Robert Running Shield, who was quoted in today’s story about the unsolved killing of Daniel Eastman, has had his share of run-ins with Sioux Falls police.
Like many of the chronically homeless in Sioux Falls, those run-ins consist largely of arrests for failure to vacate, municipal park violations or criminal trespass.
Those are petty offenses, and homeless folks are in greater danger of getting in trouble for committing them.
Sitting on a bench in a public park at midnight? You might be in for a municipal park ordinance violation.
Warming up at a convenience store without buying anything? You could be looking at a failure to vacate charge.
If you have unpaid fines from your last failure to vacate charge, you might have a warrant out for your arrest. That can land you in jail, too.
This summer, I wrote a few stories about the swelling jail population in Minnehaha County and the state’s outsized prison population. The former presented problems for Minnehaha County Sheriff Mike Milstead, the latter is a statewide issue being tackled by a task force under the direction of Gov. Dennis Daugaard.
Running Shield read the stories in the June 10 paper and took an interest in the mention of DUI saturation patrols and sweeps by the SFPD. He wrote the a letter to the Argus Leader, in which he said that attempting to stay on the right side of the law in certain areas of town can be like “walking through a minefield and you have to be on the lookout for police constantly.”
At the time, the letter was rejected for being too long.
I ran into Running Shield at a memorial dinner for Eastman last week, and he had a copy of it in his backpack. He handed it to me and encouraged me to “get it published.”
Given the undercurrent of mistrust between the transient population and police explored in today’s stories, it’s worth a read.