Tuesday marked the beginning of the four-day North Dakota Peace Officers Association annual conference, held this year in Minot.
The conference, which was held in Jamestown last year, takes place usually in mid-August at a different regional point and serves as a way not only for law enforcement officers to network officially, but also to relax and get to know each other.
“It provides a good opportunity for officers to get together and train together and network. There’s fun events, there’s family events,” said Capt. John Klug, the captain of administration at the Minot Police Department, as well as part of the board of organizers who put together the schedule.
The Host Committee, which plans and hosts the event, is made up of all the local agencies where the event takes place. In this case, the police department, the Ward County Sheriff’s Department, local North Dakota Highway Patrol officers, members of probation and parole from the Minot area, and local Game & Fish officers.
“We each pick different things we can organize,” said Klug. “It makes sense that North Dakota Game & Fish would take care of the fishing derby. Everybody plays a part.”
On Tuesday there were two events geared more toward breaking the ice and allowing officers to relax. A fishing derby took place at Fort Stevenson and a pistol and tactical shoot took place at the Minot law enforcement outdoor shooting range west of Minot.
“You’re here just in time to see the Minot shooting team beat the Ward County shooting team,” said a Minot Police Department officer playfully to Capt. Mike Nason of the Sheriff’s Department just before the next round was set to begin at the range.
“No, no,” said Nason as they each began to pretend-bicker about rules and deductions in scoring the shoots. It was apparent that all the competitors knew each other at the pistol range, and presumably at the rifle and shotgun range downhill.
Other fun events include a golf outing, a run at Oak Park, a poker walk, a barbecue, and a banquet over the course of the conference.
“They can get together around something other than what we normally do,” Klug said. “Most of us are friends in one way or another and have met somewhere along the line. It just gives a good opportunity for everyone to come together and meet.”
There are also serious parts to the conference.
“The majority of the conference is held at the Sleep Inn and there’s vendors that come in and set up so you can see what products are available,” Klug said.
In addition to vendors, there will be training sessions on sex offender behavior, high-risk prisoner transport, a future technology of law enforcement presentation, and other events.
There will also be an officer safety and survivor mentality presentation by Bobby Smith, a former law-enforcement officer who was blinded and otherwise hurt following a traffic stop in which he was shot in the face with a shotgun. He has gone on to accomplish things for himself despite his tragedy. According to Klug, who had a hand in bringing Smith to the event, he is “someone who would bring a high-impact presentation to the conference.”
The conference closes on Friday and between 100 and 150 officers are expected to attend. A fixed number is impossible to determine based on the nature of their jobs and what resources departments would be able to part with for the duration of the conference.
“You might meet someone here that someday you’ll need a contact in Dickinson, or in some small agency somewhere and they were able to make this conference and you were able to meet that contact,” said Klug. “If you know a name and can put a face to it it’s a lot easier to pick up the phone and ask for what you need.”