Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Civilian Police Academy - Alphabet Soup

What I'm reading: Take Me Tonight by Roxanne St. Claire, part of her Bullet Catcher series.

What I'm writing: End of Chapter 31 (slowdown due to research)

I had my first booksigning, which was great fun. The staff at Barnes & Noble was great, and I felt just like a "real" author. I have a few books left over -- email me if you want an autographed copy of Rose Petals.

Last night, we got to see the new org chart for the Sheriff's Office. They've streamlined departments based on recommendations from an outside consulting firm, but the SO was pleased to know that the study showed what they already knew: they're lean, lean, lean, and there's not much to cut in the way of personnel. It's mostly how they line up on the chart and who they report to.

We also had a short talk by the Media representative. I've had some experience, second-hand, but I have to agree that while his assignment, to increase honest communication between all media and the Sheriff's Office has vastly improved things over the past 10 years, I still believe that for the most part, the media's philosophy is, "Never let the truth get in the way of a good story." They all -- radio, print and television -- report to the almighty dollar, and what they choose to report and the way they choose to report it colors our perception of what's happening in the world.

Rather than go into all the individual programs or all the acronyms they hit us with last week, I'll simply stress the point they drove home. An ounce of prevention is what they're all about. If they can turn even one child from crime, teach him/her how to make good choices, then they've saved heartbreak for so many others. Crimes have victims, victims have families, as do the criminals. Our final speaker, the Great One (his call sign comes from the fact that his program is "G.R.E.A.T" and he's the supervisor, so he's "1" according to the SO's system) said when he worked narcotics he made over 1000 arrests. But he never 'turned' anyone. Working with the kids, he has the chance to stop something before it snowballs.

These deputies work our overcrowded schools, getting to know the kids, developing trust. As they say, when the kids trust them, they're willing to come up and tell the deputy that Jimmy has crack in his backpack. The scary thing was the statistics he showed for felonies even at the elementary school level.

Coming in the wake of Blacksburg, these school officers have quite the responsibility. Like all law enforcement officers, they run TOWARD gunshots.

And a quick segue back to the media. A news crew showed up at a Friday Night Basketball event, something run by the Police Athletic League, saying they wanted to show a positive story about what the police were doing for the youth in the community. Only trouble is, when it aired, the slant was "what a waste of deputies, out here playing basketball with the kids instead of being out on the streets catching bad guys."

I don't begrudge them one single deputy. The number of deputies working the schools looks large on an org chart, but there are only 1 or 2 deputies at any given school, and the population of some of these schools is as much as a town. How much better to keep future bad guys from ever existing.

We ended with a video -- not of a 'success story' but of someone for whom the GREAT program didn't work. By 17, he was in a gang, involved in drugs and home invasions. He's serving two consecutive life sentences plus 15 years for murder. But maybe the kids who see the video will understand a little more about what it means to make that kind of choices.

That's it for last night's class. Tomorrow I'm off to Miami for SleuthFest -- I'll have a report when I get back next week.

2 comments:

Carol Ann Erhardt said...

Hope you have a wonderful time at Sleuthfest!

Carol Ann

Terry said...

Thanks, Carol Ann -- so far, it's been great fun learning from so many 'names on spines.'