FTOs are Forever
1,956 words; about a 10 minute read
Location: WCSO Headquarters, Parking Lot
Timeline: 03 APR 2023, 07:45
“Tell me about yourself,” Justin announced suddenly, as he slammed the door shut on the trunk of his cruiser. His whole day was going to be thrown he hadn’t been prepared for having a trainee but currently as the only available corporal on the tour he didn’t much have a choice.
The two were standing at the back of vehicle 334 which was an SRT unit. Unlike a normal patrol vehicle this vehicle was black and unmarked although it sported the usual department license plate versus the actual state license plates that you’d find on a civilian vehicle.
Justin Rose was assigned to the Sheriff’s Response Team which was made up of crisis negotiators, a SWAT team, and other various things. Deputies assigned to SRT were assigned vehicles that carried more tactical gear or other special gear for their team roles than the standard patrol car. And while he fulfilled all the normal duties of a standard patrol deputy he also had his additional SRT roles and roles as a Corporal which was to train department members and act almost as a junior supervisor in the field.
Just wasn’t sure that the SRT unit was the best place for a new hire who he believed was experiencing their first true day in law enforcement to start but he wasn’t the one who made those calls. Frankly, he’d rather have her start off here than have to trade in his SRT gear and privileges to better assignments than to have to actually just be a basic patrol unit.
Their uniforms were even different while his trainee wore the standard patrol uniform of the department he wore a tactical variant. His vest also sported “Sheriff’s Response Team” on the back and “SRT” on the front vs the standard vest that said “Deputy Sheriff” and “Deputy” similarly.
Justin turned to look at his trainee thinking she was too young to have been at another department first and this meant that she had no experience to draw from today and would be largely an observer in his mind. See one, do one, teach one, crossed his mind.
Nervous. Piper was nervous. She told herself that was normal. Wasn't everyone nervous on their first day? An internal monologue had been running through her head as she followed Corporal Rose out to the cruiser and then watched... well... whatever he was doing.
"Umm..." she began, her internal monologue chiding her for starting with a sound rather than rattling off her details... any of them. "Sure, sir. Uh... Corporal... sir." She winced at her own clumsy introduction, the facial expression more than likely visible to the man in front of her who she felt a deep seated need to impress. Maybe impress was too lofty a goal for her first day.
"I'm Piper. I mean, Deputy Sheriff 1 Cole. Graduated top 10% in my class back in December. Uh... criminal justice at NC State. Family's from the Greenville area... used to vacation here in the summers back when... before it was William's county..." She trailed off, wondering if he was hoping for more personal information or just the basics of who she was. "Sorry," she said after a beat. "I'm a little nervous. It's my first day."
"You don't say," Justin said with an amused smirk, "well lucky for you it's going to be your first day for at least a good month. So Deputy Sheriff 1 Piper Cole, tell me about yourself. Why do you want to some day be a real deputy?" He pointed her around the passenger side of the car before he turned and walked around the driver side and slid into the seat.
Piper's reaction time was a beat late. She'd been focused on the Corporal's facial expression, trying to puzzle out if he was amused or annoyed and hadn't immediately picked up his intention when he'd pointed her to the passenger side. When she got it, though, she breathed an unintended "Oh!" and made her way around to the other side double time, sliding in to the passenger's seat in a flurry of limbs and nervousness just a moment after Justin.
"I, uh," she began, face bearing the flushed evidence of an embarrassed blush, "I've always loved this area and it seemed to me that it was worth protecting. I wasn't much of a scientist, so didn't want to do conservation or anything, and I didn't want to sit behind a desk. So I thought maybe I'd help keep people safe while they enjoy the shore."
Coming out of her mouth she realized how incredibly naïve and little kid-ish that answer might sound. It was true, though. She'd decided on this course because she cared about where she was. And she wanted to do something that had immediate impact. It might have been a bit utopian of her, but she meant it with every bit of her.
"So not from the area?" he asked, as he adjusted the MDT so that they would both be able to see it. He looked to her for a moment for her response before doing anything further.
"Yeah, no. I grew up about three hours from here," she clarified mentally pulling up the drive time from home to the beach when she was younger. There was a slight pause between them and then she added, "So... now what?" And looked around the front of the vehicle as if the answer might present itself to her.
He pointed at the mobile data terminal (MDT), nodding in response to her, "This is how you sign into the MDT." The MDT was their link to the department's Computer Aided Dispatch system or CAD as well as the reports system, and that allowed them to conduct all department business from the computer, see their 911 calls, check motor vehicle information, and even run a criminal history.
