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Grand Forks area police reflect on attack on Norman County deputy

When a Norman County sheriff’s deputy was shot Tuesday morning near Perley, Minn., it served as a reminder to Grand Forks-area law-enforcement officials of the importance of staying safe in the field.

Lt. Gary Grove of the Grand Forks County Sheriff’s Office said that when things like this happen, it feels like family.

“It’s sad,” he said. “We hate to see it and unfortunately, in this work, it happens too often.”

The incident near Perley began as a routine traffic stop but turned into an exchange of gunfire. Multiple agencies responded, including ones from Polk County and East Grand Forks. The Norman County deputy was ultimately taken to a Fargo hospital after being wounded.

One in 10

In the Midwest, 9.9 percent of law-enforcement officers were attacked in 2012 and 2.8 percent of officers were injured by their attackers, according to the latest data from the FBI. That compares with the national rates of 10.2 percent and 2.8 percent, respectively.

Of officers that were attacked nationwide, FBI data shows that 32.5 percent were responding to disturbance calls, such as domestic disputes, and 17.5 percent were attempting arrests. Traffic pursuits and stops, such as the Norman County incident, accounted for 8.4 percent of attacks.

Attacks can sometimes come from unexpected sources.

For example, East Grand Forks officers responded to what they thought was a medical emergency last week when a man had a seizure and drove off the road, according to police Sgt. Mike Anderson. The man tried to stab officers with a knife when they arrived on the scene.

Anderson said it “went from medical assistance to assault on a police officer in two seconds.”

Because of the danger, law-enforcement officers train and train again to defend themselves. All Grand Forks police officers, for example, complete a firearms course once every three months.

“Obviously we want everyone to be as safe as possible,” Lt. Brett Johnson said.

Reading a situation

Anderson said complacency is the biggest danger an officer can face.

“The longer you’re on the job, the better you get at reading the situation and being able to identify that a situation is turning for the worse,” he said.

Grand Forks police Lt. Dwight Love said one of the hardest parts of being a police officer is that every situation is different.

“Our officers are trained to respond to the types of behavior that could indicate risk for them,” he said. “It’s certainly a part of their training, but every situation is so fluid and ever-changing that you can never really predict what a suspect is going to do.”

Anna Burleson

Anna Burleson is the higher education reporter for The Grand Forks Herald. She is a 2013 graduate of the University of South Dakota's Mass Communication program and is originally from Watertown, S.D. Contact her with story ideas or tips by phone, email or Twitter, all of which are listed below. Examples of her work can be accessed here.

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