Traffic Tickets, DUIs, and Drugs in the Valley

April 26th, 2012 at 4:59 pm by under COPS 101

This week in our Civilian Police Academy, we covered the uniform division. It’s everyone. Well, not really, but it covers quite the gamut.

Check out the week 3 photos

There are three shifts in the uniform patrol division: the Adam, Baker, and Charlie. Then, each shift has an early and a late so that the streets are always covered during roll call. Finally, there are A, B, and C “teams” and two teams are on each shift.

Officers spend four days on and two days off, and the groups cycle through like that. It sounds like a very well oiled machine. I’m sure, as with all things, it sounds much easier and clearer than it works out, but it seems it works for these guys and gals.

First up was the THPD K9 unit. Anyone who knows me knows I’m a big dog fan, and I’m fascinated by how trained these animals are. Needless to say, I was excited to learn more.

K9 Unit

The K9 unit isn’t very old. They got their start at THPD in 1995. The six dogs THPD has now are the most they’ve ever had and they all come from European Sporting Clubs.

They are used for drug detection, narcotics detection, and searches. They can find and track scents to a nearly perfect degree. They cover much more ground than a human could in a much shorter amount of time.

The expense of these dogs is a huge undertaking, but the unit explained the reward that seems like it covers the expense.

Here’s a quick rundown of the numbers:

New Dog – $10,000

5 week training – $10,000

K9 equipped car – $25,000

Vet bills, dog food, recertification, and training equipment

Reward:

Over the past four years, the dogs have assisted in: 449 arrests, $117,000 cash seizures, nearly $2 million worth (street value) narcotics, as well as officer and public safety improvements.

After that, we saw a demonstration of some of the capabilities of the dogs. To see the dogs interact with their handlers, respond to their directives, and succeed in their work is quite a sight.

Traffic Unit

Six officers are assigned to the traffic division. Their job is just like it sounds. They enforce traffic laws, investigate traffic accidents, and help with major escorts that come to the area (past, current, and candidates for President anyone?).

As a class, we took this opportunity to find out more about getting pulled over. How do they decide? Why me and not the guy who passed me just minutes ago? Is there really a quota? Well, we really got our answers, so here you go: A “breaking point” to pull over a speeding car is up to the officer. If they can’t catch up to a person in a safe manner without putting the public in danger, they will. If not, they won’t pull that person over. (They may send out a call though and let other officers know of the dangerous driver.) There is not a quota. Do you hear that? No quota. The city does not get all the money from your ticket. It goes to the courts, the state, and then the city department. As you can imagine, this is fairly minimal.

What should you do when you’re pulled over? Just sit. Wait. And be nice. Officers don’t make things up. If you were speeding (going more than the speed limit, even if it’s “not much more”), then that’s why you’re being pulled over. Officers said they appreciate cooperation and kindness. (I guess they are human.)

They also say they don’t like when people fumble around the car when they approach. This makes sense when you think about their training. Someone fumbling around appears to be searching for something, reaching for something, or hiding something. This could just be your insurance card, but an officer has to assume it’s a gun your grabbing for or drugs you’re hiding under your seat.

Street Crimes Unit

There are six officers in the street crimes unit as well. Many years ago, this was part of the Tactical Unit, which divided itself into Street Crimes and Special Response Team. This group is more “proactive” as opposed to the uniform division which is “reactive”.  They do a lot of surveillance and monitoring based on tips.

Over the last four years, they’ve helped send 1,509 people to jail, find 20 meth labs, and seize more than 400 pounds of drugs.

The unit says they spend the majority of their time fighting drug crimes. They say the growing problem is consuming their work.

DUI Procedures

Because of rain, we did a miniature version of this inside. Officers went over the basic Field Sobriety Test: Finger to nose, toe to heel walk, and an eye test.

Officers say the most telling part of the test is the eye test. When a person is intoxicated, their eyes actually shake uncontrollably.

They also explained the implied consent law. This is basically when you sign when you sign your license. You agree at that point to take a chemical test if asked by an officer. You can certainly deny this, but that goes against your agreement that you made when getting your license. That explains why your license is suspended when you refuse a chemical test.

The chemical test can be either a breathe, urine, or blood test. The officer decides which test he or she feels is most appropriate. To conduct these, officers follow a list of directives perfectly. I mean perfectly. If not, the evidence doesn’t stand up to the court of law. For that reason, a list of directions is above the breathalyzer for instance, and an officer will follow the list to ensure they don’t miss anything.

All in all, we learned so much this week. The officers answered all of our questions and really explained things to make them easy to understand. I was so glad to get some answers to questions I’ve always wondered about traffic stops, drug problems, and of course, the canine crew.

Next week marks the half way point of our academy. We’ll be finding out more on the Criminal Investigations Division. I’m sure I’ll have lots to share!!

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