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Night and day: For police, there's two sides to Grand Forks

Officer Brandis LaFrombois pulls over a driver Tuesday afternoon for expired tabs while on patrol along South 34th Street in Grand Forks, N.D. (Jesse Trelstad/Grand Forks Herald) 1 / 2
Cpl. Justin Holweger shakes hands with a young man at Joe Black's bar in downtown Grand Forks while working a night patrol in the early hours of July 7. (Andrew Hazzard/ Grand Forks Herald)2 / 2

Officer Brandis LaFrombois began to drive fast.

It was late in the morning in mid-April, and LaFrombois, a patrol officer with the Grand Forks Police Department, just received a dispatch about a fifth grader who was missing from Discovery Elementary School. Apparently she had wandered off during recess

She drove toward Target on 32nd Avenue South. Someone thought she might have been headed there. After a morning largely spent patrolling her sector on the southside of town, pulling people over for expired tags, this was something that required urgency. After arriving at the store she did a lap, looking for a little girl in a pink raincoat, asking anyone if they'd seen her. No luck. As she began driving around the area, she got a radio call: the girl had been found at Walmart. She was OK.

"The hard part with children is to get them to remain calm, and make them realize that they're not in trouble," LaFrombois said.

Police routinely patrol given areas. For LaFrombois that day, it was a large swath of the south end of town from Belmont Road to Interstate 29, but when something happens, many units converge and help.

While the days can largely consist of traffic enforcement, there's never really a normal shift. Officers may end up taking stolen property reports, interviewing witnesses, helping serve a warrant or even chasing a suspect all the way to Thompson, N.D., 10 miles away.

Policing is mainly about talking to people, usually when those people are at a low point in their day or sometimes their lives. Oftentimes it's dealing with people in domestic disputes; many times alcohol or other substance abuse is involved. It's not always fun stuff to deal with.

'It's hard as a officer sometimes to not take things home from the call," LaFrombois said.

Day shifts are rarely normal, but night shifts are even more unpredictable.

For Cpl. Justin Holweger, the shift is a little bit of everything. Holweger is assigned to the department's specialized resource bureau, and instead of patrolling a given sector, he spends 10 p.m. to 8 a.m. being wherever he is needed.

On an evening in early July, Holweger is dispatched back to the police station. It's almost midnight, and a woman wanted to make a fraud report. An old friend had asked her to cash a $600 check, and she gave her the cash up front, but the check bounced and now the old friend was flaking out on meetings to pay her back.

Holweger listened and took notes. He explained to the woman the matter wasn't exactly criminal: she lent the money; it wasn't stolen. But explained to her the process of starting a civil claim against the woman in an attempt to get the money back.

He found out the check she received was in the name of her friend's boyfriend and looked up his name in the records. A phone number came up, and Holweger gave him a ring. It was almost midnight, but the man answered. He said his girlfriend shouldn't be writing checks in his name and asked what he could do about it.

The man texted Holweger until about 1:45 a.m., asking for advice. Holweger speculated the man might be in on the deal, but that would be extremely hard to prove.

"I think it's worth filing a report," Holweger said, and he did, though he knows it's a hard case for a detective to follow.

Holweger enjoys the interaction aspect of the job. He started off as a nurse out of college, but quickly found that wasn't to his liking.

"I was always interested in law enforcement," he said.

In 2012, he took extra certification courses and became the department's lead negotiator for situations such as suicide calls or barricaded subjects.

"It's basically talking 101," he said.

'How much is a fake now?'

A fake ID call rarely requires multiple officers, but in the early hours of July 7, Holweger is called to assist other officers called to a downtown bar. A young man with a fake ID was allegedly trying to give the dispatched officer the slip.

While they wait, Holweger, who grew up in Grand Forks and graduated from UND, is greeted by several in the bar. He used to be the school resource officer at Red River High School, his alma mater, and many of the kids he once saw in the halls are now of legal drinking age.

Eventually, the young man ended up in the back of a police cruiser while an officer worked on his ticket. His of-age friends followed and lit up cigarettes, talking animatedly with officers about their own underage transgressions.

"How much is a fake now?" Cpl. Brandon Eberhadt asked the man's older cousin.

The underage man, now resigned to his fate, leans his head out the window to say it was $200.

The officers took his fake ID and gave him a ticket, but let a relative pick him up.

"I appreciate you not taking me to jail," the man told police, shaking their hands after being let out of the vehicle.