Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Harpers Ferry NHP Entry No. 4

Lately I have been busy gaining a lot of law enforcement experience. I was authorized to go on a ride along with Harpers Ferry Police Department. I joined the town's K-9 unit on patrol between 1800 and 0330. It was very interesting to see the town during the midnight hours, as I am not usually out driving around during that time. I was able to see the town in a different perspective that I would not of normally known without driving along with local PD. Within the first two hours of working we wrote four citations and dealt with a disturbance call. The officer easily identified expired registration and inspection on vehicles as they drove by us in the middle of the night. We patrolled a portion of U.S. Route 340 that the municipality of Harpers Ferry owns.  He taught me what to quickly look for to find expired vehicles on the highway. He also went over the difference between local, state, and federal offense codes with me when he wrote his citations. During the disturbance call with a juvenile, the Harpers Ferry officer taught me the proper way to communicate with the involved parties and what to be aware of during the contact. Throughout the night, officer showed me the actions he takes on a "routine" traffic stop and how he approaches a vehicle. He explained that every stop is different and to not be complacent. One should always have awareness of the situation and be on guard. We went over some clues that he looks for in a vehicle or on the driver to let him know they might have been drinking or doing drugs. The officer also went into detail about the field sobriety test and also what to do when you suspect the driver is under the influence of drugs. We talked about the different situations the officer would need to use his K-9 partner, Diesel.  I also learned some good defense tactics and maneuvers from the officer before the end of my shift. Overall I had a great time riding along with the local PD and hope I will get to again before the end of the summer.

Here at HAFE, hunting is illegal on park grounds. The Natural Resource Specialist found an illegally placed deer stand on our property while doing some survey work in a remote part of the park. He mapped out the location for us and I went with one of the LE rangers to go inspect the area.  After a long drive and a short hike through the woods, we found the trail that led to the stand. We also found evidence of horseback riding, in the form of large horse droppings.  Horseback riding is also prohibited on this property. There was nothing on or near the deer stand that we could use to identify who owned it. The LE ranger brought along new surveillance equipment which was perfect for this situation. We installed a high resolution game camera on a nearby tree that gave the camera the perfect view to the trail and stand. We camouflaged the camera to the best of our ability and attached an antennae to the camera. With that antennae, the ranger does not have to check the video directly from the camera every time. The antennae can feed the video footage to his laptop while he sits at the head of the trail in his patrol vehicle. I intend to go back to this location as much as possible with the ranger to see if we catch any illegal activity on the camera.

             Illegal Deer Stand                                        Camouflaged Camera 

A lot of people seem to enjoy drinking alcohol within the boundaries of HAFE. Alcoholic beverages are actually prohibited on park property here. Some of the visitors say they were unaware of this regulation, but it is posted throughout park grounds. My supervisor and I found many people having a few drinks during the past couple of weeks. Most of these cases have been taking place on our River Access Shoreline, which is the shoreline of the Shenandoah River. Only but a small portion of the shoreline is actually visible from the road so it is the perfect place for people to sneak in a few drinks undetected. In order to catch the illegal consumption of alcohol, my supervisor and I hiked along the shoreline, observing and contacting groups as we walked by. Every contact we made was extremely different from the others, so it was very helpful to see my supervisor interact with the groups. Some of them were very truthful and compliant. But a few of them tried to lie about it and hide the alcohol. We could only act when the alcohol was in plain sight, so we were not allowed to look through people's coolers or bags unless they gave us permission. Luckily the one time, the wind blew off the lid to one of those styrofoam coolers while I was standing right in front of it. When I looked down I saw multiple beer cans sitting in the cooler, some empty and crushed with others still not opened yet. Depending on how the conversation went after we found alcohol, we either wrote them warnings or citations. But each time we made the parties dispose of the beverages in the trash receptacles in our parking lot. While we walked with the parties to the parking lot, we would point out each sign along the way that stated alcohol was prohibited. To get to there shoreline of the Shenandoah, one would pass five of these signs. So the regulations are clearly posted to warn visitors before they get all the way out there.
We also had an incident of a man drinking in public at our train station and making inappropriate comments to people as they walked by. We quickly arrived on scene after we heard the call over the radio. After talking to the witnesses to learn more about the situation, we learned that an older man was drinking straight out of a whiskey bottle and was causing a disturbance by making rude gestures and comments. We walked behind the train station to find a gentleman who said he was waiting on a delayed train. No alcohol was visible initially, but he did have a large bag to his side. His breath gave off an odor of alcohol from quite a distance away. At first the man was compliant and spoke to us about the train he was waiting for. When asked about the alcohol, the man became very defensive and denied it. He allowed us to administer a PBT and it came out with a .225. The man finally admitted to drinking and having alcohol on him. We confiscated his beverages and educated him on the park regulations. We also warned him about his rude comments to park visitors. My supervisor gave him a second chance and let him go, but explained to him that if we were called back there that we would have to arrest him for public intoxication and disorderly conduct. The man apologized and thanked us. We cleared the scene after speaking again with the witnesses. 
After confiscating the alcoholic beverages, my supervisor went over how to process these into evidence. I learned how to fill out the correct forms and how to properly store them into the evidence locker. We also discussed the actions that the evidence custodian will take after I processed them. 

Confiscated Alcohol

I practiced more with IMARS on the open container violations we just got earlier. Helping my supervisor enter in case numbers is excellent practice for me. By the end of the summer I will become comfortable with the system and be ready to use it when I am commissioned. I also was able to use the "Big Easy" lockout kit for the first time on a visitor's car. A group of women locked their keys in the car at our Cavalier Heights Visitor Center parking lot. We ran the 28 on the plate before proceeding, than I pried open the door and unlocked the vehicle for them to retrieve their keys and the driver's license to verify the correct owner. The ladies were very grateful and thanked us a few times. It was a good feeling to help these women out and I enjoyed the conversation we had afterwards. My supervisor had to go to court for some of his illegal parking citations that were never paid off. We went to the Northern District of West Virginia United States District Court in Martinsburg. I was glad I was able to go with him to court for now I know what to expect when I am called to go to federal court as an LE ranger. Later in the week, my supervisor set up a ASL class for the LE rangers. He knows sign language extremely well and wanted to go over some signs as well as other knowledge to be aware of when dealing with the legally deaf. He explained that people who are legally deaf commonly communicate with touch and to not be on high alarm, if they grab your arm or touch you, as you would on any other contact. He also went over that many deaf people read lips and to always make sure the lighting is bright enough  for them to clearly see your face and to never talk to them with your face or back turned. Afterwards, we went over some important signs that law enforcement and/or EMS should know when communicating to the deaf. I thought this class was extremely valuable as many people do not know ASL or have the proper awareness. 

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