SCA - Class 3
Hello, and welcome back to class three of the Jasper County Sheriff’s Citizens’ Academy. Learning about what the law does is not only interesting, but it also helps make better citizens. Join me now for another informative and fun SCA.
Sgt. Davis welcomed us all back and then introduced us to Sgt. Seth Chenault who was our instructor for the first half of the evening as we learned about the functions of the patrol division of the Sheriff’s department.
There are 28 patrolmen in the division and they are divided into four different shifts. Each shift has a sergeant and a corporal along with three deputies. There is a longer work week and a shorter one, so the men rotate. I found it interesting that there is a thirty minute overlap between the nightshift and the day shift.
“Before the county was divided into sections,” Sgt. Chenault told us, “those out on patrol would hang around the places where the most crimes took place, then, if a call came from another part of the county they’d all race over to see who could respond first. It would sometimes take thirty minutes to respond to a call. But now that the county is sectioned, each patrolman has his own area and our response time for calls is cut way down.”
“Usually when you hear about working in law enforcement, all you hear about is the exciting, fun stuff we do. Well, it’s not all fun and excitement. There is a lot of paperwork to do too.” After nearly every call the patrolman has to fill out a report on it. Those can take anywhere from 30 minutes to one and a half hours. And if they don’t write it down on the report, it didn’t happen. So they have to make sure they are very careful about remembering things. That’s also why they pull out their little notebooks and write information down. Since all the patrol cars have audio and videos, the patrolmen can use them for reference, and also every conversation they had with dispatch is recorded so they can recheck that.
One difference between the policemen and the deputy sheriffs is that each of the deputies on patrol has to act as a detective himself while the policemen call in detectives to work a crime scene. Since the sheriff’s department only has 12 detectives and there are an average of 45 burglaries a month, the detectives don’t have time to investigate each crime scene themselves.
After some more talk about the duties of the patrol officer, we were taken outside and Sgt. Chenault showed us his patrol car. It was quite interesting. He showed us his computer and even logged in so we could see what some of the other patrolmen were doing. One was on a burglary and another was on his way to assist with it. Sgt. Chenault said he has his computer set to tell him everything so he doesn’t have to read it while driving. It will tell him where the house is and how to get there, along with any information he should know such as house color, if there have been crimes there before, how many people live there and so on.
The video cameras the car has will turn on any time the lights and sirens get turned on, if the car is driven above a certain speed, or if there is a collision. And the patrolman has no ability to chang anything. Once they pull back into headquarters the video gets downloaded immediately by some device. That way if there is some dispute, there is no way the deputy could have tampered with the evidence. “It really helps keep us honest,” the Sgt. told us.
We were shown a few other things about the car and were even shown one of the motorcycles. Sgt. Chenault said, “There is a 60% failure rate for the motorcycle test, so not many of us can drive them. You crash so many times on these things. I ended up breaking something and having to have surgery, but I passed.” He shook his head and added, “Never again would I take the test! It’s really tough.”
Heading inside, we changed instructors for Sgt. John Hicks who is in charge of the DWI (Driving While Intoxicated) team. He told us his passion for arresting DWIs came after he was at the scene of an accident caused by a drunk driver. The driver had crashed into a car and killed an 18-year-old girl and then was complaining because the deputy was taking him to jail. “He took her right to live away by the choices he made,” Sgt. Hicks said. “It was at that time that I became passionate about getting drunk drivers off the streets. I realize that every arrest I make may save a life.”
After showing us a video of a DWI stop, he went over the tests they use. His favorite is the “Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test.” He did each of these tests on a member of the class.
“Imagine your eyes as marbles,” he told us. “They should roll easily from one side to the other. Now, if you have been drinking, your eyes are going to become jerky and not roll smoothly when you move them to look at something. It would be as though someone sprinkled salt on the table and then tried to roll a marble across it. It wouldn’t roll very well.”
The second test was the walk-and-turn or walking a straight line test. I got chosen to do that one. It’s not as easy as it looks to stand with your right foot directly in front of your left with your heel touching your toes then have to take 9 heel to toe steps, turn on your left foot and take 9 steps back, but I was told I did very well. (Whew!)
The one-leg stand was the next test. That’s pretty easy. Well, for the most part anyway. “I always ask if the person has any trouble with their legs, ankles or back before I start the tests,” Sgt. Hicks said. “Because if they do have a problem, they may not be able to do the test.”
If for some reason the person can’t do the walk-and-turn test or the one-leg stand, they might be given one of the other tests. Can you say the alphabet from E-P? (Most drunks can’t.) Can you count backwards from 77-56? (Drunks haven’t a clue how to do it. They can’t focus on anything.)
Sgt. Hicks then went over how expensive it can be if you get just one DWI arrest. The fine itself is $1,000.00 not to mention the bond of $1,500.00 -$3,500.00 just to ensure that you will be at court, the attorney fees which start at $1,500.00, plus your rise in insurance and all the other things you may have to pay for. It’s really expensive! So, my advice to you is stay far away from drinking anything which could intoxicate!
The last thing we did in class was to try on the “intoxicating glasses.” (I’m not sure what he called them, but that’s pretty much what they were.) When you wear them it looks like it would look if you were intoxicated to the lowest level. Boy, does it make things strange! He had us all take turns trying them on and then walking across the room. No one could walk straight! You think you are going straight, but the room seems to turn and the floor moves. No wonder drunk drivers are all over the road!
Here is a little tid-bit of information for you. On a Friday or Saturday night, one out of every seven cars you see on the road is driven by an impaired driver. And that is everywhere across the U.S.
Our class ended at 9:00 and shortly after that, we headed home.
I hope you have enjoyed this informative class and will come back next week as we learn about dangerous drugs. Until then, this is Rebekah. Thanks for joining me.