SCA - Class 1
Welcome to the Sheriff’s Citizens’ Academy (SCA). Thanks for joining me, my name is Rebekah and I’ll be your guide as we attend the SCA this fall. I hope you are ready for a great time because the schedule is full of interesting topics and exciting, hands-on experiences! Come with me now for the first class.
Arriving at the sheriff’s department, Dad and I walked in and joined several others at the tables. When the late comers arrived we had a good sized group of 14 (and three participants couldn’t make it that night). Sgt. Craig Davis informed us later that last year’s fall class had only three people attending it. He said, “I was thinking of not holding one in the fall any more, but the sheriff urged me to do one more. I’m glad I did.” (So are we, Sergeant.)
After briefly introducing himself, the Sgt. called Sheriff Randee Kaiser up. (I’d met Sheriff Kaiser a few times before since I’d been involved with political campaigns last fall and helped him get elected.) The sheriff had us all introduce ourselves and after I had finished he asked, “You couldn’t get Jimmy (my brother) to come?” I shook my head. “Why not?” When I told him he was too busy, he just shook his head a little sadly.
As soon as introductions were over, the sheriff told a little about his background and how he came to be working with law enforcement when he had a degree in photo journalism. It was the encouragement of a former sheriff that finally made him try for a position and he got the job. I guess that just goes to show that you don’t have to have a degree in criminal justice to become a sheriff!
Sheriff Kaiser told us, “The first thing I did after taking office was to assemble those working in the department and told them what three things I was expecting of them. Well, I could only get half of them in the room on January 2nd, the other half I told on the 3rd.” The first thing he expected of every emploee in the sheriff’s department is work. “That’s pretty self-explanatory, but if you come to work for an eight-hour shift, I expect you to work a full eight hours.”
Second was that all persons were to be treated with respect: fellow members of the department, citizens, even the guys you have to bring in. “There were some incredulous looks when I mentioned treating even criminals with respect, but I mean it,” the sheriff said. “Now there are times when there is a situation that requires physical force to take care of someone, but once the person is in handcuffs and the situation is neutralized, we don’t yell at the person, we don’t shout at him and shove him around, we go back to treating him with respect and dignity.”
The third thing was not to do anything to make the sheriff’s department look bad. “Think about it,” Sheriff Kaiser said, “if your neighbor down the street who works in a factory gets into a fist fight at the bar one night, are you going to think twice about it? Probably not. But suppose a deputy sheriff who is off duty gets into a fist fight at the bar, what then?” It’s true, that badge stands for something to honor and respect, whether or not the person who wears it is on duty or not.
Then we got a little history of the sheriff’s department and how it has changed over the years from a political position until the 50s, to the 60s-80s where the sheriff only responded to calls, and then from the 90s to now where many sheriffs are working towards community policing and getting connected with the people in the counties.
Do you know what invention was the most influential in separating the sheriff from the citizens? If you guessed the automobile, you are correct. Think about it. Before they had cars, the sheriff and deputies walked. (Remember the stories you used to read about the policeman walking his beat?) The lawmen would stop and chat with people. Mr. Smith might tell him about the two young guys who hung around in the alley behind his store everyday at three o’clock and that he was sure they were up to no good. Well, the sheriff would then just happen to be passing the alley about three o’clock and see the fellows messing around. He might give them a lecture and send them home. After they started driving cars, it wasn’t easy to just stop and chat with people. They might still wave, at least until those dark tinted windows came along. Sheriff Kaiser does not like tinted windows and any new vehicles that come to the sheriff’s department while he’s in office will not be getting them! I second that. I’ve never liked vehicles that have such dark windows that you can’t see if anyone is even in them.
