Ride along with Lincoln deputies
Scottie Derringer, 39, of Hustonville, was arrested and charged with possession of a defaced firearm and possession of a controlled substance first degree. Anthony Long, 43, of Hustonville, was also charged with possession of a controlled substance first degree and trafficking. (Katelynn Griffin)
On Friday, Feb. 17, the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office was kind enough to allow me to ride along with two deputies; Deputy Ryan Kirkpatrick and K-9 Deputy Ingo. This is a reflection of what happened during the shift, from 6 p.m. to 4 a.m.
Before the shift even started, Deputy Robin Jones, the only other full time deputy working the shift, requested Deputy Kirkpatrick and his K-9 partner Ingo, the newest member of the Sheriff’s Department, to investigate a vehicle at Cedar Creek Lake for suspected drugs.
With his leash on, Ingo went right to work. Kirkpatrick walked him around the vehicle, but Ingo made no indication that drugs were present. One of the occupants consented to a search of the vehicle and sure enough, Ingo was right. Neither Kirkpatrick nor Crab Orchard Constable Jesse Harris found any drugs. Pink brass knuckles were removed from the pocket of one of the suspects, who was surprised to learn that it’s illegal to carry the item. Jones arrested the suspect, charging him with possession of a concealed deadly weapon.
“The only drawback about having a dog is that I can’t transport suspects,” Kirkpatrick said. His white Ford’s back seat has been retrofitted with a cage-like contraption, which keeps Ingo securely in the rear of the vehicle. This is for his safety; should Kirkpatrick have to break quickly, Ingo won’t end up in the front seat, or possibly through the windshield.
“Law enforcement is a lifestyle,” Kirkpatrick said. He has been in law enforcement for five years, but has worked for the EMS and as a firefighter. “I love my job, but I enjoy it even more now with the dog. Any cop can turn on the blue lights and arrest bad guys, but not everyone has a dog.”
The sun sank low in the sky and the last faint glow of the day disappeared. The night shift had officially begun. At around 6:30, Kirkpatrick observed a vehicle with no plates, turned on his blue lights and the white Chevy pulled over to the shoulder. Kirkpatrick and Jones proceeded toward the vehicle when suddenly, the car rolled forward. The officers were unsure what was happening and it was unclear whether or not the vehicle was going to speed away and lead them on a chase. The situation was tense and when the car came to a stop once more, they approached the vehicle again, cautiously. Apparently the driver had failed to put the car in park and when she removed her foot from the break the car rolled forward.
On the way back to the sheriff’s office, Kirkpatrick discussed the incident. He said that even simple activities, such as a traffic stop, can change quickly. “Complacency can get you into trouble.” Seemingly routine situations can turn into something completely different and you have to be prepared for that, he said. When he responds to a call, he tries to prepare himself for the worst; that way when he arrives at a scene, he’s ready for whatever the situation might be. Law enforcement officers have to make snap decisions with the information they have at hand and with what resources they have.
“At the moment domestic related or theft make up the majority of the calls,” Kirkpatrick said. That trend would continue tonight. Dispatch had received a call about a possible domestic disturbance, but the caller failed to provide a location. After determining an approximate location, it was back in the cruiser. While en route to the location, I completely investigated the cruiser, asking for an explanation of all equipment inside the car. Kirkpatrick’s car is nothing like the ones I have seen in the numerous cop shows that bombard the television air waves. I had to remind myself that this is Lincoln County, not some large scale metropolitan department. There is no fancy computer system at their finger tips that allows the officers to run plates, or retrieve information. Nor is there an extravagant GPS system to help them navigate the close to 400 miles of county road. The vehicle has no bells and whistles; basically just the radio, lights and sirens. The radio comes with its own set of problems; sometimes it doesn’t work due to the topography of the county. It is possible for law enforcement officers to be in the field without radios and the limited communication is an obvious occupational hazard.
Kirkpatrick and Ingo were the first to respond to the disturbance call. With little information to act on, Kirkpatrick exited the vehicle. His K-9 partner watched his every move, until he disappeared inside the home. Ingo was alert and appeared to want to know where his handler was and why he wasn’t permitted to follow. With his nose pressed against the window, Ingo watched as more people arrived. An ambulance and more officers, including Jones, came to assist with the call.
