-day event since 1975.

The rally attendance has been more than 445,000 and closer to 500,000 for the past several years. The attendance was 400,000 in 1990.

This year’s rally drew about 525,000 vehicles entering the rally, according to the South Dakota Department of Transportation. The city of Sturgis uses the S.D. DOT traffic count, the amount of garbage hauled and other factors to determine the estimated rally attendance.

The attendance for 2021 should be higher than in 2020.

VanDewater said, “We never lack for safety or security,” during the rally.

The city hires additional officer and local law enforcement including the county sheriff’s office, local police and state and federal agencies are available to help if there is a major incident, VanDewater said.

It was more difficult to hire those additional officers this year, VanDewater said.

The experience and the age of officers who work only during the rally varies.

“We’ve got young officers who have never been here before. We have veterans who come every year. We have officers who come for one year and never come back,” VanDewater said.

An officer who had worked at the rally for 43 years completed his last year in 2020.

“We’ve got officers who’ve been here 25 years and others who have been here three to five years,” VanDewater said.

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