Since there is such distance between the sheriffs of today and the citizens, Sheriff Kaiser has devised a plan to remedy the situation. He has already tried it out in a part of the county (the part with the highest crime rate) with great success. Each deputy working the designated area was given 10 houses along his route. At each of these houses, he stopped and knocked on the door, introduced himself and asked if there was anything that he could help them with. Was anything concerning them? Had anything been happening that brought them worry? On one lane, every person the deputy talked to complained about a business at the end of the road, saying that those coming or going would speed on the street. The residents were concerned for the safety of their children and pets. So, the deputy walked down and talked to the owner of the business. The owner immediately said that was not something that he would tolerate and at once told him employees that if they wanted to keep their jobs there was to be no more speeding. Problem solved.
“The crime rate in the area that we did has dropped 60%,” Sheriff Kaiser told us. “And the fear of crimes has dropped 31%.” Hmm, what would happen if every sheriff and deputy started making contact with the residents in their patrol?
Just what does the sheriff’s department do? Well, here is a quick list. I won’t go into much detail as that would take too long.
* Staff and manage the jail
* Answer calls for service 24/7
* Are the security for two Courthouses
* Are bailiffs for six courtrooms
* Serve or deliver court orders such as summons and subpoenas
* Go and get wanted criminals from every state in the nation (That’s a lot of traveling!)
* Take prisoners to and from prison
* Organize the Neighborhood Watch and Safety programs (There’s that connecting with the citizens again.)
* Provide services for schools like D.A.R.E and SRO
* They also organize and participate in different task forces and law enforcement coalitions. (It doesn’t sound like those in the sheriff’s department just sit around all day waiting for someone to call them.)
One of the task forces the Jasper County Sheriff’s department is involved in is called The Tri-State Major Case Squad.
Picture this: A major crime has just been committed in the county. The sheriff and his deputies have rushed to the scene but there are so many clues, so many leads, so many things to do, and so few people to do it that it’s going to take days, weeks even to scratch the surface. What do they do? They put in a call to the Tri-State Major Case Squad. Within an hour they have 70 detectives on the scene from the surrounding counties including counties in Kansas and Oklahoma. Now suddenly all those clues, all those leads, all those things to do can be done in a very short amount of time. I could tell you a story about how it actually worked. Would you like that?
In Jasper county a double homicide (That’s a murder for those of you who don’t know.) was committed, the car stolen and the house set on fire. There were no leads. Nothing to go off of. The couple who was killed had been well liked, had been a part of the community and it made no sense that someone would do this. Well, the call went out for help and soon detectives and deputies were everywhere. They began to knock on neighbor’s doors and ask questions, trying to find a lead, a clue, anything. At last it was discovered that a year ago, the murdered couple had let a lady live in their house for a while. It was also discovered that the lady and her son had moved several blocks away. With nothing else to go on, two deputies paid the house a visit. Upon asking for the lady, they were told that yes, she did live there but wasn’t at home right then. They asked to speak with her son in hopes of uncovering something. “He’s not here either,” the person at the door replied, and then added, “but that’s him coming down the sidewalk.”
The deputies turned and saw the young man approaching with a toolbox in his hand. Quickly they stepped off the porch and started walking towards the guy. “Excuse us, we’d like to talk to you a minute,” they said to the young man.
The man looked up, turned on his heel and began to walk away. (“Now that’s what we call a clue,” Sheriff Kaiser told us.) It turns out that the toolbox the man was carrying was full of rings and jewelry that had been stolen before the house had been set on fire.
If there had not been so many detectives working on the case, it would have taken at least two weeks before they could have made that connection, and who knows where that person would have been by then. (Sorry, the sheriff didn’t tell us if the young man was the only one involved or the reason he had for committing the murder.)
There was more talk about the department and what they do. We talked about Conceal and Carry, about K-9s and other things which we will cover in other classes. We ended around 8:30 this time instead of 9:00. People stood around and visited a bit before we all headed for home.
I hope you have enjoyed this first report. I know it is rather long, but I could have made it longer. I hope you will join me next week as we explore the Operations of our Court House and take a look at crimes against animals. Until next time, this is Rebekah. Thanks for joining me.