I’m thankful for those who do our dirty work

I'm thankful for those who do our dirty work
You'll find a letter to the editor on this page thanking those who had to brave gusting winds, chilly temperatures and the dark to repair a power outage that affected part of Vermillion.

You may not even be aware the lights went out. They did in our neighborhood, flickering for a second before everything went dead.

This is not a good time of the year for something like this to happen. If the outage lasted long enough, the stuff you want to keep cold in your house, mainly the food stored in your freezer and refrigerator, would eventually get warm.

And, naturally those things you want to keep warm, like the rest of your house, would soon become cold.

Thankfully, we didn't have long to wait before power was restored. We never had to think about transferring the contents of our fridge to the cold climate outdoors.

I bring this up because all of us in the Vermillion area have been jolted to reality. Winter has arrived, and it was clear, from watching television news reports this week, that not all of us have adjusted to driving like we should when the wind is howling and the roads are icy.

Tuesday, we had a few inches of snow on the ground, accompanied by super cold air gusting up to 50 miles per hour.

In the middle of it all: South Dakota Highway Patrol troopers. A Sioux Falls TV station showed one trooper galloping through the snow and wind to reach a car that had skidded into the median of the interstate.

It's a dirty job, but I'm sure the driver and passengers were glad he was there to check on their well-being.

I bring this up because a letter to the editor we published on Oct. 7 singled out Trooper Adam Timmins of Elk Point, who patrols in the Vermillion area.

One could naturally assume that Sam Cramer of Knoxville, TN, the letter's author, would be a bit ticked off after being cited for running through the stop sign at the intersection of University Road and Highway 50.

Cramer wrote in his letter to us that Timmins, when explaining to Cramer why he was being stopped and ticketed, was somewhat disrespectfully, seemed amused and gave him a "tell it to the judge" response. He then sought to engage me in unprofessional banter as he wrote the ticket."

Cramer also wrote: "I asked the officer why he followed me for so long before stopping me � at least two miles from the site of the ?alleged' violation. The officer was now not amused. He had probably broken some rule about following someone after observing a violation in an effort to entice multiple violations."

Cramer also claimed that Timmins then "stalked" him on the highway.

"My wife and I were being assaulted by a South Dakota State Highway Patrolman," Cramer wrote. "At the very last moment the officer swerved around, and with a grin and a wave, sped off into the distance."

Cramer probably didn't realize that his entire encounter with Timmins was recorded by the video and sound technology that's standard equipment in today's law enforcement vehicles.

Captain Jeff Talbot, commander of the Highway Patrol's Sioux Falls district, recently let me view the tape. It shows Cramer's car, pulled over on the shoulder of Highway 50. One could easily get a sense of why the Highway Patrol makes sure traffic doesn't run stop signs along the highway. The tape showed a lot of cars whizzing by in a very short time.

"We get a lot of accidents on this road," Timmins told Cramer. "There's a lot of traffic coming through here. It's important that you pay attention to stop signs, so what I'm going to do is issue you a citation for not stopping at that stop sign.

Cramer asked if that was necessary.

"Yes it is sir," Timmins said. "Like I said, we get a lot of accidents on this road."

As Timmins made progress writing the ticket, he and Cramer soon had a friendly chat. It was hardly what one would describe as "unprofessional banter."

"So where have you all been?" Timmins asked Cramer.

Cramer replied that they had been following the Lewis and Clark Trail, and were on their way back home from the west coast. One of their stops in South Dakota, naturally, was Spirit Mound. It was while they were searching for the landmark on University Road that Cramer failed to come to a complete stop when he reached Highway 50.

Among their other stops in South Dakota: Deadwood, and the Corn Palace.

"Did you stop at Wall Drug?" Timmins asked.

"Never have," Cramer said. "We wasted so much time in Deadwood that we didn't have time to stop there."

After Timmins finished writing the ticket and instructing Cramer on the steps he needed to follow to pay the fine, he gave him directions to Highway 19 so he could find Spirit Mound.

"Our work is often times adversarial," Talbot said, "and if we have an officer that hasn't been professional, we definitely want to know about it."

Cramer's letter spawned an investigation of the traffic stop. "Fortunately, especially with this technology we have in our cars today, we can actually hear what happens."

Nearly all of the complaints that are received come from people who are mistreated by officers, but rather are upset after receiving a ticket.

"The thing that was troubling about this was some of the language that he (Cramer) used in his letter was somewhat inflammatory," Talbot said.

Cramer letter's reflects an inability to accept that he made a mistake, Talbot said. "The officer was just doing his job."

It's a dirty job at times. But I'm thankful we have dedicated men and women who will take on society's unpleasant tasks.

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