Bordering sheriff’s offices join forces to keep schools safe

BLACK HAWK, S.D. — Cooperation between law enforcement agencies is a practice that western South Dakota knows well. In their first couple of months in office, Sheriff Brian Mueller (Pennington County Sheriff’s Office) and Sheriff Pat West (Meade County Sheriff’s Office) have teamed up to share resources in the form of School Resource Officers (SROs) for Black Hawk Elementary.

Sro 1What’s the purpose of a School Resource Officer?

“You cannot quantify the work of an SRO,” Captain Dustin Morrison with the Pennington County Sheriff’s Office says. “They’re building positive relationships, trying to be a positive role model for these kids in these schools and showing them a side of law enforcement that we care and we’re here for you. We’re here for your well-being, and we want to see you succeed in life.”

Why share School Resource Officers in Black Hawk?

It’s kind of a unique situation,” Sheriff Pat West says.

Black Hawk Elementary School is a part of Rapid City Area Schools, which utilize SROs from the Pennington County Sheriff’s Office. However, Black Hawk Elementary is in Meade County, which means that Pennington County SROs at the school are no longer within the jurisdiction for which they have law enforcement authority.

How was this handled in the past?

“Prior to this, we would respond to things at Black Hawk Elementary and may have to wait for a county deputy to take some action in certain situations,” explains Capt. Morrison.

What’s the solution?

Sheriffs West and Mueller cross-deputized three Pennington County School Resource Officers between Meade and Pennington counties.

“And now we’re able to just be sworn in there and have arrest powers and deal with anything that comes our way,” Capt. Morrison adds. 

Sheriff West explains how the idea came about.

I was talking with Sheriff Mueller about this decision. He was all for us working together, which was the main part, doing some interagency cooperation that will help in the long run with school safety and also with just public safety in general in eastern Meade county.”

What other plans are in the works for this partnership?

So far, the sheriffs haven’t announced further projects, but say that helping border counties and sharing resources is something they’ll always strive to do.

“Our options are open on down the road if there’s something else that is going to benefit the public public safety. We’re going to be a part of that and work well with them,” says Sheriff West. “People need to understand that if something major happens in that [county border] area, you know, it’s all hands on deck. Everybody’s going to be coming.”

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