Williston police beef up patrols as bars closeWilliston Police Officer Walter Hall pulled on his gloves and hat, gearing up for the chilly night at about 12:45 a.m. on a recent Sunday morning.
By: By Jenna Ebersole, Associated Press, The Jamestown Sun
WILLISTON, N.D. — Williston Police Officer Walter Hall pulled on his gloves and hat, gearing up for the chilly night at about 12:45 a.m. on a recent Sunday morning.
Hall joined two other Williston police officers gathered at a corner downtown, nodding to and chatting with the small crowd moving out of drinking establishments as they closed.
“This here hopefully deters the crowds spilling out in the roadway here from getting into altercations,” officer Hall said during a Herald ride-along that stretched from 8 p.m. to the closing of the bars and through part of his 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. shift.
Hall, who has worked in Williston since 2008 after moving from Montana, said the strategy of increasing presence in the area around closing time, implemented early in the summer, has improved safety by cutting down on incidents and promoting officers’ communication with business owners and the public.
“I don’t put a wall up between the public and my job,” he said. “I try to keep the rapport up.”
Working with the public is the highlight of the job, Hall said. It is also a way to establish a good prior relationship with individuals that could help during dangerous situations or when someone has broken the law.
“You show up at their time of need,” he said. “They feel like they already know you.”
When another officer called in a DUI stop and ongoing field sobriety test, Hall drove to the area to join.
Following a breathalyzer test that showed the individual’s blood alcohol level to be about twice the legal limit, officer Sam Aide arrested him and brought him to the jail for another test on an Intoxilyzer 8,000.
Hall administered the test in a small room at the jail, explaining that it required two breaths from the individual to register two numbers, taking the lowest one as the true level.
Hall said in these arrest situations, he is generally friendly to individuals he encounters.
“You treat people like you want to be treated,” he said.
Hall started the night with a full explanation of the gadgets inside his car, motioning to a camera, microphone and the speed radar detector, and explained the emergency equipment carried at all times in the case of spills or traffic accidents.
Pulling out of the station, Hall radioed in to signal he had left and began a cruise on roads and alleyways across town, keeping an eye out for anything suspicious and responding to the buzz of calls from the radio as the hours passed.
When a woman shortly after 8 p.m. drove in the opposite lane without headlights on Million Dollar Way, Hall turned the car to pull her over.
She was unable to provide proof of insurance and was given a 20-day written warning to prove to the police department that she has insurance, though Hall said proving insurance is easier than some people think and he accepts proof on phones.
With the upcoming Christmas holiday, Hall said the night was a pretty calm one compared to most Saturday nights. And even though the number of calls has increased through the boom, Hall said the nature of a police officer’s job remains the same.
“I don’t think they’ve changed,” he said of the types of calls. “Just the numbers have grown. That comes with population.”
Officers also did a welfare check on a man threatening suicide, broke up a fight downtown after the bars closed, responded to Ritter Brothers following an alarm but found no problem and did beat checks at businesses around town.
Hall also joined the Williams County Sheriff’s Office after a DUI arrest and said the agencies all work together across divisional lines to keep Williston and Williams County safe, even in a volatile boom.
“Nobody’s afraid to back another agency up,” Hall said as he drove toward the scene.
“Don’t care what color the uniform is and what agency pays you,” he added.