Scott Franz: On patrol with Steamboat Springs Police Department
February 17, 2017
Steamboat Springs — I didn't get to help lure a duck out of a quickly-freezing pond to safety, or witness any dramatic chases and arrests that you see so often on “COPS.”
But my mostly uneventful ride-along with the Steamboat Springs Police Department last month still furthered my appreciation, and fascination, of the work our police do every day.
And, with a lot of downtime, it was a good time to hear some interesting, comical and insightful tales of recent police work.
The duck reference is an ode to an actual animal control duck rescue off Anglers Drive, and the duck food purchase was reportedly the first credit card receipt signed by our new police chief.
Even though I write up the police blotter on Mondays, I haven't heard about everything.
I gobbled out loud when I learned about the live turkey that was spotted in the back seat of a parked vehicle while its owner grabbed a bite to eat at Dude and Dans.
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But other stories, such as hearing from officers who have had to respond to multiple suicide scenes or work to de-escalate situations with combative, spitting subjects, were sobering.
"Most of the time, this job is pretty easy," Officer Cody Owens said as we cruised down U.S. Highway 40 during my ride-along. "Pretty tame. But it only takes a split second for it to not be easy. It takes one fight where a guy has a gun, or you pull someone over who just murdered his wife, and he's running from it. We don't know that. It takes one split second for it to not be easy."
One officer I talked to has a recent tale of being spit on in the face by a combative subject and has since been subjected to multiple tests for diseases (luckily all negative).
And intoxicated subjects aren't always cooperative or friendly to the police.
It ain't always easy being a cop, even in Ski Town USA.
They often find themselves in the room having to help people at the worst moments of their lives.
In recent weeks, they’ve also assisted stranded Greyhound passengers, given drunken people courtesy rides home, mediated fights and even fielded a call from a man who was convinced he was being stalked by a local moose.
Why do they do it, and what do they enjoy about wearing the uniform?
"Being a rock for people," Owens said. "The people we deal with most generally have rocky lives. Things in their life aren't going well, and a lot of times they just need that rock, just something to hold onto. It's nice to be that rock, to be something good in the world."
Owens said he initially thought being a police officer was out of reach, but after a security job at Walmart and some time at the police academy, he's now patrolling the streets of Steamboat.
My two-hour ride-along tour consisted of ensuring a morning alarm at a marijuana grow facility wasn't anything nefarious and investigating a potential domestic violence altercation.
I'll spare you the nitty gritty details of the domestic violence situation, but it was interesting to see police entering a building expecting to arrest someone and leaving without the arrest after a lengthy interview with the subject.
Their work is tough and complicated.
My ride-along was part of a City 101 course I'm attending to go behind the scenes of city operations and meet more of the workers who keep our government humming every day.
During the police station session, community members and city workers had the chance to fire less-than lethal weapons (I'm not an ace with a Glock), peek into the PD evidence room, witness how officers lift fingerprints at crime scenes and test drive the tools that animal control officers use to catch runaway dogs and feisty runaway cats (Kevlar gloves keep angry kitties from breaking the skin).
We also saw some pretty intense training videos showing how officers prepare for a possible response to dangerous situations, including hypothetical traffic stops with armed subjects who don't cooperate with police.
In the month ahead, I'll bring you inside more city operations, including parks and rec, planning and Steamboat Springs Transit.