Our department, like many in this area last week, was busy assisting with logistics for the memorial and procession for Officer Gutierrez in Tacoma.
I wish I could tell you that the calls for service and frequency of people running away/fighting/causing problems slowed down in recognition of this workload issue, but, alas, they did not.
A safe ending for “routine” call
Officers had to wrestle with another person “not in their right mind” early last week.
A man was in the bathroom at a coffee shop in East Bremerton for a long period of time. The manager told the man to leave several times, then called police as the man was locked in and would not respond.
A tool was used to unlock the door and the man was found sitting on the toilet, fully clothed, with track marks on his arm and a rubber tourniquet around his wrist.
He refused to identify himself and was arrested for criminal trespass, obstructing legal process (because he lied about his identity), resisting arrest and possession of heroin. He also had an arrest warrant from the Department of Corrections.
Of course, he decided to struggle with officers and would lash out one minute, be calm the next and then tell officers he was suicidal after that. He was transported in restraints to the hospital.
It is these types of “routine” calls that too often go very bad, and every community deals with both drug dependency and mental health issues.
Officer Dave Hughes located a man who has been on our “Unlucky 7” list for some time.
The man went into a house, then ran out a window while other officers arrived to assist. Officers set up a perimeter and the Kitsap County Sheriff’s K-9 team was working, so they came over to help us out.
After a short K-9 track, the man was located hiding under a bush in a nearby yard. Great team effort!
Only a sip, and some spice
Last week, Officer Michelle Griesheimer responded to a suspected impaired driving crash, in which the driver struck two vehicles and tried to leave the area.
No one was injured, but once he was located, the driver admitted to having a “sip” of alcohol and smoking “spice.” The officer noted that the latter was probably the bigger issue.
A drug recognition expert was on duty in a nearby city and assisted. They evaluated the driver, who was subsequently arrested for impaired driving. Officer Griesheimer obtained a search warrant from a judge to obtain a blood test, then applied for a separate search warrant the next day to search the car for drugs.
If that sounds like a lot of work for a drug arrest, that’s because it is. Case law and the nature of drug impairment, including marijuana impairment, requires much higher levels of expertise and training, and a lot more work for search warrants and follow up.
Making a good case is important, but we all need to realize that every “drugged” driver out there who is arrested is also taking an officer off the street for several hours. Besides the dangerous and sometimes fatal consequences of driving while impaired, the arrests and prosecutions of these drivers are also a big drain on resources.
Welcome to the Kitsap team, Chief
Along with Sheriff Gary Simpson, Bainbridge Island Chief Matt Hamner, and several officers and deputies from around the area, I attended the oath of office ceremony last week for Poulsbo’s new police chief, Dan Schoonmaker.
The chief comes to Poulsbo from Westminster, California. Law enforcement in this area works very well together, and the new chief will be a great addition to our team.
Just about every issue in one
I want to thank the mayor and City Council for allowing me to give a lengthy presentation on the violent assault that occurred against our Officer Berntsen.
I was able to show each cell-phone video and illustrate how this particular incident touches on just about every issue we are dealing with in law enforcement: mental health, use of force, the “post-truth” elements of social media and unrealistic expectations of how officers can handle circumstances requiring life or death decisions made in split-seconds.
At the same time as we prepare for Officer Gutierrez’ funeral, two officers in Georgia have been killed last week, also during a domestic violence call.
It truly is an honor
Finally, we received this great email, among many other positive messages, last week:
“I’ve thought about you a lot after hearing about the death of the officer in Tacoma. I meant to email you sooner.
“I am sure the death of any law enforcement officer is difficult, but when there have been so many, and when there is one so close to home, I would imagine it takes an even greater toll.
“Thinking of you and all of our BPD officers and their families … We are thankful for the difficult job you and your team do for us every single day.”
It is truly our honor to serve this community.
Steven Strachan is the Bremerton Chief of Police, and can be reached at ste firstname.lastname@example.org.