Archive for the ‘Police Procedure’ Category

PostHeaderIcon Small Town Police, Where Life Is Like A Box Of Turtles

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I snapped this image of a police chief’s badge and insignia while I was conducting the research for my book on police procedure. The model for the picture was Chief John Grote of the Yellow Springs Ohio Police Department.

The tiny village of Yellow Springs is nestled in Greene County, near Dayton and Springfield. The village is quaint and loaded with charm. The main street is home to an indie film theater, a silver shop, a stained glass shop, two independent book stores, and a single stop light. Further down the road is Young’s Dairy where you can enjoy homemade ice cream, pet the animals, and play a round of miniature golf.

A right turn off the main drag leads you to Antioch College, where Coretta Scott King received a BA in music and education. A left turn takes you past a smoke shop that features a huge array of bongs, pipes, incense, and tie-dyed clothing. A renowned artist lives in the neighborhood. So does comedian Dave Chappell.

Chief Grote, now retired, ran a very tight ship.

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Chief John Grote

His department, although not large, is top of the line. The officers are very well trained and extremely dedicated. The department is small, which means officers sometimes do double and triple duty. In fact, here’s a video of Chief Grote engaged in an activity you won’t see many chiefs doing very often. Believe me, he’s a fine police officer. The city officials made a fine choice when they hired him to head their police department.

I had the opportunity to hang out with the “guys” in the YSPD for a few days, and while doing so I sat in on a online sting operation. An officer posed (online) as a 14 year old girl while adult men from across the country attempted to solicit sex (online and in meetings). One such meeting was arranged, and the suspect, a police officer from a nearby town, was apprehended and charged.

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To nab sexual predators, a Yellow Springs officer visits an online chat-room as a 14-year-old girl. Within seconds he was bombarded with invitations to “connect” with adults. Many of the contacts included nude photos of adult men.

Yellow Springs has its share of “regular” crime—rapes, robberies, homicide, etc., but there seems to be an abnormal amount of abnormal calls answered by the patrol officers.

Each week, the village newspaper, as do many newspapers across the county, publishes the crime reports from the community. However, their crimes and the way the local paper reports them are quite a bit different. For example:

From The Best Of Yellow Springs Police Reports (the book):

- An outhouse at Ellis Pond was burned down Thursday of last week. 7/8/99

- A throw rug was set on fire Sunday while hanging on a tree at a West Center College Street residence, destroying the rug and charring a tree limb. 7/21/94

- A three-foot green alien valued at $10 was taken from a Livermore Street residence last Thursday or Friday. 10/24/0

- A man absconded with a box of turtles from the Trailside Museum Saturday. 5/15/97

- Police found that what sounded like someone trying to get into a Xenia Avenue residence at around 1:30 a.m. Thursday of last week was a neighbor dog attempting to visit the resident dog. 8/24/00

- A Whitehall Drive resident reported that someone had cut the blooms off the daffodils growing outside his home. 4/12/01

- A Marshall Street resident reported an abandoned black boys 10-speed bicycle. 11/21/02

- A …………. customer pumped $14 worth of gas Sunday, but only paid for $13. 4/19/01

- The right forearm, wrist and hand of a human skeleton were turned into the police station Friday. 8/10/9

- A concerned neighbor called police Sunday about an open front door to a South Walnut Street residence. When police arrived they closed the door. 2/21/02

- A mysterious “spill” on Fairfield Pike reported to police on Wednesday of last week, turned out to be rabbit food. 9/5/02

- A baggie containing white powder that was found near the Laundromat Monday and turned into police turned out to be detergent, not drugs. 10/26/00

- Suspicious looking mail reported Wednesday of last week by a local resident turned out to be a consumer survey. 11/15/01

- A West Davis Street resident had police catch a sick mouse in the backyard and wanted it tested for rabies. An officer contacted a local veterinarian and was told there were no active cases in the area. 8/2/01

PostHeaderIcon Inside Small Town Police Departments

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Murder, rape, robbery, abduction, guns, knives, sirens howling through the night, blue lights dancing and flickering across storefront glasses and weather-beaten brick. Officers here. Officers there. Chiefs. Sheriffs. Deputy Chiefs. Patrol cars lined up as far as the eye can see. Motor pools, annexes, sub-stations. A division for this. A division for that. Divisions for art theft. For fraud. For art theft fraud. One for bad checks. Fugitive apprehension. Booking. Transports. Going. Coming. Walking. Running. People talking. People yelling. People crying. Happy. Sad. Screaming. Shots fired!! Over here. There. Around that corner. In the alley, and… And, well, this is a typical day in a large police agency.