The CAD system was displayed full screen on the MDT currently and displayed a form on the screen. It asked for various information such as vehicle information, call sign, and shield numbers. He placed himself as the primary officer, and when he got to the secondary, he glanced at her waiting when she relayed that information, he typed that in, followed by his password, explaining the whole process as he did it.
The CAD signed in, displaying all current calls in the system and what units were assigned as well as the pending queue which listed calls that weren't yet dispatched. There was currently only one unit on an assignment which looked to be a traffic stop, and no pending calls.
"There, we're in service and available," he said, using the mouse of the device to pull a drop-down menu and display unit info. "As you can see we are this unit in this vehicle, with these two officers, and these are the list of our units qualifications which of course are mine. This is an SRT car which means that we do not have plate readers, we do not have a cage for transport, and we carry extra tactical gear in our trunk. And as you noticed it is not marked although there's no denying it's a police vehicle based on the lightbar and license plates and tinted windows. We're not meant to be undercover we're meant to be noticeably different."
"Noticeably different," Piper repeated after him, eyes trained on the MDT and only periodically glancing over at Deputy Rose through his explanation. "Noticeably different... because we're SRT?" she asked, knowing even as she said it that this was the obvious answer. She'd never liked not being sure, though, and felt like she needed to confirm, even if it was something she should have already understood.
"Well, I am, but yes," he said. "Maybe in a few years, you can join as well." With that, he put the car in gear and pulled out of the parking spot as they made their way toward their assigned patrol area the northern division.
"What is your goal for the day?" Justin asked.
The question seemed to throw the younger woman for a moment, though she covered her uncertainty, or tried to, by seeming to be overly interested in the direction they were going.
"Ahm..." she said, buying herself time. "Watch. Listen. Learn." It felt like a safe answer, but then it also didn't feel detailed enough. She waited to see if the Corporal would accept it or require a better response.
"What do you want to learn?" Justin asked. He put the vehicle into drive and they pulled from their spot heading toward the exit and then north.
She took a moment to consider that a bit more than her first answer. "The things that you can read about and see in courses and such... and what we learned about at school... they aren't the same as doing things in the field. I want to learn the right way to handle myself in the moment. The... uhm... muscle memory to do this." She frowned, not sure that what she was saying was clear enough still. "If that makes sense?"
"That's a good answer," Justin responded, simply. "Muscle memory is important and is what will save you in the heat of battle."
Piper couldn't help the frown that settled on her face. She knew many of the officers she would work with had military backgrounds and wondered if that was true of Corporal Rose. "Battle?" she asked, unable to help herself. "I mean I know this job can be dangerous..." she trailed off, flushing with a bit of embarrassment.
"It's just a euphemism," he responded, glancing toward her. "This job is dangerous, it is inherently dangerous, you never know who you have to worry about. I've responded to calls to assist victims who turn on you the second you try and arrest the suspect because they are in love, and it's fine he beat me just don't take him to jail. I've responded to incidents where someone called reporting chest pain and then shot the paramedic coming through the door. And there have been incidents where they began with fires being set and then attacking the responders. Fire as a weapon is becoming more popular for terrorists."
"Think about it," he said after a pause for effect. "There's a fire at the Wright Brother's museum we got it as a fire alarm. Fire-Rescue is dispatched, the park rangers are notified, and a unit is dispatched to support it. Ten minutes later the ECC gets a call via 911 from a tourist who is hiding in a bathroom with what sounds like gun fire."
"We are not too small for a terrorist incident, we are not too small for a domestic terrorist, we are a place that has always changing populations and a lot of rural space to hide. We are also in a state that has fairly relaxed standards at the DMV. We have very liberal gun laws where you can open carry, carry whatever you want, and it's ridiculously easy to gain a concealed permit. This is a dangerous place for any member of Law Enforcement. Is today the day? Probably not, but can it be? Sure."
Unconsciously the young woman shifted taller in her seat, as if doing so would somehow put her more at ready for the unseen dangers that Corporal Rose described. She was quiet for a long moment, her expression thoughtful before speaking again. "That makes sense," she said, and there was a weight and a decisiveness in her tone as she did. "Thank you for that context, sir."
"That's why I'm here, and it doesn't end when you get that first stripe on your uniform either. FTOs are forever grasshopper."