Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Civilian Police Academy - Class 3 Part 1

What I'm Reading: The Last Cavalier by Heather Graham. Goal, Motivation & Conflict by Deb Dixon.

What I'm Writing: Chapter 27

Our first segment last night was about the Dive Team. With over 1100 bodies of water in the county, there's a tremendous amount of territory to cover. The Sheriff's Office has 28 members of the dive team, but they're on call and are all part of other departments. Because of the hazards of pollutants --everything from chemical runoff that has built up in the silt to algae blooms, amoebas, and nasty stuff from decomposing bodies, the team now dives in dry suits with a positive pressure air supply in a full face mask. Not your typical vision of recreational SCUBA divers.

The most interesting thing was that they dive 'blind'. Sgt. Pearson referred to it as "Braille Diving." The silt on the bottom of the local lakes is such that anything that goes to the bottom is buried, and trying to look for anything is impossible, because as soon as you touch it, mushroom clouds of silt (and its pollutants) rise, making visibility zero.

They are a 'search and recover' team; by the time they are called, it's too late to rescue. This makes that aspect of their job depressing. Descriptions of the various search patterns used brought home how thoroughly they search--teams diving shoulder-to-shoulder, feeling through whatever is at the bottom of the lake--logs, weeds, 8 inches of silt, in order to locate whatever they're looking for. He told us of being sent to retrieve a gun someone had thrown off a backyard dock. The dive team found it, turned it in to forensics, and that was that. Until they got a call saying it was the wrong gun. So, they went back. Three guns later, they found the one they had been sent for.

Technology, such as SONAR, is available to some extent--but it's expensive and has its own limitations. They use cadaver dogs when looking for bodies, but they're less effective than when searching on land.

We also got our applications to do a Ride-Along now that we've finished 3 classes. I found the release form fascinating. It says (among many other paragraphs): "I understand and accept all risks, including but not limited to slip and fall, traffic accidents, stray bullets and physical attacks."

Never thought I'd see "slip and fall" in the same risk category as "stray bullets."

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