I’m going to apologize right up front for repeating myself in this article. So here I go. Really?

It’s hard to believe summer is already here. Where did spring go? I have to say that it’s been a very different spring for most everybody, including the Sheriff’s Office. We had COVID-19 rear its ugly head across the county, state and the world. This has changed so many things for all us. The way we do our jobs, our meetings, our graduations and our celebrations.

Speaking of celebrations and graduations, I’m sorry that we had to change the way we celebrate with our high school and college graduates. We were honored to be able to assist with high school graduation parades and commencements all across the county. I was impressed with everyone that came out to show their support for our 2020 graduates.

My own son’s graduation from college was a picture in a video with his name being announced along with his major. Really? That’s all he gets for four years of hard work, for all the four years of tuition payment. Oh, I guess he did receive his diploma in the mail. So we do have that. Thanks COVID.

We also assisted with other birthday and anniversary celebrations. Seeing those beaming smiles as we drive by with squad cars and fire trucks followed by friends and family. Those I won’t soon forget. Congrats and best of luck to all of you graduates in your future endeavors. Happy birthday and happy anniversary if you couldn’t hear us from the squad, cycle or fire truck!

Other celebrations that won’t or didn’t happen are Morristown Dam Days, Faribault Heritage Days, Lonsdale Community Days, the Rice County Fair and the Defeat of Jesse James Days. I have to tell you it will be different not grilling burgers with the Fire & Rescue personnel in Morristown or at the BA and Pork Producers stand at the fair. It’s really different not leading a parade every two to three weeks. No Fourth of July festivities in North Morristown and Veseli. No fishing contest, no BBQ contest, no demo derbies? Really? I’m hoping and praying that we have this all figured out by next year so we can get back in the swing of things.

In-person meetings have become few and far between. If you do attend a meeting, you’re 6-10 feet apart and wearing masks. It won’t be long until Zoom and GoToMeetings are in the dictionary. Some of my Zoom meetings are like watching the beginning of the Brady Bunch on steroids: 24 different windows and faces and multiple people talking at the same time, forgetting to mute there phone when they scold their dog for barking or ask their spouse or kids to get them something or to quiet down.

In all seriousness though, we have found this to be very helpful not only in our day-to-day business style meetings but also in the courts. Holding hearings via ITV where witnesses and attorneys join via teleconference instead of in-person hearings. It has been very helpful for the Sheriff’s Office not having to transport someone back for a hearing from sometimes four to five hours away one way. It is our hope that even after COVID-19, we can continue to utilize this for some future hearings. This will save us time, money and provide better security.

Our job of providing public safety to our communities has been modified somewhat as well. We utilize the telephone to take some reports and complaints versus a deputy responding to your residence. We reduced our proactive enforcement in the areas of traffic, warrants and in some criminal investigations. Our undercover operations were minimal in an effort to keep our staff safe and healthy. We did see a reduction in some of our calls for service. We continued to see our domestic abuse calls and mental health calls slightly increase for a time. We’ve also seen our serious traffic violations increase as well as alcohol-related traffic offenses. We never quit doing traffic but we have returned to our proactive enforcement as a means of providing safe roads for all that travel on them. We’ve returned to drug investigations to ensure our neighborhoods are safe for all who live and visit them.

As I wrap up, I want to remind everyone that we are here to serve and protect. It does not matter who you are, where you live, what your skin color is, what nationality you are, what religion you follow. We are here for everyone always. I, like many of you have been saddened, angered, and ashamed for the actions of a few who wear the uniform. But I feel these same emotions when I hear certain things such “defund law enforcement” or see T-shirts that read “blue lines murder.” Really?

We all play a role in making our communities, our state, our nation and our world what they are. Violence and destruction of property are not considered a way of “peaceful protesting.” Let cooler heads prevail, let peace prevail and let’s all work together to solve our problems.

Know that the men and women of the Rice County Sheriff’s Office are professional and caring and will work with you to keep our county a great place to raise a family. Stay healthy everyone and thank you for your confidence and support of all public safety personnel in Rice County.

Troy Dunn is the Rice County Sheriff.

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