Anthony Denny, 47 and Malissa Riley, 44, both of Crab Orchard, were involved in a domestic dispute. Denny refused medical treatment and was arrested, but Riley was taken by ambulance to Fort Logan Hospital to be treated for some minor wounds and was later transported to the jail by a Stanford Police officer. The two arrests were made by Kirkpatrick and therefore he had to fill out the necessary paperwork and, as numerous officers throughout the night let on, it is their least favorite part of the job. Both Denny and Riley were charged with fourth degree domestic violence with minor injury.
Even though Kirkpatrick has the dog, he doesn’t take it for granted. “I don’t take any more risk with the dog. It’s a comfort; not necessarily a confidence,” Kirkpatrick said. “Backup, should I need it, is in the back seat.” Waiting for backup to arrive in the field can be a lengthy process, depending on the location and how far away help is. It took at least ten minutes before anyone arrived at the scene of the domestic dispute earlier in the night. That’s ten minutes that Kirkpatrick was alone and anything could have happened. With Ingo as backup, his mere presence is enough to deter suspects. “Half of his job is presence, as much as anything else.” Everything from drugs to apprehension, his presence makes a difference, he said. Ingo has helped him execute two felony warrants, where his very presence deterred a run. People see the dog and they think twice about what they’re about to do, said Kirkpatrick. “He doesn’t have to do anything…it’s just having him there.”
Just after midnight, it was time for Kirkpatrick and Ingo to do some training. Of course Ingo needs to have someone to sink his teeth into, so Jones volunteered. Kirkpatrick starts the session with basic obedience drills, in which he uses a Kong dog toy as a reward. Then the dog undergoes training in a variety of areas, including recall which is when the dog doesn’t bite, but rather nudges the person and comes back to his handler, apprehension work, and various searches, including clean and dirty searches. “I enjoy the specialized training that goes with being a handler,” Kirkpatrick said. He trains constantly with Ingo, usually on a daily basis. It is an ongoing process that requires continuous effort, from both man and dog. “It’s teamwork. He can read my body language and I can read his.” This bond began back in Nov. at the Southern Coast K-9 facility in Florida, where Kirkpatrick had trained with Ingo.
After about an hour of training, it was back to the beat. The last call of the night came in at around 1:28 a.m. and was a request for Ingo’s nose once again. A silver SUV had been pulled over for weaving and Special Deputies Mike Mullins and Dewayne Taylor, along with Constable Eddie “Popcorn” Brown, were waiting for Ingo to sniff the vehicle for drugs. Kirkpatrick led Ingo around the vehicle and Ingo had a hit indicating the presence of drugs. Kirkpatrick took Ingo back to the car and gave him a green tennis ball as a reward. Upon inspection of the vehicle, a plastic bag containing an illegal substance and a needle were removed from the vehicle, along with a firearm that had the serial numbers scratched off.
Scottie Derringer, 39, of Hustonville, was arrested and charged with possession of a defaced firearm and possession of a controlled substance first degree. Anthony Long, 43, of Hustonville, was also charged with possession of a controlled substance first degree and traffic of a controlled substance first degree. Once again, there was more paperwork to fill out at the jail, which was kept busy throughout the night because of the officers. After being told twice to take a seat and wait to be processed, I was glad not to have to go back.
At the sheriff’s office, Kirkpatrick logged evidence and filled out more paperwork. After testing and weighing the substance confiscated from the vehicle at the sheriff’s office, it was determined to be 4.3 grams of meth. Kirkpatrick will keep detailed records about Ingo’s field work. Not only does he record his finds and accomplishments, but when he doesn’t find drugs. If Ingo makes no indication of drugs, like he did at the beginning of the shift and a search confirms this, then that too helps to build his reputation as a reliable police dog. The end result is to have Ingo certified as a police dog, like the other K-9 in the unit. Kirkpatrick said, Aramis has a degree in police work and has proven to be reliable in the field, as will Ingo. The National Police Canine Association (NPCA) is one organization dedicated to the certification of law enforcement canines.
At the end of a ten hour shift, Ingo found the dope and Kirkpatrick was pleased. “I get excited to put the effort into training him and to see the results. To have somebody that can smell and find the dope...It’s amazing.”
The ride along with Deputy Kirkpatrick and Ingo offered insight into what it is like to work in law enforcement in Lincoln County. With only two trained full time officers and one K-9 patrolling the entire county this particular night shift, the officers certainly do their best with the resources they have available. Several special deputies and city constables complement the department and the training for each varies greatly. From searching and seizing drugs, attending to domestic disputes, retrieving stolen vehicles, serving warrants, and conducting traffic stops, the Sheriff’s Department is certainly busy, both day and night, serving the citizens of Lincoln County.