Saturday, January 1, 2022

I Appreciate Our Sheriff's Office


As some of you know, I became a Calaveras County Sheriff's Volunteer earlier in 2021. There are a couple of reasons why I volunteer for the Sheriff's Office. One reason has to do with you. Yes, you, my readers, and your feedback.

Over the years, I've preached about how Americans did more for their towns and counties in the Old West than we do today. I've written about how newcomers out West were expected to volunteer for community projects and participate in the community, unlike today. I've written about how those who didn't help were labeled "shirkers." In some cases, they were driven out of town. In other cases, they were shunned. Of course, these days, no one cares if someone's a shirker or not.

Most of my long-time readers know that I've talked about how citizens volunteered to provide security for their towns long before we had established organized law enforcement agencies. We know they were called "Citizens Watch Groups." Of course, they were what in the Spanish Colony of Florida was called "Vigilante Groups." While "Vigilante Group" sounds ominous today, it really wasn't that way at the time. The word "vigilante" has taken on negative connotations today. But, there was a time when the word "vigilante," which means "to be vigilant," meant citizen involvement. After all, in Spanish Florida in the 1600s, a "Vigilante Group" was just a "Watch Group" of citizen volunteers.

I've talked about how for hundreds of years of English Common Law, anyone, whether a peace officer or a private citizen, who witnessed a crime was obliged to make the "hue and cry" so that fleeing criminals could be apprehended. Upon apprehension, those citizens were required to turn criminals over to the Sheriff. Sometimes they did. Sometimes they didn't and were later found dangling from a tree.

We know there was a time when "all able-bodied men" were "obliged by law" to assist in the pursuit of a criminal. It was a time when citizens were deputized under posse comitatus laws to assist in posses, be put in positions such as guards, transports, couriers, court clerks, and much more. It was a time when citizens volunteered to keep the peace. It was only when people knew that someone could be paid to do it did -- that people decided to pay others to do it -- instead of doing it themselves. Soon, the stigma of being a shirker was gone.

And yes, my friends, I've talked about all of this -- and how instead of just bitching about how bad things are today, how we as citizens should get off our asses and do more to help. Of course, some of you have written to ask me what I do to help. Some of you have written to tell me to put my money where my mouth is and volunteer to do something.

So okay, about a year ago, I decided to get off my ass and do something constructive for my community. Because I've had a great deal of experience in the security field, I volunteered for the Calaveras County Sheriff's Volunteers. I saw it as a way of using my experience, giving back, and doing my part for our community. I also see it as a way of supporting the great group of men and women of our Sheriff's Office, all who can use our support and appreciation. I wanted them to know that I appreciate the hard job that they are doing for us. Hopefully, my volunteering to help in some small way will do that.

Of course, I'm just like all of you in that I'm not "legally obliged" by law to give of myself as "all-able-bodied men" and women once were. But, I really feel as though I'm "morally obliged" to give back a little of myself to better my community. That is even more true when considering that I really like where I live. 

Friends, I have been all over the United States. I've seen some beautiful places and met some really nice people. For a while there, everything pointed to me settling in one of those places at one time or another. But frankly, I really like Calaveras County. This is a great place to live. Because it is a little over 1,000 square miles in size, its relatively small population of just under 46,000 residents is easy to deal with. The fact is, other than a few towns like Mokelumne Hill, San Andreas, Valley Springs, Angles Camp, Murphys, Arnold, and Copperopolis, the residents are pretty spread over an area that goes from almost 400 feet elevation to a little over 8,000 feet elevation. And while some of our ranch lands look a lot like Central Texas, others say they look a lot like Oklahoma. Our hill country resembles Colorado. Our mountain ranges would make some think they are in the Appalachian Mountains, while our snowy mountains will make Alaskans feel right at home.

As for our Calaveras County Sheriff's Volunteers Unit, it was established in 1989 and has grown in numbers and varied assignments. In 1991, our Sheriff's Volunteers became uniformed to make us more visible to the public. It was about that time that our volunteers started doing more security for community events, parades, festivals, and such. Yes, that includes support for Neighborhood Watch programs and the You Are Not Alone (Y.A.N.A.) program.
 
