Officers deal with the fallout from substance abuse | Police Calls

BREMERTON — You may have heard about “Spice,” which is sold by some stores as “bath salts” or “potpourri” but everyone knows it is being ingested by people to get high.

It is (sort of) regulated, but the manufacturers and stores keep changing the formulas to get around any regulations. The people who use it frequently end up in some sort of behavior and health crisis, and guess who gets to deal with that — yes, that would be us and our colleagues at the fire department.

Last week, officers were called to a grocery store for a 911 caller who wanted to report he had been stabbed and was dying. Officer Kent Mayfield arrived and was directed across the street to a fast-food restaurant. As Corporal Jeff Schaefer arrived in the area, a man ran toward his patrol car, threw two cups of ice on the ground and then started to chase the car while running behind it in the four-lane roadway.

You just know there’s more to this story.

Sure enough, this erratically behaving man was the (clearly non-stabbed) 911 caller, who appeared to be under the influence of spice. He was paranoid and unable to control his speech or movements. Firefighters and medics were called to take him to the hospital, and he had to be handcuffed until they arrived. When it came time for him to get on the gurney, he broke free and tried to escape. It took two officers and five firefighters to get him secured.

The only contact with law enforcement this person had in the past was a few months ago with the Sheriff’s Office, when he did the exact same thing in their jurisdiction. As Corporal Schaefer noted, “What I would like to propose is that when we deal with spice users, we have the store owners who sold it come out to assist us in taking these folks into custody. I have a feeling sales of bath salts would go down dramatically overnight.”

Late May 14, Corporal Duke Roessel was dispatched to a guy who had been driving while drinking a beer. The witness observed the driver hit a couple of curbs before parking in front of the high school. The driver admitted to having “one beer.” Corporal Roessel noticed the “one beer” was a 40-ounce Miller High Life (that’s over a quart of beer). He dramatically failed his sobriety tests, had a .25 alcohol content, and went to jail.

Late May 13, Sgt. Ryan Heffernan located a man driving a car who was wanted on a felony arrest warrant by the Department of Corrections. Once the patrol car was turned around, the suspect stopped his car, bailed out and ran away. What he may not have known is that Sgt. Heffernan has run in numerous marathons, including the Boston Marathon, and the universe of people in the world who could successfully outrun him is extremely small. The foot chase, predictably, lasted about a half-block and the man went to jail while shaking his head.

Our recently deployed Bike Team has been, by all accounts, “burning it up” as they make numerous contacts with those who would degrade the quality of life in our city.

Early last week, officers handled one of those calls you will not see on a viral video, will not read about in the paper, but speaks to what officers really do every day. Officers responded to a domestic violence call where a 9-year-old child had called from a neighbor’s house. The child had scratch marks on her face and stomach. The investigation revealed the child had been punched by a parent in the nose twice, causing her to get a bloody nose. The parent then strangled the child to the point where she was “seeing stars.” The mother was contacted, interviewed, and arrested for felony assault. The child was transported and treated at the hospital.

There were two other children in the family, as well as another adult with her own child. When the other adult arrived at the residence, she assumed she would take custody of all the children, and became very concerned when she learned the kids would be taken into protective custody and foster care. She said the kids would have a very difficult time with the police. As Sgt. Keith Sargent noted, “I can only imagine what these kids have heard and seen.”

Officer Jen Corn, Corporal Steven Polonsky, and the sergeant spent hours communicating with the kids and explaining what would happen next. They took the time to get the kids laughing and feeling more comfortable with moving to a new family for the night. They took a few friendly selfies and were soon covered with stickers and helping to pack clothes, favorite blankets and snacks. This is the kind of call where the legal system, the foster care system, and human compassion all intersect, and where the quiet but important work of police officers really becomes apparent. We are all hoping things get better for this family.

Sgt. Aaron Elton has been helping to organize a “Beep Ball” game between the Seattle Sluggers and officers at Lions Field at 11 a.m. June 3. Beep Ball is baseball for the blind; a flier with more information is available on the city’s website. The Bremerton Central Lions are sponsoring the event to raise awareness and money for the national Beep Ball Association.

Our annual Law Enforcement Memorial for Kitsap County will begin at 3 p.m. May 17 at Miller-Woodlawn in Bremerton. We hope you can attend.

Work hard, have fun, stay safe.

— Steven D. Strachan is chief of the Bremerton Police Department. Contact him at