SCA - Class 2
Hello and welcome back to the second class of the SCA!
Arriving at the Sheriff’s department a little before 6:30, Dad and I were let in “the back way” by a Sergeant. It was rather fun to see where the call center used to be. (Now it’s been moved to the County’s 9-1-1 center to save time and money.)
Our first instructor for the evening was Corporal Matt Terry. He works in the Courts Division as does the Sgt. who came in with us. I had never known much about the role the Sheriff’s department played in the courtrooms and courthouses until I attended this class.
One duty is the Courtroom Bailiff. You may think, as I did, that the Bailiff’s job is to keep order in the courtroom and take out anyone who is disrupting things. His job is much more than that! His first and foremost duty is to protect the judge. (That makes sense: no judge, no court.) His second duty is to make sure that everyone during a court session is safe. That means he has to protect the employees of the courtroom (prosecution, defense and clerks) as well as the public such as witnesses, defendants or even inmates who have been brought in. When court is not is session, the Bailiff’s duties continue with such things as contacting all the jurors for duty, responding to any incident with the courthouse, and “panic alarms” within the building. You may be asking what a “panic alarm” is. Well, it’s a movable alarm that can be placed anywhere and if there is a possible need for deputies, the button gets pushed which will then send a message through the radio telling which room of the courthouse the button was when it was pushed. “Most of the time,” Cpl. Terry told us, “the button gets pushed by accident. You know, the secretary will have it under her desk and bump it with her knee. Well, someone has to respond anyway.” The Bailiffs are also “cross-trained” (to use the Corporal’s own words) to help with the two other court divisions. When we were learning about the Bailiffs, we were shown a video of a shootout that happened in a small town in TX.
A reporter was in the courthouse during a court-session when suddenly loud pops were heard. It took everyone a moment to realize that it was someone shooting outside! The Bailiff’s first response was to grab on to the defendant and pull him to the floor. Everyone else quickly ducked behind anything available, except the reporter. He went to the window. (They were on the second floor.) Outside was a man with a gun shooting. It turns out that his wife was getting a divorce and he just lost it. He ended up shooting his wife and son as they tried to run to the courthouse for protection. The police, with handguns, tried to take care of the guy, but he just kept knocking them down. A call for backup went out and a sharpshooter grabbed his gun and headed out. He was the only one with something larger than a handgun. He knew that he had to get the guy before there were more causalities. As they neared the town square, he climbed on the hood of the police car with his gun held in readiness while another officer drove. (“I guess you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do,” Cpl. Terry remarked.) They were too late, however, for the man had just jumped into his truck and was making a get-away. The officer jumped into the car and a 6 to 1 car chase was on! The officer knew that if he could just get close enough to get a clear shot, he could take out the man, but there were other cars in the way. At last one police car narrowed the gap and the man began shooting. The policeman returned the shots before rear-ending the truck and then pulling off. The man jumped from his truck with his gun and continued shooting at the policeman. This was just what the sharpshooter was waiting for. In a moment he was beside the road and in another the man was down with one shot to the back of the head.
Cpl. Terry told us, “Don’t tell me that couldn’t happen here. We’d all like to think it couldn’t, but in reality, it could. That’s the mindset we have to take everyday as we go to work. Our jobs may seem slow and unimportant, but we never know when something like that is going to happen and we have to be ready for it.”
We heard who the judges were and who their Bailiffs were (I didn’t realize that each judge has one Bailiff.), and the Commissioner who works in the family court and also has a Bailiff. The Family Court handles all family cases such as adult & child orders, divorces and such. The judge does have to give his okay to finalize things, but it’s the Commissioner’s job to figure things out first.
Next we heard about the Courthouse Security. They are the ones relied on to keep all the employees of the courthouse safe as well as everyone who enters. They conduct the safety checks of the courthouse, they also check everyone who comes in so that they can deter any possible threats. So, the next time you have to go to the courthouse and have to leave all your knives behind and have your purse checked, be grateful those deputies are there!
Once we got to Civil Process, it was all new to me. These deputies may work more behind the scenes, but they have their full share of danger and responsibility! They take and deliver papers all over the county. Sometimes the papers are warrants, sometimes they are restraining orders, sometimes they are other things, but in most cases, no one wants them showing up on their doorsteps! Here’s a quick list of some of the things they do.
* Levy: When someone owes money (perhaps to the court) the deputy has a paper saying he is to seize a certain thing. Then that item (let’s say a car) gets stored someplace until it gets sold and the money that was paid is then turned over to the one waiting for payment.
