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Loetscher Sticks with Precinct-Based Policing, Despite GOP/Union Pushback

One of the key points of policy contention between Sioux Falls mayoral candidates Jolene Loetscher and Paul TenHaken is precinct-based policing. Loetscher says Sioux Falls is getting big enough that it needs to base police officers in separate facilities around town; TenHaken says that would cost too much. Here’s their back and forth from an April 18 debate:

Loetscher first pitched the idea back in March as a way to better connect neighborhoods with the law enforcement officers that serve them and reduce the cost impacts that could come with building new facilities to house police officers.

She reiterated those points Wednesday and pointed to other large cities as an example of precinct policing’s effectiveness.

“We brought (precincts) forward as a proposal so when the law enforcement center is out of space, we can spend (money) the smartest way possible,” Loetscher said to a room full of Sioux Falls police officers. “Instead of just building a new building and jeopardizing the potential that you all could have more money in your pocketbooks … we’re going to use resources we already have and build those (community centers) out into precincts and better connect you with our neighborhoods.”

TenHaken, though, pushed back and called police precincts a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist. He also said precincts would be a drain on the police budget and take away resources that could otherwise go toward payroll and other resources to help law enforcement fight crime.

“It will actually inflate the budget and in a lot of ways not change the safety, which is goal No. 1.,” he said. “I have yet to talk to a member of the police department that is a fan of precinct-based policing, and I think it shows a lack of understanding of how we police this city.”

Loetscher didn’t back down, though, saying it’s only a matter of time before precincts are a necessity, saying the city was just 30 square miles wide 40 years ago compared to the nearly 80 miles Sioux Falls covers today.

Nor is Loetscher backing down in the face of opposition from the Sioux Falls police union, which, oddly, given Republican disdain for public employee labor unions, is now adopted by TenHaken’s Republican spin machine as the poster boys for making Loetscher sound anti-cop. Here’s Loetscher’s tough response to the FOP:

Today the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) released a statement opposing my proposal to bring precinct-focused-policing to Sioux Falls. Clearly there’s work to be done on this issue, but I look forward to bringing all parties around the table and working together on the best ideas for keeping Sioux Falls safe.

I do want to clear up some confusion. The FOP stated my campaign was misleading the public by saying precinct-focused policing is supported by “local law enforcement” in our TV commercials.

We stated the plan was supported by law enforcement and that’s accurate. This is the model used in cities all across the United States — Minneapolis, Omaha, Lincoln — even Rapid City announced last week they are exploring moving to a precinct model.

It’s the nationally accepted method of policing cities our size. It decreases response times, will improve community relations, and most importantly – utilize existing resources so we don’t have to spend millions of dollars on another high-rise office building downtown to house officers that will have to patrol neighborhoods further from command.

I fully respect the concerns laid out by the FOP. And we definitely have work to do in our conversations about how precinct-focused-policing is the best model to keep Sioux Falls safe as our population and geography continue to grow.

But part of the reason we did not seek out the endorsement of the FOP for this plan is that we did not want to politicize the department.

As we move forward next month, it’s imperative to recognize we are facing a severe shortage of space to house new officers as our city grows. I will never be afraid of tackling the tough problems and making the difficult decisions. I look forward to continuing these discussions with the incredible men and women of the Sioux Falls Police Department [Jolene Loetscher, campaign Facebook post, 2018.04.24].

Yesterday she continued to spotlight precinct-based policing as a good policy for Sioux Falls, pointing to this report on KELO Radio on Omaha’s long-standing use of precincts:

Omaha police Capt. Ken Kanger in the OPD’s drug and integrated narcotics unit, says the city has had them for decades.

“From the beginning, for years and years we’ve had it (precincts),” Kanger said. “We’ve expanded, obviously. We’ve had four precincts as long as I’ve been here for 20 years.”

He says the city soon is adding a fifth precinct. The drug unit, gang unit, assembly, and the main station are downtown.

Kanger says Omaha PD believes it’s important to have a police presence in every school and precinct [Todd Epp, “While Sioux Falls Debates, Omaha’s Had Precincts for Decades,” KELO Radio, 2018.04.26].

The only reason to prefer having all the cops based at one downtown station that’s six miles away from Cheese World (which really is the hub of the Lincoln County side of Sioux Falls, right?) appears to be money. But hey, once Mayor Huether can no longer blow city funds on vanity projects, building a couple police stations out toward the growing edges of Sioux Falls should be no problem.

By the way, Omaha has four precincts for 447,000 residents spread out across 131 square miles. New York City has 77 police precincts for 8.5 million people spread out across 305 square miles. Both Omaha and the Big Apple have one precinct for approximately every 111,000 residents. The average NYC precinct covers just 4 square miles, while the average Omaha precinct covers 33 square miles, which correlates to NYC’s eight-times-greater population density.

Sioux Falls currently has one precinct for 174,000 people spread out across 74 square miles.


  1. Jason 2018-04-27 07:22

    She tried to mislead people in her add.

    South Dakotans don’t like that.

  2. JLB 2018-04-27 10:12

    I don’t know whether precinct based law enforcement is best for Sioux Falls. It is a evidence based proposal that should be discussed. It may or may not be right for Sioux Falls. I don’t even live in Sioux Falls, and can’t vote in Sioux Falls. People shouldn’t listen to what I have to say about how they want that community to be run. If I did live in Sioux Falls, I would vote for Paul. I am bias in his favor, and I will fully admit it. That said, I think Jo is a fine person, she has done good state wide as an advocate in the past, and I think she has run a good race. If she wins (or if she doesn’t), I would wish her well.