The You Are Not Alone (Y.A.N.A.) program was started by Calaveras County Sheriff Rick DiBasilio. The Y.A.N.A. program is all about reaching out to Calaveras County's senior citizens who would benefit from phone calls and safety visits from our volunteer unit. Frankly, with all of the worries that seniors are experiencing these days, a program designed "to promote peace of mind and a sense of security for residents who primarily are elderly or disabled and live alone" is an excellent thing for all.

Of course, besides the Y.A.N.A. program, our volunteers relieve Sheriff's Deputies from some of the more mundane tasks of manning the Sheriff Substations, doing traffic control, and other non-law enforcement tasks. Research indicates that law enforcement spends a great deal of its valuable time on things not related to law enforcement. 

While the Calaveras County Sheriff's Volunteers falls under the command and supervision of Under Sheriff Jim Macedo, our volunteer unit commander is Capt. Betty Miner. As our Volunteer Captain, her knowledge and leadership ensure we accomplish our mission. As she put it recently, "We focus on freeing up the Deputies so that they can do law enforcement." To do this, our volunteers serve as clerical help in the Sheriff's Office and the Jail. We perform special assignments, do vacation house checks, and complete residential, business, and school patrols in marked vehicles. Again, this helps free up Deputies to do the actual law enforcement work.

As for driving marked patrol vehicles, volunteers are not just handed the keys. Volunteers get training. In the case of driving, we are trained and have to pass written and driving tests, tests on the use of the radio, use of the 10-Code, and so on to qualify to drive patrol vehicles. Once on patrol, we're there strictly as a "presence" with communication capabilities. We help by being extra "eyes and ears."

Before you turn to another website because this sounds boring, let me just say that boring is not bad sometimes. And really, while my beat has a bad reputation, patroling it has not come close to reminding me of the days when I specialized in coordinating the security for strike actions in cities throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. That was the late 1970s and early 1980s. Thankfully, these days are nothing like those days at all. No, not even close. In fact, most of my patrol hours as a Sheriff's Volunteer are relatively uneventful. Sure, there are busier days of a typical wild goose chase or two which can be time-consuming, to reports of livestock on roads, house checks, and more. But really, I don't mind any of it. 

As for getting cattle back into where they belong before they become a real hazard, I've been doing my fair share of getting cattle off roads and back in fences. As for me being sent on a wild goose chase or two after receiving a report or two from concerned residents. I don't mind checking on things that don't check out. Naturally, I always check things out before calling Dispatch to send a Deputy. Because their time is a lot more valuable than mine, I'd hate to relay information that turned out to be false and just a waste of their time.

Of course, there are those situations that simply seem to get worse. And while embarrassing, they too can turn out to be just a wild goose chase or embarrassing. One event that turned out that way started when I was on patrol and was flagged down by a local resident. She reported that she saw a woman and child stranded in a red Toyota on Swiss Ranch Rd. The reporting person said the red car looked like it was stuck in the snow in a ditch about 4 to 5 miles on Swiss Ranch Rd from where we met.

After hearing about people being possibly stranded, I immediately left to check it out. I drove about 4 miles before I got stuck in the snow.  This was just the first time that I got stuck that day. Yes, it happened twice. And while my volunteer marked patrol vehicle is a 2001 Ford F-150 4X4, whether it was in 4-wheel drive or not, I worked on getting un-stuck from that snowy soup for what seemed like forever before finally being able to get out and back on the road. After freeing the truck, I continued further up Swiss Ranch Rd to find the car with stranded people in it.

The snow was getting deeper as I went another mile or so. I still couldn't find a red Toyota. I also couldn't find anyone stranded or in the slightest trouble. It was about that time that I started asking myself how exactly was I going to get myself out of there since turning around looked impossible.

About 5 and a half miles in on Swiss Ranch Rd, just before the road becomes Summit Level Road, I saw a white Chevy Tahoe blocking the road. I got out of my patrol vehicle and walked uphill to find out if someone was in trouble and needed a hand. There were 3 young men there. I knew one of the men since he lives near me. He and the two others came in from the Summit Level Road end of Swiss Ranch Road and were there to help get two cars out. I asked about the car that I was looking for. They said that neither car was the one that I was looking for. They also said they didn't see a red Toyota or anyone stranded along Summit Level Rd. Once I realized that they were okay, and the supposed stranded red Toyota was just another wild goose chase, I walked back downhill to my patrol vehicle.

