Thursday, May 05, 2011

Teller County Ride Along 2

If you haven't read yesterday's post, which is Part 1, scroll down. I'll wait.

One observation I forgot to stick in with traffic stops yesterday. The deputies have radar gizmos that they can point either in front or behind their vehicles, so they know how fast other cars are going. In most cases, it was a car going the other direction, which meant turning around to go after them. Now, we're riding on two lane mountain roads, and in a Ford Expedition, you're not going to be hanging any quick U-turns! Deputy Kennedy was adroit at 3 point turns, but now that he's assigned to that F-150, it'll take a bit more maneuvering for that pursuit.

Our day was quiet, which is a good thing, although I can understand the cops wanting a little more action. However, it gave me plenty of time to ask questions, and he was very good about answering them. He's part of the Emergency Response Team (think SWAT) and they practice 6 hours twice a month on top of their duties. Plus he does another practice as a patrol office, so skills are kept honed. Deputies work 4 days one week, then 5 the next. Shifts are about 11 hours each.

Most of his calls are either DUI or domestic violence. He says they might get one homicide a year in the county. They also respond to fire scenes. There's not much in the way of major drug problems like meth. It dropped down to almost zilch with the advent of medical marijuana.

Because things were quiet on the road, we stopped back at the office to check for "papers" to serve. (Not warrants; those are never done solo). When we got there, a woman was waiting to file a trespassing complaint, so Deputy Kennedy took her report. I was impressed by his patience and understanding attitude, and that he let her tell her entire story, which started 10 years ago. I'm not sure I have that kind of patience! But listening to him—more like watching him listen to her—is something that can be used as what I consider "flavor." Little details, things mentioned in passing, getting the terminology right.

After taking her information, Deputy Kennedy went down to Dispatch and had them check to be sure she didn't have any outstanding warrants. A detail I wouldn't have considered, so there's another piece of fodder for a scene.

We drove out to the property to check and document what she'd told us. We're talking dirt roads, no house numbers, just "go up to XXX, turn left, and it's about a quarter of a mile farther down, on the right."

The deputy stopped to speak to a neighbor, who was a classic, "I don't know anything, wish I could help you, and I'm tight with your superiors" kind of guy. More fodder.

Deputy Kennedy documented the scene using a small digital camera. At least they've moved up from Polaroids.

When we went to serve the first set of papers, there was nobody home, so we set out for the second house. But the vehicles aren't equipped with GPS units, remember. They rely on a map book. Trouble is, these books aren't all that up to date. The street in question wasn't in the index, and when he called to have Dispatch check, it didn't come up on their system either. I pulled out my phone, and checked the Maps app, and found that the street did indeed exist. However, on the tiny screen, it was impossible to pinpoint exactly where it was, since none of the few roads that showed up had names.

A quick stop back at the office for a little Google time, and we had a much better map. When it looked like we were getting close, we encountered a security gate. (And on a dirt road, these things seem very out of place). Deputy Kennedy had to call Dispatch for the gate code (they have these on record in case of emergencies—more fodder). And, to my surprise, he told them to send the code to his pager, because they don't want it out over the radio. Pager? I'd just spent who knows how long deleting pagers from my books! But he said all the Emergency Response Team deputies carry them. Trouble was, the page didn't come through, so he ended up using his cell phone, and we were fortunate enough to get a signal out there.

(Although these guys talk in acronyms and use the "phonetic" spelling when they're on the radio—quite a mouthful when spelling a complicated last name. And Deputy Kennedy did ask me if I'd heard one deputy using "beaver" for "B"—which is not the official term.)

All patrol units have call signals that start with "Paul" for "P" for "Patrol" and a number. However, your number isn't yours forever. You start at the bottom, and as people above you move out, you move up. Now there's a motive: "I want to be Paul ONE and I'm going to get rid of everyone above me!"

We stopped for dinner, and then Deputy Kennedy took me on a brief tour of the jail, where he'd worked for 4 months. Another fascinating place. Lots of locked doors before you could get inside, and lock boxes where the deputies have to leave all weapons. I learned what the different colored inmate "uniforms" meant, and chatted with the deputy who was watching the banks of monitors so he could see everything going on.

By now, it was almost dark, and since I still had to drive home, I ended my ride along. Definitely different from Orlando, but definitely filled with writing fodder, as well as the deputy's email address for specific questions. And, of course, respect for the job these deputies do.


Ray said...

Your observations today are very interesting. I grew up in a rural area in which the sheriff's department was responsible for policing. One village nearby had a permanent deputy, the only one I know of nearby. Now I live in Virginia Beach where the sheriff's department is responsible for the jail and serving warrants with a shared responsibility with the police department with community affairs.

What a fascinating ride along you had.


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Interesting! Glad you had an opportunity to ask some questions. An 11 hour shift and not much crime in the area! I bet that they do long for some action sometimes...

Elaine Baskin said...

That's a neat way to do research.

Sharon Hamilton said...

Learned a bunch, again. You know that most days (and we hope it is that way) where it is uneventful. And then the big stuff happens, like you said, once a year. They've got to deal with the mundane, all the time watching out for the big stuff.

Never heard that before about the numbers and letters. Thanks!

Terry Odell said...

Ray - here the deputies are responsible for the county, which includes the small "cities" tucked inside.

Elizabeth - I'm sure that whatever inspires someone to become a cop isn't "Oh, I want to drive around and do nothing for 11 hours a day, four days a week."

Elaine - first hand is always more fun.

Sharon - glad you're learning new things. Keep in mind that these can be specific to this county's policies.

Kari Wainwright said...

Thanks for sharing your experience, Terry. I found it useful and interesting.

Jenny Milchman said...

Such a great experience, Terry! Glad we could live it along with you. I'd like to try the same thing myself--how did you get this set up, if you don't mind my asking?

Terry Odell said...

Kari - two things I hope my readers get out of the blog. Glad it worked for you.

Jenny - just call your local law enforcement office and ask. Here, it's a matter of requesting it and filling out a simple form. (And they'll run a basic background check.)

Shannon said...

Awesome tale. Thanks for letting us know about it. So what do the different colours mean? Murderor? Trespasser?

Terry Odell said...

Shannon - thanks. And the colors (at least the ones I saw--who knows if they have more; I only saw the inmates in the day room and at a prayer meeting) represented "regular" and "workers"--those who worked in the kitchen, etc.

This is just a county jail, so no murderers here. (At least none serving time for murder. One never knows...)