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Citizen patrols to back up officers will hinder peace efforts, police say

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A citizen movement to aid police in their efforts to control protesters by organizing armed patrols will be a hindrance, a Midwestern police force spokesman said Monday.

“We appreciate any support for law enforcement, but we want to be able to do our job, and we don’t want anybody to try to do our job,” Lt. Andy Becker told the Rapid City Journal Monday morning.

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The police believe armed civilian patrols could encourage protesters who had no plans to show up, Becker said. Instead, he discouraged armed citizens from helping, especially if any violent protests occur.

“We need to be able to do our job, to contain the problem and issue, and having folks threatening to take matters into their own hand actually only makes it harder for us to do the job.”

—  Lt. Andy Becker, Rapid City Police Department community relations specialist

Becker spoke to the newspaper as a crowd of protesters – some carrying weapons – began to gather around 11 a.m. local time at a local mall.

The group, now 5,500 members since being established Sunday, expressed concern about the protesters – such as whether the protesters’ group included people from out of state and had arrived in caravans of cars and buses, the report said.

However, rumors of busloads of out-of-town protesters were false. The city’s police chief said law enforcement monitored for buses but found no evidence of them, according to a Twitter post from reporter Jeremy Fugleberg.

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The mall shut down around 12:45 p.m., according to its Facebook Page. In addition, some downtown business owners prepared for riots after being advised to do so by the police department.

During the meeting of the armed patrols group outside the mall, people said they were upset about the killing of George Floyd, saying they support peaceful protests but are against rioting and wanted to show their support for law enforcement, the Journal reported.

A police spokesman in Rapid City, S.D., is asking armed citizens to avoid helping police do their jobs, saying such groups hinder police efforts to control protesters.

A police spokesman in Rapid City, S.D., is asking armed citizens to avoid helping police do their jobs, saying such groups hinder police efforts to control protesters.

The Defend RCPD/Rapid City Facebook group was founded by Kenneth Dirk, 38, from Rapid City, who spoke out against Derek Chauvin, the Minneapolis police officer who is accused of Floyd’s death.

“If you talk to anybody in the country, that was wrong,” Dirk said.

Dirk said he supports peaceful but not violent protests, adding he saw a video from Sioux Falls of people talking about wanting to come riot in Rapid City.

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“That sparks a concern because I don’t want to see that happen here,” he said.

Becker said the Rapid City Police Department feels the same way about peaceful protests and. riots.

“They have every right to be peaceful and protest about the [Floyd] incident if they’re feeling hurt,” he said. “We just don’t want it to escalate like it has in other cities.”

Dirk said his plan was to stand in front of law enforcement in the event of a riot, the newspaper reported. He mentioned footage of unarmed protesters doing the same in Sioux Falls as some other protesters began to throw rocks at officers. Dirk, who claims to be always armed, said he would bring his gun with him.

He wants law enforcement to know “they’re not alone,” he told the Journal.

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