Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Teller County Ride Along 1

What I'm reading: Secrets to Die For, by L.J. Sellers, Seize the Fire, by Laura Kinsale

Thanks so much to Helen for her fascinating post about literary salons. I'm sure everyone enjoyed that quick trip across the pond.

As promised, a recap of my ride along with a Teller County deputy. It's a long post, so it'll be spread over 2 days.

I chose the noon shift, since I didn't particularly want to be riding around in the dark. I arrived bearing the cookies I'd baked the day before. The clerk at the desk took them back to the deputies, and said they were pounced upon. I waited a few minutes, and Deputy Kennedy came for me. He gave me a quick tour of the building, and introduced me all around. I met the only Hawaiian deputy in Teller county. Deputy Kennedy introduced me as his "rider" although it took a while for it to register that he wasn't saying "writer."

Dispatch was "manned" by two women, one of whom was being trained. Everything goes through there. It was a far cry from the bustle of the Orlando Command Center I toured as part of their Civilian Police Academy, but the job they do is the same.

The interrogation room is much more "comfortable" than the one in Orlando. This one had a round table, chair, and even a small sofa. There was a camera in the ceiling, and the deputies could monitor questioning from their office. In Orlando, the room I looked at was sterile, with a small table bolted to the wall, 2 chairs, and no camera. If they wanted to video something, they brought in a human with a camera.

We headed out in a marked Ford Expedition, the typical patrol "car" up here. (I know the picture is a Ford F-150. The vehicle Deputy Kennedy normally used was in the shop, and he'd been rotating to a different car every shift. At the end of the day, he was assigned the truck as his 'new' regular vehicle. Since the rules said no pictures on the ride along, I took this one the next day when he stopped by.)

His routine is simply to drive all over the county, route of his choice, unless he gets a specific call. So, we headed out from the Sheriff's Department up into the mountains, toward Victor and Cripple Creek. Nothing wrong with the scenery, although there were more critters than cars. It was a beautiful sunny day, and we passed fields filled with prairie dogs and little gray ground squirrels. We must have seen a hundred deer.

We did a number of traffic stops (don't know why I keep saying "we", since I was merely a passenger!) for speeding. For the most part, unless they're doing something terribly wrong, he gives them a warning. When approaching a car for a traffic stop, the officer will come up from the rear and make sure the trunk is closed. Don't want any bad guys hiding in there.

(Note: the Sheriff was a guest at a property association Neighborhood Watch meeting, and he said the county makes very little money, if any, from ticketing drivers. They want to catch felons. For the most part, a warning to drive more carefully is the standard.)

Major difference between Orlando and up here: the deputies here have no computers in their cars. They have to radio the plates to Dispatch at their headquarters, and get the response as to whether the driver is licensed, insured, or has any outstanding warrants. Deputy Kennedy is looking for the warrant part.

The glitch in the system is that the radios don't always work well. I suppose deputies get used to "translating" the garble, but I couldn't understand a lot of it, simply due to poor reception.

They also don't have GPS units in their vehicles. The deputy will inform Dispatch where he is at any given moment (although up in the mountains, it's not exactly like saying, "the corner of Third and Main.") But given the remote location and the relatively limited numbers of patrol vehicles out at any given time, these guys are basically on their own, and backup can be far away.

(Another note: I noticed that although Deputy Kennedy wore a Kevlar vest, he didn't offer me one!)

Their latest dictate is to be more visible in the community, so they will drive through the various developments. In one neighborhood not too far from us, they'd been having a rash of burglaries and break-ins. The department saturated the area, giving out some traffic warnings, but the end result was that they've had virtually no problems since then. We came through our neighborhood, and found Hubster fishing at one of the lakes. Got to surprise him with a quick burst on the siren.

Come back tomorrow for the rest.


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Sounds like an interesting ride-along! I'm getting an image in my head of the communications radio sounding like a drive through window speaker...wonder how they can make sense of it all.

Terry Odell said...

Elizabeth - that's exactly what it sounded like at times.

Anonymous said...

Back in "the day" our radios wouldn't reach certain parts of the county, and that's the time when there were no cell phones. We didn't have portable radios (walkie-talkies), either. When we received calls from those areas we just crossed our fingers and hoped to come out on top of the trouble, because there was absolutely no way to call for backup.

By the way. I'm really glad you went on the ride-a-long and then wrote this article. Now more people will see that it's not all computers, fancy equipment, and DNA.

Terry Odell said...

Lee - thanks for your comments. Always an addition. Up here, there's only 1 cell phone provider with any semblance of decent coverage, and yet the county uses a different one. We compared bars as we drove through places.

Hope you come back tomorrow for the rest.

Jenny Milchman said...

Sounds so interesting, Terry--and I'm glad you didn't need a vest :)

Hart Johnson said...

I love that you can compare the urban, newer, lotta crime area with the slower paced, lower tech--so interesting to think about, as it is easy to assume everything is full tech (especially with TV), but I bet that is common.

Marti Verlander said...

You do get used to the radios eventually, so that you can understand what's said (unless it's drowned out by traffic or other backgbround noise). Of course, if the officer doesn't speak clearly, that makes it a bit harder. (I worked in law enforcement offices in high school and college.) We have one dispatcher nicknamed "Ten-Nine Vie" because she was always on the horn saying, "10-9?" which means "repeat that?"

Maryannwrites said...

Interesting post. Not many people may know how different it can be to work in a small department as opposed to one in a large city. I discovered that when researching my books, and I really enjoyed the time I spent with county sheriffs and deputies.

Terry Odell said...

Jenny - I was too! Although Deputy Kennedy suggested I try a Friday or Saturday night ride for more action.

Hart - television certainly colors our perception of reality, doesn't it?

Marti - thanks - I'm sure it's a matter of knowing what to expect as much as overall understanding - they have a basic 'formula' for reporting. And they don't use 10 codes in the county, although they do have other 'codes' that signal what's going on.

Maryann - the LEOs are very nice folks, aren't they?

Ciara said...

I've always wanted to do a ride along. That is so cool. :) I hope you learned a lot.

Ray said...

Perhaps you have readers in the county. Maybe the powers that be might decide an upgrade in equipment is warranted. It is odd how a little publicity will sometimes free up the purse strings.

Great blog.


Terry Odell said...

Ciara - definitely a learning experience

Ray - I think they have to write grants for upgrades. (And I wasn't sure if I'd have local readers--I did check with the deputy's commanding officer before I wrote the post, because I learned some stuff that probably would be better left out of the reach of the bad guys--not that they'd read my blog, but, once something hits the internet, it's there forever.)

Shannon said...

Thanks or sharing your experiences with us. I've always wanted to do a ride along but I'm far too shy to ask for one. Was it very hard to arrange?

Terry Odell said...

Shannon - here in Teller County, you just drop by the Sheriff's Department office and fill out a form. They'll run a basic background check--the same as what they do for anyone they stop for a traffic violation, and assuming you're not a criminal and don't have any warrants out, they call and set up the ride along.

In Orlando, I think they wanted you to be enrolled in the Civilian Police Academy (highly recommended experience) but here it's open to just about anyone, and they encourage participation.