Summer is always a busy time in Minnesota, and for the Rice County Sheriff’s Department it is the busiest.
Aside from the various celebrations and parades that will always include members of the Sheriff’s Department if not Sheriff Jesse Thomas himself, there are extra patrols out to enforce traffic safety during what the State of Minnesota has termed the 100 Most Dangerous Days of the Year on Minnesota roads. In fact, Thomas said, a period of enforcement focusing on seatbelt use, the Click it Or Ticket initiative, just ended.
“It still amazes me that people don’t use their seatbelts,” he said. “It’s such a simple thing that can be the difference between life and death.”
Thomas said he can speak from firsthand knowledge about being in a crash without a seatbelt on, and how fortunate he feels to have not been seriously injured after being, as he put it “ping ponged” around in his car.
Thomas said over the summer there will be other periods of focused enforcement for speed, impaired driving and distracted driving.
The department will also be out on the water. Thomas said they add five part time seasonal officers every summer to serve as water patrol. Serving in teams of two, the deputies will ensure that everyone on their boats is acting responsibly both for themselves and for the people around them.
“Our primary goal as water patrol is education and safety. We want to make sure people understand that they need to have life jackets, they need to have fire extinguishers in their boat. [We want to make sure] that you’re practicing safe maneuvers on the lake, and you’re respecting everyone else’s time on the water.”
The department is also responsible for all drownings in the area. Thomas said the Dive Team has been well trained, with a lot of resources and money put into the program so the officers know how to handle those situations.
Overall, he said the department is nearly at full staff, so the extra patrols will not be a problem. They do have one opening, but the interviewing process is nearly complete, and he hopes to have someone in place very soon.
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