* Replevin: That is turning over some property to a filing petitioner. (Maybe the person didn’t finish paying for their car and the car lot wants it back.)
* Ex-Parte: Those are adult and child restraining orders or taking the children to the other parent if the judge so ruled.
* Eviction: I don’t think I have to explain that one.
* Subpoena: A written order to appear in court.
* Garnishment: The deputy goes to a bank and closes out someone’s account for certain reasons.
Years ago all those delivering these papers traveled in their own cars and were not in uniform. Our former sheriff changed all that. Now they drive sheriff’s cars and wear uniforms, though sometimes they will wear plain clothes so as not to be quite so conspicuous. “One guy,” Sgt. Davis told us, “always wears plain clothes and delivers flowers with the paper. He’s never had someone refuse to answer the door.”
We took a five minute break then to stretch and enjoy some snacks before we learned about the crimes against animals.
Deputy Maggard was our speaker then and he told us, “I don’t mind talking one on one, but talking up here scares me to death!” This part of the class was a lot more informal and there were many questions. “We are the only Sheriff’s Department in the state who has an Animal Control unit,” he told us. And Deputy Maggard is it.
Unlike the cities which have animal ordinances, the county only follows the Missouri state laws concerning animals. Dep. Maggard informed us that he will not pick up animals (he gets lots of calls for stray dogs) unless the animal has bitten someone and they need to watch it. If there is a dog that is killing your chickens and you call the sheriff’s department, Dep. Maggard will tell you, “Shoot it.” The law says that if an animal is on your property and causing damage or making you feel threatened, you have the right to hunt it down and shoot it, even if it is your neighbor’s dog, unless your neighbor has put it on a chain or in a kennel. “Now,” the deputy told us, “I wouldn't recommend that you go and shoot the animal on your neighbor’s property though you can shoot it on your own. Then bury it and don’t tell anyone.” (Don’t try this in the city because they have different laws.) If the neighbors find out and try to sue you, you’ll win because of the state law.
Another common call is neglect of horses. Some lady bought two horses because it was “the thing” to have horses at your place, but she didn’t know a thing about them and when the deputy arrived they were nothing but skin and bones. He threatened to take the lady to jail (He can take people to jail for 24 hours, but he can’t do anything else.) and she said he could have the horses. Now the deputy can’t take animals himself, but he had some friends who had agreed to take any horses that needed new homes. So he made arrangements to come take the horses on Saturday. On Friday, the horses were listed on Craig’s list and a couple of teenagers from another part of the county came and got them. They also knew nothing about horses and put them in a pasture with lots of grass and hay. By Monday they were both dead. (So if you are going to get a horse, make sure you know what you’re doing.) We heard about the monkeys that someone had living in their house, about the alligators, snakes, foxes and skunks. We also heard that there is one older lady who has 30 indoor dogs and 20 outdoor dogs! Can you imagine that many dogs around? And he also told us about another older lady who has, yes, this is true, 70 small, indoor dogs! “It was cleaner outside than inside,” he told us. (Now, I like dogs, but that’s too many!)
There was lots of other talk about animals. Deputy Maggard told us that he always carries barb wire in his truck just in case there are cows on the road. He’ll put them back in a field and fix the fence before he leaves his bright pink paper on the gate telling the owners what happened.
Sgt. Davis laughed then and told us that there were cattle on the road one time when he was driving by. “I didn’t want to stop and try to get them in the field, so I just turned on my lights and sirens and headed straight towards them. They got off the road in a hurry!” There you go, a new way to herd cattle. :)
Class was officially dismissed at 8:45, but the Sgt. said he had the newest car outside if anyone wanted to see it. (The newest car for the department.) Dad and I, along with half a dozen other members of class, went out to take a look. The look turned into thirty-five minutes of talking. It was quite interesting. Did you know that since most patrol cars now have computers in them, when a 9-1-1 call goes out, it first goes over the radio, but then the details get sent by computer to those responding so that no one else can find out about it? And did you know that most patrolmen are taught to rely not on braking during a car chase, but on letting up on the gas and letting the car slow itself down? Then they still have brakes to stop the car when the bad guy’s brakes burn out.
There were many other things, little tid bits of information that we learned before we headed for home. It had been an enjoyable as well as very informative evening.
And that brings our second class to a close. Join me next week as we learn about the functions of a Patrol Officer, participate in traffic stop simulations and learn about DWIs. Until then, this is Rebekah.