Berthold Reintroduces Police Force - KXNet.com - Bismarck/Minot/Williston/Dickinson-KXNEWS,ND

Berthold Reintroduces Police Force

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Ward County's sheriff's department received 5,000 more calls in 2012 than two years earlier.

With numbers like those, an extra officer can make a big difference.

But instead of hiring at the county level, Sheriff Steve Kukowski and the Ward County Commission lended support to getting a new police department set up.

In this week's Eye on Energy, Jennifer Thorgramson introduces us to chief of the new Berthold police department.

Welcome to Berthold... where there's a new chief in town.

"Hi kids!"

Chief of Police Al Schmidt has been on the job since the first of February, the first Berthold officer since the early 60's.

"Hi Al!!"

(Chief Al Schmidt, Berthold Police Department) "They've never had an officer here before and they were concerned, is he going to be strict? Are we not going to be able to do what we wanted to do? I think those are a little more relaxed now because they know that I'm not coming in here and trying to change everything."

(Sheriff Steve Kukowski, Ward County Sheriff's Department) "Very easy to get along with, spends a lot of time in the school and so far he has certainly met our expectations."

(Brian Nelson, Superintendent, Lewis & Clark School, Berthold) "It's been great. I've been driving bus in the mornings and when you pull up and see him parked there in a vehicle and everybody is driving slow. Everyone is cautious and you feel safe. It feels like a safe environment."

Chief Schmidt says he knew the best way to integrate into the community was to meet as many people as possible.

In Berthold, that means not missing an athletic event, lunch with elementary kids, and breakfast at the Tumbleweed Cafe.

(Casey Torgerson, Berthold Resident) "He came in and introduced himself. He let us know who he is and that he'd be around if we needed anything and that's a nice thing to know because with kids running around, there's a lot of people in town that we don't know."

(Chief Al Schmidt, Berthold Police Department) "Small towns are a little different than working in a big city because everybody knows everybody and it's a bit more relaxed. It's a lot friendlier."

(Sheriff Steve Kukowski, Ward County Sheriff's Department) "He's the eye and ears. He knows when we're looking for an individual, if we have a warrant out for somebody or something takes place. He establishes the confidence of the community. They trust him and they share that information with him. That's the big bridge builder because we can't be there all the time because we're in all different parts of the county."

As a lifelong North Dakota resident and with 17 years of various law enforcement experience including narcotics, Chief Schmidt has a big job here in Berthold.

He's building the police department from the ground up.

Berthold has hired a judge and a city attorney and along with the mayor, the team is building a new set of city ordinances.

(Chief Al Schmidt, Berthold Police Department) "It is a lot of work but it's rewarding because you know, when it's done, you started it and you had your hand in everything."

Sheriff Kukowski says the first year is expensive, which is why the Ward County Commission helped the city of Berthold out with one of their old SUV's.

Chief Schmidt takes calls from Minot Central, the same way Surrey and Burlington Police Departments do.

(Sheriff Steve Kukowski, Ward County Sheriff's Department) "He's already been very busy. He picked up a car load of illegal aliens. He worked with Border Patrol. He certainly proves the need in the community."

(Chief Al Schmidt, Berthold Police Department) "I'm meeting more and more people everyday and I've had nothing but positive experiences with the public. No negative experiences yet, not that that might not happen. But I think everyone is realizing that I'm fair and willing to work with the town as far as what they want for enforcement and I'm just here to help people out."

In Berthold, Jennifer Thorgramson, KX News.

Sheriff Kukowski says the extra help in surrounding towns is appreciated and he says police force expansions in Surrey and Burlington are being considered.

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