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Police plan 12 hour shifts for eclipse

Aug 13, 2017 By Daniel Bendtsen, Staff Writer

The four-day period from Aug. 18 through Aug. 21 is targeted for extra attention from all public agencies.

No local law enforcement officers will get the day off Aug. 21 to enjoy the total solar eclipse passing through Fremont County.

Both the Fremont County Sheriff's Office and the Riverton Police Department have prepared to have all their officers work 12 hours shifts for four days leading up to the event as visitors begin flocking to the Wind River Basin.

"We're planning for the worst case scenarios for everything we can think of, from snakebites to heat and trespassing," Sheriff Skip Hornecker told the Fremont County Commission on Tuesday.

He said the influx of visitors means his office will also need to prioritize calls for service.

"Low priorities like VIN checks -- we probably won't get to," he said.

RPD chief Eric Murphy said his officers will take a similar approach, spending less time arresting people for small misdemeanors or warrants during the busy period.

"We will really go into a customer service mode for those four days," he said, referring to Friday through Monday, Aug. 18-21.

Riverton police will staff a medical tent in front of City Hall, 816 N. Federal Blvd., where employees from SageWest Health Care will help care for minor injuries.

Another tent will be located in the public parking lot off of Main Street.

"We really want to keep some people out of the ER," Murphy said.

He is worried that the city's streets may not be able to handle the increased amount of traffic that is expected leading up to and after the eclipse. As a result, Murphy is planning for an enhanced police presence in a two-block area downtown.

There will be increased patrols in City Park as well, including police on bicycles and horseback.

To help officers who are working long shifts, Murphy and RPD Capt. Todd Byerly will be cooking food behind City Hall, where police can take a quick break and get a blast of air conditioning before heading back out on patrol.

"I can cook a pretty mean hamburger, so it should be pretty good," Murphy said.

PIO

Local courts are expected to close on the day of the eclipse, and Hornecker said he will be using his court security officers to help patrol the county. Deputies will essentially work in the conditions they do during "a big fire," he said.

"Employees will come in in the morning, get a sack lunch, and a lot of water - both for them and the public they'll run into to," he said.

Shoshoni and Pavillion, which both lie near the center of the eclipse's path of totality, both will be primary areas for patrol from the Sheriff's office, especially since Pavillion has no police presence of its own. In addition, the Bureau of Land Management, which usually only has one ranger available to handle issues on its land in the county, will have four to six rangers on hand.

The main command for FCSO operations will be based out of the Riverton office, where Hornecker expects to play the role of public information officer. For communications he thinks officials may need to revert to their old systems, as cell service and Wyolink -- the modern dispatch system -- might be unreliable due to the presence of so many people.

Hornecker is hopeful the 12-hour shifts will end after Aug. 21, but they could be extended if visitors don't leave right away.

"By that time, we'll know how many people we have here," he said. "Right now, we're guessing."

RPD Lt. Wes Romero echoed Hornecker's desire for the crowds to clear out quickly.

"Hopefully by the 22nd everyone will get back to normal," he said. "(People) will come to watch the 2-minute eclipse then be gone."

-Staff Writer Katie Roenigk

contributed to this report

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2017-10-22

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