    Corey – I know you are in favor of Jo, and I would expect that. We have different mindsets on the role of government, and she is more in line with your thinking. This has been a strange runoff, but can’t we agree that it is disingenuous for someone to say something is “supported by local law enforcement”, and then when actual local law enforcement in Sioux Falls says we don’t support that, to say, I meant local law enforcement in other towns.

    To me, that seems pretty basic.

  3. chris 2018-04-27 11:10

    Hard to believe Paul “10” Haken would not support a police precinct south of 57th street, which we all know is the best part of Sioux Falls. Just a guess, but his reticence here seems very similar to MIke Huether’s prudent and sentimental opposition to those newfangled snowgates. He would likely have been onboard if he could have claimed the original idea as his own.

    Regarding Cheese World, true dat.

  4. Roger Cornelius 2018-04-27 11:26

    I missed Jolene’s “add”, was it

  5. Donald Pay 2018-04-27 13:21

    We have precinct-based policing in Madison, WI, which is a bit larger than SF. SF is getting large enough that it makes some sense. The pluses are that response times are lower and it makes it easier to have community-based policing. The later reason is important as communities get larger and more diverse. You probably can pilot in an area of town and phase it in to decrease costs.

  6. John Kennedy Claussen, Sr. 2018-04-27 13:51

    But there are local law enforcement people who do support a precinct based system. You cannot tell me that every officer in Sioux Falls likes the current setup.

    Plus, Jo came out with her precinct concept in late March, but it takes until late April, after a bad week for Paul, to get the leadership of the FOB to come out against such a concept and to claim a contradiction in her contentions with this issue?…. Come on, give me a break.

    In the past week, we have witnessed a threat by one candidate to an other and then three organizations run by white men endorse a white male for mayor…. I think it all speaks for itself.

    I think it is also time for the citizens of Sioux Falls, and especially the women and minorities of Sioux Falls, to ask themselves if they are going to be told who to vote for mayor of Sioux Falls by organizations like the Home Builders Assoc., the SD Biotech Assoc., and the FOB, which are all organizations run by white males, who sandbag their contentions and their endorsements until the end because their dream candidate is not as dreamy as they once thought and not the guaranteed victor as they once thought too.

  7. Steve Pearson 2018-04-27 14:14

    ….and there’s the sex card throw in…WOW. The level of crazy on these blog comments is on pace with that of fiction Arkham Asylum. My God John, you’re seriously saying that those groups are for Tenhaken simply based on gender?????

  8. JLB 2018-04-27 15:04

    John – I am just going by the rationale that she used. She did not say that she said it because she talked to some law enforcement that are in favor. She said that “local law enforcement” meant other communities’ local law enforcement. Her own rationale, which I think is disingenuous.

    Cory- sorry for misspelling your name previously.

  9. Matthew Paulson 2018-04-27 15:07

    John Kennedy Claussen, Sr. – Point of clarification. The South Dakota Biotech Association is run by Joni Johnson (not a white male).

  10. John Kennedy Claussen, Sr. 2018-04-27 15:29


    The sandbagging of an issue is what is disingenuous here, because it proves that the issue doesn’t matter to you, rather you are only concerned about using it for political timing. And the totality of these male endorsements in the past week along with the blatant politicalization of our AGs office – given the AG’s recent premature press release concerning hacking and the Sioux Falls mayoral race – all speak to a game of timing over substance, which is not a track record or baggage any new mayor coming into office should want to have, nor should its constituents want either.


    Joni is the executive director. The SDBioTech Board of Directors has a male president and ten of the eleven board members are male. I think it is fair to say that the Board hires the E.D. and not the other way around, if you catch my drift….. I knew you would comeback at me with this one, however, but I am glad you did and I was prepared… Oh, and did you notice, that the only woman on the SDBT Board is their “Secretary”….. How traditional….

  11. John Kennedy Claussen, Sr. 2018-04-27 15:41


    If it walks like a duck, looks like a duck, and sounds like duck, then its a duck. If that’s “crazy” logic to you, then that’s your opinion. But it is obvious to me that the establishment is throwing everything at Jo this past week that they can and for the most part it is lead by people who happen to be white and male. Because they fear the women and minorities that Jo will empower as mayor of Sioux Falls. I am not playing a card, rather I am just speaking the truth in response to insincere political sandbagging from the an other side, however. For the true card that is being played here is sandbagging and we know who is swinging the bags, don’t we?

  12. Roger Cornelius 2018-04-27 18:20

    As I have previously stated, if I were a citizen of Sioux Falls it would cause me great concern about TenHaken’s ‘tools’ in his ‘toolbox’.
    Those tools can be used to spy on unsuspecting Sioux Falls residents that may disagree with TenHaken.
    That is Richard Nixon paranoia and it is dangerous.

  13. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-04-27 19:41

    JLB: “I don’t even live in Sioux Falls, and can’t vote in Sioux Falls. People shouldn’t listen to what I have to say about how they want that community to be run.”—if you really believed that, you’d stop there.

    Can someone get the exact text of the specific ad that FOP says said “local law enforcement”? Show me those words.

  14. Bob Klein 2018-04-27 20:11

    I’ve studied a little mathematics, including a little geometry, and trigonometry and calculus. What in heaven does “30 square miles wide” mean? Wide is a single dimension. No square to it.

  15. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-04-29 12:05

    Bob, maybe the writer was thinking, “30 square miles? That’s wide!” :-)

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