You can learn a lot from a person, when you spend 7 hours on a Friday night riding in a patrol Tahoe. The lessons I learned from Deputy Fred Wiggins will linger — long past the time we recently spent together on the swing shift. For those of you who have not met him, Deputy Wiggins is a 4-year veteran of our Pierce County Sheriff’s Department (PCSD). Previously, he spent 10 years with the Department of Corrections and is a proud WSU grad – are there any other kind of WSU grads?
The importance of teamwork was made crystal clear when Deputy Wiggins received a call to do a welfare check on a 1-year-old in a home known to have multiple felons connected to it. Deputy Wiggins knew the inhabitants by name and most had been arrested on more than one occasion. There were likely more than 6 people and weapons in the house – it could become very dangerous, very quickly.
Watching Sgt. Cassio and Deputies Wiggins, Groat and Laeuger put together a plan to perform the welfare check, I was struck by their professionalism and courage. A child welfare check necessitates entry into the house – it does not require a warrant or permission from the occupants. Their primary focus was accomplishing the welfare check and keeping each other safe in this volatile situation. Each deputy had a specific assignment and they were all depending on each other to “have their back” (note – my assignment was to stay with the vehicles!).
Additionally, two regular inhabitants of the house had outstanding Tacoma warrants, so they wanted to be alert for them, too. I was proud of them as they flawlessly executed their plan and relieved to learn the 1-year-old was not in the home – neither were those with outstanding warrants. Going into a house, where you will likely be significantly outnumbered by people who hate law enforcement and are potentially armed, requires tremendous personal courage – and to do it safely requires teamwork!
Test Question #1: How many PCSD lieutenants and sergeants are on-duty during swing shift for the entire County? (Answer at the end of the blog)
Another lesson I learned was the important role smart technology can play in law enforcement. Deputy Wiggins and I were called out to a 20-person fight in a neighborhood known to be hostile to law enforcement.
Showing up to break up this fight on your own would be both dangerous and foolish. Clearly, it was important that we roll up simultaneously with another deputy coming from another part of South Hill – establishing a strong presence.
The new computer system installed as part of South Sound 911 allowed us to see the GPS position of the other deputy’s vehicle, enabling us to time our arrival at the scene of the fight at the same time. Those of you who have used Uber or Lyft have seen a similar map of traveling cars on your phone. Technology allows our law enforcement to be more productive, more effective and safer.
Test Question #2: How does our Sheriff Department's Swing Shift staffing compare to that of the Tacoma Police Department Swing Shift staffing?
I had the opportunity to witness first-hand the importance of humanity, compassion, and the “patience of Job” as our law enforcement serves the residents of our county. Deputies Wiggins and Groat spent nearly an hour working to defuse a domestic situation between a mother and her son. That tense conflict within the family required mediation skills and Deputy Wiggins’ natural empathy and humor were key to de-escalating – he is a funny guy with an infectious laugh.
Our first responders are there when our citizens call for help. And one person’s view of an emergency might not always be the same as mine. Cat up a tree? A dental emergency?
Our first call of the evening was a request to help a 3-year-old who had her front teeth knocked out accidentally by her 6-year-old brother. Central Pierce joined us on this call.
I suspect that little girl’s brother learned a valuable lesson when several folks in uniforms showed up at his home! Some people call upon our first responders for some interesting things and we owe them a debt of gratitude for always being there to help out. Once Deputy Wiggins determined there was no child abuse involved, we were back on patrol!
Many thanks to Deputy Wiggins and the members of our South Hill Sheriff’s Precinct for hosting me during my ride along.
Shoutout of the week
photo credit: Patch.com
You may have read news reports about the recent train derailment near Chambers Bay. Hats off and thank you to the many agencies and people who worked quickly to respond to the accident and protect the community and the passengers on the train.
In particular, I'd like to thank Chief Rodriguez of the Steilacoom PD, West Pierce Fire and Rescue, Sheriff Pastor and the staff of the Wastewater Treatment Plant for their teamwork and responsiveness. Emergency Operations Center duty officer Chelsey Bell had a complete handle on the incident and I offer a special shout out to Pierce Transit for providing transportation for the displaced passengers.
Lastly, congratulations to Roxanne Miles, our new Parks and Recreation director (subject to confirmation by the Council) and thanks to Scott Hall for his willingness to wear two hats while we completed our search process. I look forward to working with both of them as we provide great places for families and friends to play and have fun.
Speaking of fun, enjoy this sunny weekend and don’t forget to wear sunscreen!
Thanks for reading,
Answers to Test Questions:
#1: We have one PCSD lieutenant and one PCSD sergeant on-duty during swing shift for the entire 1,800 square miles of our County. Another great example of teamwork as they lead their deputies.
#2: Tacoma PD has roughly twice the number of officers as PCSD on swing shift.