Posts tagged: Citizen's Academy
My regular blog readers will probably remember that I recently took part in a Citizen's Academy put on by the Spokane County Sheriff's Office. There's a weekly class for six weeks and you get to hear deputies talk about the different roles of the Sheriff's Office. Thursday night I got the final part of my experience - a ride along with a Spokane Valley deputy.
I want to start by thanking Deputy Byron Zlateff for letting me follow him around for several hours. When we hit the road around 6 p.m. there were several calls waiting and we went dashing from one end of town to the other for several hours. I was asked to stay by the car if there was any concern for my safety, but I got to follow him for most calls. Of course, there was the “rollin' stolen,” as they call it, when I was left by the side of the road while Deputy Zlateff persued a stolen car into an apartment complex parking lot. It all ended well and I didn't have to stand out in the rain for long.
Perhaps my favorite call of the night was the man who was in the wrong place in the wrong time. Zlateff and another deputy were sent to an apartment complex on the west end of town for a person refusing to leave someone's apartment. They discovered a man walking down the street near the complex and talked to him to figure out if he was involved in the call. He was fidgety and evasive - for good reason. He was wanted on a warrant for violating his probabion. As it turns out, he had no involvement in the original call. He just had bad timing. He spent the entire ride to the Spokane County Jail proclaiming that he hadn't really done anything wrong.
You always hear about how police officers have excellent powers of observation and I saw that first hand. Zlateff was picking up on things in the dark and the rain that I didn't even notice until he pointed them out to me and I had thought I was paying attention. All in all, it was a great experience.
I couldn't resist posting a picture of my target after I spent Saturday afternoon at the Spokane Police Academy gun range. We were there (and at Spokane County Raceway in the morning) as part of the Citizen's Academy class offered through the Spokane County Sheriff's Office. Most meetings we're learning about different departments in the Sheriff's Office, which is interesting, but this really topped the cake. They let us shoot an AR-15, shotgun and pistol (after signing a liability waiver or two). This was the first time I ever shot a gun of any kind, so I thought I did pretty well. Note the hole between the eyes. The cluster on the top left is buckshot from the shotgun (my first shot, I think). It was also fun to ride around the racetrack with a couple of driving instructors doing PIT maneuvers. That's where the driver of the chase car uses the front of his car to bump the back quarter panel on the fleeing car to make it spin out. We were passengers for this one. Apparently there aren't enough liability waivers in the world to let us do that ourselves. Nina Culver photo.
Spokane County Sheriff's Office Air 1 helicopter. SR file photo.
Last night was another interesting night at the Citizen's Academy class offered by the Spokane County Sheriff's Office that offers a peek into the department. We heard from people working forensics, DUI patrol and Air 1. The head of the forensics unit, Carrie Johnson, talked about how she got started in the business 35 years ago. “I was the first girl,” she said. “I started as a secretary and worked my way up.” The unit may have been all men when she started but in recent years it has been all women. The unit does include one man right now.
Johnson said that a relatively simple crime scene can take several hours to proceess. A more complicated one can take anywhere from 12 hours to three days. “We were at Robert Yates' house for two weeks,” she said, referring to Spokane's serial killer.
Deputy Todd Miller talked about his work in the Spokane Valley traffic unit as the only DUI patrol officer. The unit includes two deputies on day shift and two deputies on night shift. He's a BAC instructor and a drug recognition expert. “Basically I drive around all the city of Spokane Valley and look for drunk drivers,” he said. His peak time for finding drunk drivers is between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m.
Sgt. Dave Ellis spoke about Air 1, the Sheriff's Office helicopter that was donated to the department by the U.S. Army. The helicopter is able to fly about 300 hours per year for only $92,000 because all the pilots are volunteers and parts are purchased from the military at a discount, Ellis said. The crew includes a pilot and tactical flight officer at a minimum. The 10 volunteer pilots include three certified flight instructors, four military pilots, one MedStar pilot, one retired LAPD pilot and a Holleywood stunt pilot.
I am taking a six week Citizen's Academy class offered by the Spokane County Sheriff's Office. Anyone can sign up and we spend every Thursday evening learning a little bit about everything from gangs to sex crimes to property crimes. Last night we got a visit from K9 Brax and his handler, Deputy Steve Stipe. We were told to stand off to the side, keep quiet and be still while Brax searched a poorly lit portion of the former University City Mall for Deputy Travis Pendell. Pendell, who runs the Citizen's Academy most nights, volunteered to wear a bite sleeve and hide in the darkened room. Brax took off at a dead run and found Pendell quickly, his nails scrabbling on the concrete floor as he went in for the bite. It was interesting to watch the dog work.
Brax is Stipe's second dog and he's a patrol dog. Patrol dog handlers have to complete 700 hours of training before they can be certified and the dogs and handlers are required to do 16 hours of maintenance training every month. Stipe said he gives Brax a little bit of training every day. “I try to stump him,” Stipe said. “I try to keep him on his toes.”
Stipe said it was amazing how “85 pounds of fangs and fur” can turn the most argumentative and defiant suspect into a compliant one.
Still to come: sessions on Air 1, forensics and SWAT. This class is offered at least once a year. I highly recommend it for anyone interested in learning more about how the Sheriff's Office works and what it does.