Pennington County law enforcement brings old records up to date

RAPID CITY, S.D. — Pennington County law enforcement is bringing their records into the modern age by throwing out the huge storage of records and digitizing them.

Old FilesThe records in storage involve every misdemeanor and felony from the 1940s to the 1990s, and law enforcement believes that digitizing these records will make it easier for police, as well as public access.

Sheriffs Department Investigations Division Capt. Tony Harrison described how this sector of law enforcement needed to be brought up to date.

“A year ago we got to talking with some of our records folks. It’s 2022, why are we using paper files? Lets digitize everything. Everything has been digitized in our office probably close to a decade. So, we decided to go pull those things out of records of a storage unit and went through them.”

Harrison said they are reading through everything and only keeping records involving deaths, but some stories they found are too unique to throw away.

Rhonda Bohn of the Pennington County Sheriffs Office was one of the main people digging through all the files and described some of the interesting stories.

“They were so interesting. There were some that we kept just for the unique nature of it. For example, we had several establishments in the 1950s that had illegal gambling equipment in a secret room and they took roulette tables, crap tables and slot machines.”

Other things found were driver’s licenses from different decades, including out of state licenses. Also found were job applications to places like Dairy Queen — with one of the questions on the application asking if the applicant was married — and police descriptions describing suspects as looking like Johnny Cash.

Going through all these files, a lot of them experienced water damaged from the Rapid City Flood and Bohn describes how she had to carefully go through them.

“Some of the files were water damaged. We figured out, in order to get the pages apart — because carbon copies are very stuck together from the water damage — we had to re-water them and separate them, and lay them out to dry.”

Pennington County law enforcement will continue to search through the boxes, keep anything of interest and also give the records no longer needed to families of the people they belonged to.

Police have already returned items to a woman in Arizona, who’s mother, Faye Johnson, was murdered in 1970 when she was around a year-and-a-half old.

Capt. Harrison stated, “Most of the things we found were skipping out on hotel bills. But cases like this, these things are invaluable.”

Categories: Local News, South Dakota News