Adventures in the Citizens’ Academy continue …

By Heather Rosenthal, Sonitrol Pacific Tacoma General Manager
Posted October 24, 2008

Well, another good training at the Thurston County Sheriff’s offices again last night. We had four different speakers come in, each with a different topic, and in every case we were all left wanting more when their time was up.

First to present was an employee with the Service Bureau where they handle everything from protections orders, restraining orders, anti-harassment orders, no contact orders and even evictions. She also told us about a couple of newer orders that they are now processing. One is a Sexual Assault protection order that protects victims from further incident of unwelcome or inappropriate touching. The other is a Vulnerable Adult protection order which someone can take out on behalf of another individual. She also explained the process of getting these orders, and the ways that they can be served. One thing that I learned, and seemed to surprise some of the other attendees too, is that if a protection order has been granted, there is no violation unless the order has actually been served.

Our next speaker was a detective with the Sex Offender Unit. His presentation began with a photo array of several people that are convicted sex offenders – all of which look like normal everyday folks. He explained the difference between the Level one, two and three offenders, and the requirements for registration and notification to the public. I was glad to learn that all states have sex offender registration laws, but surprised to find out that these laws only came into effect on February 28, 1990. What this means is that anyone convicted of this offense prior to the date of the law going into effect does not have to register. I also learned that many sex offenders will register as transient – meaning they have no place to live – even if they do have a residence, so that they are not notified upon. Of course if they are caught doing this, they go to jail. There is a whole list of requirements for sex offender registration, that if not followed will lead to a felony conviction. Another topic that he covered is how the Sheriff’s office performs risk assessments to classify the offenders, and what they use to determine when reclassifications are appropriate. All in all….very good info.

Next on the agenda was a detective with the Narcotics Task Force. He actually looked like a tall, bearded college guy – anyone you would see grabbing a cup of coffee at a Starbuck’s in Seattle. Not only did he have a presentation, he also passed around pictures to show us what Methamphetamine and Ecstasy looked like. The ecstasy pills were from an actual case they worked on and the pills looked just like a bag of fruit-flavored candy. On the streets they call it a “Skittles” bag. There were also some close-ups of actual pills, and what caught my eye is that some of them were stamped with logos – a crown and Louis Vuitton. He explained that many of the sellers do this because the “kids” buying them think that one particular logo might mean a more potent pill. He said they have seen everything from Nike logos, designer logos and car emblems – talk about Designer Drugs! He also provided us a handout with common drugs, their descriptions, effects and symptoms. The most interesting thing I learned – and there were many interesting things – is that the task force itself is funded (for the most part) from the monies seized from the drug busts. They also have a program where they can turn in some of the weapons for credit to purchase equipment. He said none of the guns seized are ever sold, or traded so that they make it back out on the street.

And then, to end the evening a detective with their Fraud Unit came by to scare everyone with the realities of identity theft, scams, counterfeiting and forgery. He also brought along a lot of props – checks, drivers licenses, credit cards – to show us what they look like and what to keep an eye on if we think we are presented with fake documents. The best thing I learned is that now when I purchase anything on line – or even in some stores – I am going to use my credit card instead of my debit card. He told us that if our credit card information is stolen and used, the credit card companies have to clear those charges off and not hold us responsible. It is a Federal Law. On the other hand, if we use our debit card and someone uses that information to deplete our account or purchase items, the banks do not have to. Another thing I really appreciated about his presentation is that he was really straight with everyone. He let us know that not even he is exempt from something like this happening to him.

Can you believe this, all in 2 and 1/2 hours! It was a marathon session…but I am having a great time!