Dive Teams and Texting and K9s, oh my

By Heather Rosenthal, Sonitrol Pacific Tacoma General Manager
Posted October 31, 2008

This week at the Thurston County Sheriff’s Citizen’s Academy we were invited to come to class early to meet with some of the folks that work on their Dive, Swift Water, and Ropes teams. They had examples of the gear they wear to show the group, as well as their van with all of the equipment they use for different missions. In addition, one of the officers had his patrol car there open so we could see the inside. Alas, there were no keys, or I would have been able to report on the speed and maneuvering of the vehicle as well.

Back upstairs in the meeting room, our first speaker for the evening was one of the officers on the Patrol Division. He explained how they run 3 shifts that overlap with at least one Supervisor and from 6-7 deputies each shift. He said that they patrol an area that is about 700 square miles and average 200-250 calls per day – that’s over 90 thousand calls a year! He said that most of their calls are regarding domestic violence, theft, fraud and vehicle prowls. One statistic that he shared is that over 80% of the vehicle prowls they are called out on happen at night while the vehicle was unlocked. Of course … you all know what he urged us to do next – lock our cars. Another thing he shared with us is that they do of course patrol the roads looking for offenders, but that there is no truth to the fact that they have ticket writing quotas to meet. He also wanted to clear up the cell phone text vs. talking questions many had. Texting is a primary offense while talking on the phone is a secondary offense. Finally, he wanted to make sure that we were aware of the on-line reporting process they have in place where 9 different types of crimes can be reported and assigned a case # right away. He said that this is helpful to citizens needing a case # for insurance reporting, and can help free up their phone lines for incidents requiring more immediate attention.

Our next speaker was a deputy from the K-9 unit . He’s been with the Sheriff’s office for many years, but he just started as a K-9 handler within the past year. He said that it has been a life-long dream of his. Along with him, he brought his police dog – Enok. Enok lives at his handler’s residence and they work together exclusively. Currently in Thurston County there are three K-9 handlers with dogs. The dogs are typically all bred in Europe because their blood lines and working lines make them exceptional trackers. The deputy said that their dogs are used primarily for locating bad guys – and running them down – as well as finding evidence. He even demonstrated a training method he uses and used the patrol officer as a “mark”. Enok grabbed the “arm” of the patrol officer and wasn’t about to let go without the command from his trainer – very impressive. As a reward they let Enok run around with the “arm” for a bit. Good dog. The only time Enok barked was when the deputy started passing around his bullet-proof vest and other training tools to show the group. At that point he looked like he was pouting too – a bit like a child worried that his toys were being taken away.

Again, a great night with a lot of great information. Next week we are meeting at a different location…I’ll keep you posted on our next adventure….