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Editorial: RF men and women in blue came through

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A perfect storm converged on River Falls last summer:

--On Friday, July 6, 2012, River Falls police were called to investigate what turned out to be a double knifing with a death and serious injury at an apartment building in the 200 block of West Cascade Avenue. After a lengthy investigation, the 18-year-old male suspect was eventually released. The district attorney said he acted in self-defense to protect himself and others against home intruders.

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--Four days later, on Tuesday, July 10, officers converged on a house east of the golf course at 2790 Morningside Ave. There, they found themselves in the midst of a gruesome triple murder that took the lives of three young sisters.

--And two days later, on July 12, River Falls Days got underway, the biggest community event of the year, one that requires extra policing.

With last week's conclusion of the Aaron Schaffhausen murder trial, River Falls police can return to a semblance of normalcy. That is, officers can return to the regular business of policing our community.

If you read the Journal's Police Beat each week, you get some idea that there's plenty for them to do. This week, aside from the usual arrests, there are four burglaries, including at the bowling alley, a car theft, a spate of auto vandalisms, and two search warrants that led to drug arrests and possible criminal charges.

What all of us should appreciate is that this typical police work went on for almost a year while extensive evidence gathering and preparation went on a parallel course for the Schaffhausen trial.

Roger Leque, River Falls police chief for 22 years, was modest when asked how his department got through this challenging period. He said the work required a superb, dedicated network from sheriff's deputies in both counties, Hudson and UW-River Falls police, River Falls Ambulance and Fire, St. Croix County district attorney's office, Wisconsin Department of Justice and various other agencies.

"It wasn't just one person, or a few, it was a massive effort on behalf of many," said Leque. Referring to the murder trial, he added: "We were determined to do our very best, to leave no stone unturned and to avoid making mistakes.

"Everyone did their jobs, but did so with their hearts breaking because of the nature of these crimes. We're happy it concluded the way it did -- the jury got it right."

Our police department also got it right, keeping our community functioning normally even while handling an abnormal amount of behind-the-scenes work. Be grateful, River Falls.

Crime and punishment

The Journal's online poll question this week asked: Should Wisconsin have the death penalty to address heinous crimes like the one Aaron Schaffhausen was convicted of?

Early results: YES, exactly why we need the death penalty: 75%; NO, taking a life is never justified: 25%. Add your vote by going to www.riverfallsjournal.com

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