Wednesday, June 24, 2009

What I the moment...

First, a bit of background. I work in law enforcement. In the past, I have worked for County Forensics. Doing a variety of things, from taking fingerprints inside the jail, to working Crime Scenes, to actually working in the Crime Lab for a time. I loved my time in the lab, but consider it a lesson learned about trusting people more concerned with politics than with doing the job. I took a position funded by a Federal Grant, under the assurance that the position would most certainly be picked up when the grant was finished. I guess we know how that turned out :p

In any event, I currently work with Probation and Parole here in Carolina. Now, Probation and Parole mean different things to different people, and the roles vary from state to state. In some states, they're not much more than glorified social workers, there to assist the offender with integration back into society. In Carolina, however, we are Class 1 law enforcement officers. We attend the Criminal Justice Academy, and receive the exact same training as any Deputy or Officer on the road, and carry much of the same gear. While we do make some effort to see that offenders get certain services, our main objective is to enforce the dictates of the Court and the Parole Board. If an offender can't abide by the rules, then we write out a warrant for their arrest, and do what we can to track them down, arrest them, and get them in front of Judge. If we're lucky, and we get a good Judge, they go to prison to serve the sentence that was originally imposed on them, and then suspended in favor of Probation.

Needless to say, they generally didn't get on Probation or Parole, because they were good at following rules in the first place. Subsequently, we spend a lot of time writing out arrest warrants for offenders. I've written three so far this week. Now, if we each went off on our own, and tried to arrest people, we probably wouldn't get very far. There's just too many of them. So what we do is form Warrant Teams. Several times each month, teams of five to eight agents go out, and attempt to serve arrest warrants for which we think we might have a good address.

Now when these teams reach a possible arrest point, we deploy out around the perimeter, in case we get a runner, and still have at least a two to three people ready for entry. Contrary to what you might see in the movies, or on TV, especially on COPS, there really isn't much drama involved in these things. The people on the perimeter, are really there as a Just In Case kind of thing. I can't remember the last time one of our Warrant Teams had to chase somebody down. Nine times out of ten, if not ninety-nine times out of a hundred, we knock on the door, ask for so and so to step out, and hook him up. We generally ask if there's anything he would like to leave at the house, or anything he would like to take to jail with him. If you treat people right, they generally do right by you. Heck, last week, as I was hooking someone, he said to me "Mr. Casey, I'm sorry you had to come out and get me like this." Now, while having someone apologize, for making you arrest them, isn't an every day occurrence, it's not that rare in this line of work, as long as you're professional, and don't make a jerk out of yourself. There's a fine line between being a cop, and doing your job, which a lot of people will respect, even if they don't like it, and being a jerk, just because you can be one and get away with it.

On the rare occasion, there is some drama involved.....enter the manly fun :) I'm out on a recent warrant team, one we're conducting in partnership with several different agencies, serving our warrants and theirs. We'd had a good morning, and picked up eight different people, no muss, no fuss. About six of us were enjoying lunch at a local diner, when we got a call from one of the head guys. Get our butts in gear and get to meeting place X in 20 minutes, there's a high threat warrant to be served, and S.W.A.T. is involved. We start over towards meeting place X, all wondering why we're headed there. If the SWAT guys are involved, there's just no way they need us, I mean, those guys are good at what they do, and we'd probably just be in their way. We get to the briefing, and it turns out that there are multiple targets. SWAT is taking the primary residence, while our team and another are securing a secondary residence, and everyone else, including K-9's, are securing a perimeter.

Whoa...butterflies in the belly time. This is not what we do. We're told that a firefight is a distinct possibility, as the primary suspect is armed and violent. There are also likely to be in excess of twenty people at the two residences, with an unknown number of weapons.

Did I mention the butterflies? Seems that these aren't your everyday, nectar slurping butterflies, nooooo...these are some sort of mutant carnivorous butterflies trying to eat their way out of your belly. Kind of like the critters in Alien, only with wings.

Anyway, we're all loaded up, and rolling out. The whole way I'm thinking to myself..."What the heck am I doing here. This is not what I do. I'm Mr. Laid-Back." About that time, the driver slams on the brakes, and someone is shouting "GO!GO!GO!" I can only assume that the carnivorous butterflies are unable to exist outside of a patrol car, because I never noticed them after my feet hit the pavement. The adrenaline is flowing hard as I come around the nose of the Vic and head across the street, drawing my gun and ordering people to the ground.

About that time, maybe twenty-five feet away, SWAT is making entry, and the Concussion Grenades(Flash/Bangs) start going off. Let me tell you, if you've never seen a good SWAT team make a high threat entry, you've missed something amazing. These guys were good, and moving like a well oiled machine. Well, actually, it wasn't a machine they brought to mind, so much as an amoeba of sorts. They were all clustered at the entry, and after the breach, and the bang, they just sort of flowed into the building. No wasted motion, no jostling or anything, they just seemed to pour though the doorway.

Drag eyeballs back to what I'm doing. We've got everyone that was outside of the building we were on secured. This is one of those times where everyone gets hooked up, and we sort it all out after the guns are put away. I'm on a corner, pressed hard up against the house, covering the guys who are covering the front entrance. I glance over my shoulder behind me, and K-9, several SWAT guys, and a few others have got the rear entrance covered and locked down. All of the sudden, here comes that SWAT beast again, flowing across the yard, up the steps, across the porch, and into the open front entrance. It's a thing of beauty to watch these guys work.

OK. So that's the fun stuff. Most of the work is pretty dull. Meeting with anywhere from 25 to 75 offenders a week, usually crammed into a single day, to try and keep up with what they're doing. A mind-numbing amount of paperwork. I do mean, absolutely mind-numbing. Even with so much of what we do being handled electronically, through e-mails, or our programs specifically designed for our jobs, I'm pretty sure that in the couple of years I've been doing this, I personally have caused the de-forestation of a small, South American country. Dealing with the everyday drama of being involved in other peoples lives. Also, there are home visits. You have to go out, and visit your peoples homes, to make sure they don't have bazookas on the wall, meth-labs in the bath tub, or dead things in the house. You'd be surprised just what we find. Also, I think the vast majority of people would be absolutely shocked at how disgustingly nasty some folks live. I've been in houses that were like a minefield of dog crap. Literally piles of dog crap, all through the house, including the fresh pile in front of the fridge, and all they can do is roll their eyes and say "That damn dog!"

Well, I know this has run on a bit, and rambled from topic to topic, but this is the short form of what I'm currently doing. I don't know how long I'll be doing this, or what I'll be doing next. I'm pretty decent at this job, except some of the paperwork, but I can feel that this is not what I'm 'meant' to be doing. I'll figure that out at some point I assume. I guess the most important thing to to find some aspect of what you are doing, and find a way to enjoy it. I'm lucky in that aspect, as there are several things about the job that I not only enjoy, I really love doing. So, as long as I can keep my butt from getting in further in the sling over paperwork, I should be pretty good here for a while.

Hope you're enjoying your work as well...