Large cities and counties often employ more police officers than the entire populations of some urban locales. For example, the California city of Cupertino, one of the wealthiest cities in the U.S. and home of Apple, Inc., has a population of just over 50,000 residents. New York City’s police force is staffed by nearly 50,000 employees.

Los Angeles County California is home to the world’s largest sheriff’s office. The LASD sheriff and his deputies are responsible for the safety of over 3 million residents, their jails house approximately 20,000 prisoners per day, and they handle everything from patrol to fire watch and everything between.

Small police agencies are also charged with a plethora of duties. However, many small town departments often face challenges a bit outside of the typical law enforcement box. For example, one small town police chief once described himself as a jack of all trades, with duties that included performing mechanical work—new brake shoes and oil changes—on the department’s police cars…both of them.

A town sergeant (equivalent of a chief) was not only responsible for arresting drunks and murderers (if any), he was also personally responsible for reading residential water meters and collecting curbside garbage once each week.

Another small town chief has no physical office, so he uses a desk in a corner of a country store. On a counter beside the arrest and crime reports sits jars of pickled eggs and pig feet.

I’ve visited many small town departments, and they operate just as any other department in the country. Sure, rules and policies may vary, and they often do. But the job is the same. A murder investigation is a murder investigation, whether it takes place in Chicago or in Doodlebop, Idaho.

However, there’s a huge difference between a large law enforcement agency and the small town and county cop shops, and that’s the personal connection between the officers and the residents.

Most small town chiefs and officers know residents by their first names. They know their family members. They went to school together. Their kids play on the same sports teams. Most of all, though, they understand the needs of their communities. They respect their citizens and the citizens respect them.

Speaking of respect, I have a bushel basket filled to the brim with respect for all small town officers and county deputies. Those men and women are quite often out there alone, handling the same types of violence seen in any big city in the country. The difference, though, is that the small town officers sometimes have no back-up. They go it alone, calling on the sheriff’s office or state police to help out in an emergency. And that life-saving help could be an hour away.

Facilities and equipment are also a challenge faced by small agencies. There are no huge sums of tax dollars and reserves to draw on, therefore, local leaders do the best they can with what they’ve got. For example:

Small Town, U.S.A. police chiefs are administrators, but they’re sometimes called upon for patrol duty, including answering calls and running radar.

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The local mayor may serve as a police investigator in a neighboring town.

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Property rooms are sometimes nothing more than a locked closet containing shelving from a local hardware store.

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Security for narcotics, cash, and other valuable items may also come in the form of a hardware store purchase.

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Property room officers may also serve double duty as dispatcher and public information officer.

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A communication officer may serve double duty as cashier for water bills and other municipal responsibilities. Probably some of the few places where citizens pay for dog licenses at a counter equipped with bullet-proof glass.

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Even courtrooms are on a smaller scale. In fact, some serve more than one purpose. For example, the judge’s “bench” may also serve as a desk for the police chief, when court’s not in session.

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Courtroom seating areas also serve as multi-function space—public meetings, community play practice, etc.

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Sometimes, an entire department consists of a staff of only one to three officers, if that many.

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So, please do think of the small town officers, the officers out there working alone where things could go from zero to totally wrong in the blink of an eye.

Imagine being by yourself when you stop a car driven by a known killer, a guy who’ll kill a cop quicker than the officer could say,”Help!”

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Writers, feel free to write small town agencies practically any way you choose. They operate in a world far different than their big city counterparts. Remember, though, the job is the same, but with no immediate help in an emergency situation.

 

 

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