As I said, I had already gotten stuck once. Well, after I tried going forward a bit to straighten my vehicle out -- I was stuck again. I had absolutely no traction even in 4 wheel-low. Things didn't look good this time, and I wasn't going anywhere. Frankly, I didn't want to call in on the radio that I may need a tow -- but I had no cell service either. So after trying to get my patrol vehicle out of the soup, I made the embarrassing call over the radio.

I called Dispatch to let them know that I was "10-6 (busy) in possible need of an 11-85 (tow request)." Dispatch acknowledged my call and checked back every few minutes to find out my status. For me, I was hoping to try everything humanly possible to stave off the embarrassment of being known as the Sheriff Volunteer who got stuck and needed a tow. 

Good Samaritans to the rescue. Yes, about that time, my friend and his two buddies walked down the hill to ask if I needed help. With their great help, in almost no time, I was back on the road. And yes, just in case you're curious, believe it or not, in the process, the four of us turned the truck 180 degrees so that I was able to leave in the same direction that I came in.

About that time, Dispatch again checked on me to find out my status. I let Dispatch know that I was 10-8 and going again. On my way out on Swiss Ranch Rd, I met with a Deputy who heard my radio calls about being stuck. As with all of the great Deputies who work for our Sheriff's Department, he is an outstanding officer who didn't hesitate to see if he could pull me out. Luckily, I didn't need his help.

A few days before Christmas, I volunteered for an assignment that was outdoors and in the rain. It was raining hard off and on, with the weather acting as though it couldn't make up its mind as to whether or not it wanted to take a break or come down in a steady deluge. And while out there, many of our Deputies stopped by to check on me. Yes, including our Department's Under Sheriff Jim Macedo. In fact, he asked if I wanted some coffee and had a cup brought out to me. A few minutes later, two Deputies brought me out a meal because they were concerned that I didn't have any sort of dinner. 

Friends, they didn't have to do that. But of course, they did. Such acts of kindness and concern for others speak volumes of who they are, what sort of character they are made of, how caring they really are. But more than that, it really showed me how appreciative they are of regular citizens like myself volunteering to help in even a small way -- like standing what was essentially guard duty.

For me, I love volunteering. Besides my belief that volunteering is good for one's soul, I believe volunteering is as American as Apple Pie and Old Glory. Just as in the tradition of the Old West, where friends came to the aid of friends, and townspeople chipped in to do things for their communities, Americans have an incredible history of volunteering. We care about our neighbors, our family, and our friends. But more so, we care about anyone in a jam that needs help.

As for my friend and his buddies who helped me get unstuck in my volunteer patrol vehicle -- they didn't do it for recognition. It's more than that. It's about caring. As for our Under Sheriff making sure that I had a cup of coffee and the Deputies who brought me something to eat, and the Deputy who showed up to pull me out of the snow, they do what they do because they care. It's about caring. 

Frankly, I've never met a more professional and personable group of men and women than those who make up the Calaveras County Sheriff's Office. Because we have a Sheriff's Office that cares and proves it every day, we, the residents of Calaveras County, are incredibly fortunate to have a great Sheriff in Rick DiBasilio, an outstanding Under Sheriff in Jim Macedo, absolutely top-notch Deputies, an excellent Dispatch, an incredibly professional Jail Staff, and exceptional support personnel. All are dedicated to a commitment to service that other departments can only aspire to obtain.

Please understand that I have been a resident of Calaveras County for over 20 years, and I've always seen our Sheriff's Office as a top-notch agency. So no, my assessment of the Calaveras County Sheriff's Office is not merely some sort of recent revelation on my part simply because I've gotten to know more of the Deputies -- or because I've now worked with more of them. No, from everything that I can see, this is a legacy that this department has had for a long time. It's a legacy they can and should be proud of. 

Honestly, they should. That's true, especially since our Sheriff's Office is an outstanding representation of the vast number of great Officers who do the job to serve and protect for all the right reasons. And really, as a citizen who reaps the rewards of their hard work and dedication to excellence, how can I ever really say, "Thanks" -- especially when "Thank You" doesn't seem to cover how grateful I am to them.

In a world where thanklessness seems to be rampant, I can only hope they know that some of us really appreciate what they do for us. And yes, that's probably the biggest reason I don't mind volunteering for such a great department. I appreciate them.

Tom Correa

1 comment:

  1. Excellent article. Very encouraging, also, that all the world isn't lost! There are God-fearing individuals still around!

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