Saturday, May 19, 2012

A Warm Welcome from Cape Hatteras National Seashore

Upon entering the park and seeing the grand Cape Hatteras National Seashore sign for CAHA headquarters I thought to myself, "After 8 hours of driving, wow this is it I am finally here!" Little did I know I still had another hour of driving. About 50 miles and several towns later I arrived at the ranger station I'd be working at. I had a warm welcome from my supervisor, Jim Churchman.

My first day of work was filled with a lot of orientation. My supervisor and I drove up to headquarters where we took care of some paper work and I met the Chief Law Enforcement Ranger. The chief was nice enough to walk me around headquarters and introduce me, and the ProRanger program, to the staff and the chiefs of each division. Everyone that I met seemed to be on board with the program and excited for me to be here. They were all extremely eager and ready to help. I can honestly say that every single person I met told me to feel free to come to them if I needed anything at all and offered to help in anyway possible. I am very grateful to have such a warm welcome. The park is absolutely beautiful and even the weather gave me a warm welcoming with a double rainbow over the campground.

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse

The first thing my supervisor had me do was to write out a list of things I'd like to see, do, learn, and/or experience during my internship at Cape Hatteras this summer. I think this was a great idea because it will allow us both to have a better understanding of where we stand this summer and will allow my supervisor to try to give me the best experience possible.
I am really eager for this summer. I think Cape Hatteras is a perfect park for a second season intern because of the wide variety of law enforcement that is done here. I am very excited to work both with my supervisor and Sarah Rutter's supervisor, Mark Krebs. I know there is a lot I can learn from them both.

I have been working the night shift. It has been raining a lot so the beach has been fairly empty and quiet. Therefore, on the second day of work we did some patrolling on the beach and my supervisor introduced me to the highway traffic stops. He went over what to look for in both the vehicles passing by as well as the people within those vehicles. We looked for probable cause to pull a vehicle over, but we also paid attention to the drivers' reactions to our presence. Jim went over the use of discretion and officer safety techniques when doing traffic stops. Stopping individuals who exceed the speed limit is both a direct and indirect warning. It is a direct warning (or citation) to the specific individual who disobeyed the traffic laws, and functions also as an indirect warning to all the vehicles that drive by and witness the stop. It is a friendly reminder there are repercussions for any illegal actions that can pose a threat to both themselves and to others.

During one of the traffic stops, we noticed that our left rear tire went flat. After the traffic stop was complete, the sheriff of the Dare County Sheriff's Deptartment came to help up. The Law Enforcement at CAHA has a close relationship to the Dare County Sherrif's Department and they both help support each other. The Sheriff blocked off the section of the road with his vehicle to make sure that it was safe for us to fix our flat tire. After that was complete we both went our separate ways to continue patrolling the area. However, only moments later we were called as back up to a traffic stop for the sheriff. He pulled over a vehicle for speeding. The driver was doing 80 mph in a 55 mph zone. Upon approaching the vehicle, the sheriff noticed the smell of alcohol. All three individuals were underage and had consumed alcohol. The driver's blood alcohol content was over the legal limit for a minor. With permission to search the vehicle, the sheriff did so and discovered marijuana and marijuana paraphernalia. After talking to the individuals for a while, he wrote them all up and gave the driver multiple citations, including one for the alcohol and one for the drugs. Finally, they arranged to have someone sober come pick them up. We were called as backup to this traffic stop to ensure officer safety, especially in incidents where the officer's back might be to the individuals or any incident where the officer is exposed, like during the search of the vehicle. This was the end of the night for Jim and I.

I can already see that Cape Hatteras offers such a wide variety of Law Enforcement encounters. I am really eager for what the rest of summer has to hold!

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