One of the many aspects I love about Citizen's Academy is that it gives us practical resources that can help us in our everyday lives, and also we get to hear from other agencies that work hand in hand with IRCSO. Session 10 was packed full of both.
First, Sgt. Eric Flowers opened our 10th session with some excellent tools we can all use to be aware of what is going on in our own neighborhoods. All we have to do is go online to www.ircsheriff.org and click on RESOURCES at the top, then LINKS. You will see a lot of different links come up, and we clicked on CRIME MAPPING FOR INDIAN RIVER. There you can type in your address and select the radius and time frame to see what crimes were committed in your area. Also of interest, we learned you can file a report online and conduct inmate and active warrants searches.
We then met Special Agent Kevin Kulp from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. "Our main purpose is to support law enforcement for the State," he says. "We come in to help local agencies in multi-jurisdiction, multi-crime, and multi-victim investigations. We don't come in to take over. Instead we offer support and additional resources."
FDLE has over 2,000 employees in 7 regional offices. Special Agent Kulp represents Indian River, St. Lucie and Martin counties. FDLE have crime labs which give added support in criminal investigations. "If you can think of it, our labs can do it," he says. FDLE also controls all background check through their Criminal Justice Information Program, including career offenders, sexual crimes, criminal history records, and missing children. They also control the state's DNA database and are part of Amber Alert, Silver Alert and Blue Alert (which is a law enforcement alert). Through their Criminal Investigation Forensics division, they focus on Domestic Security, Drugs/Narcotics, Violent Crimes, Public Integrity and Fraud/Economic Crimes. "We do whatever we can to cut the head off the snake."
Naturally, that night I dreamed of a giant snake. I was trying to cut its head off with giant garden clippers, which is odd for me because I actually really like snakes. But I digress.
FDLE provides a uniform police division for the state's Capitol buildings, government offices and visiting officials. They uphold the standards of Conduct and Training for all Florida law enforcement, and they regulate the Corrections Academy for those who work in the jails. "We set the standards very high. We emphasize character, professionalism and integrity." FDLE also assists in investigating situations involving officer shootings. "When asking was the officer justified to pull the trigger," he explains, "we are not here to judge. We are just here for the facts. We do not take the place of internal affairs either." Remember Major Jim Harpring's presentation in session 9? Harpring oversees that for IRCSO, and FDLE would come in and look at it from a different angle with a different set of questions.
FDLE will also come in to help when there is a natural disaster, man-made disaster or act of terrorism.
Next up was one of my favorite subjects: Fire Rescue. Assistant Chief Brian Burkeen from IRC Fire Rescue came to see us, and we learned that he had worked with Kevin Kulp years ago when Kevin was a volunteer with the ambulance division. "I couldn't shake this kid," jokes Burkeen. "He was riding with us every third day."
Burkeen went on to explain that even after 25 years on the job, "It is a fresh day every day! And we have a great relationship with law enforcement." He tells how they do so much more that, "put the wet stuff on the red stuff!" IRC Fire Rescue also provides EMS services (85% of their calls are medical), marine rescue (they have two boats and a dive team), high angle and confined space rescue, and airport emergency response. They are responsible for Fire Suppression/Combat, Fire Prevention & Life Safety, Arson Investigation, and Pre-Hospital Emergency Care. "We average 24,000 calls a year, and that equates to vehicles rolling out 40,000 times a year."
IRC Fire Rescue has 12 stations in the county and each has a fire truck, an ambulance, 4 paramedics and 1 EMT. Each fire truck costs $500,000 and can hold 750 gallons of water. That's why you will typically see multiple engines responding to a fire. IRCFR also has 2 ladder trucks valued at $1.2 million each. Each ladder is 100 feet and the presence of these two trucks in our county lowers our homeowners insurance considerably!
Each ambulance costs $225,000 empty and $285,000 fully equipped. The ambulances carry 28 different medications. Shifts are 24 hours and there are three sets of crews: A,B and C shifts. So they work 24 on, and 48 off. IRC Fire Rescue has solid relationships with neighboring trauma centers who will send in helicopters for transport if time is of the essence. But considering that a helicopter ride can cost a patient $24,000, "we will drive you whenever we can," says Burkeen. He also explains how great the knowledge and equipment is now to respond to strokes and heart attacks. While you are being transported to the hospital, paramedics on the ambulances can administer IV's and can determine if a heart attack is in progress through EKG technology. Sometimes you will see a fire truck respond to a medical call. With 85% of the calls being medical, the ambulances are always going and for fastest response IRCFR will send out the fire engines which are ALS (advanced life support) equipped. They can do everything but transport you.
"Don't guess, call EMS," he says. "We are glad to come out and help you."
He shares that through a federal program called C.E.R.T. (Community Emergency Response Team), we can learn to help ourselves too. "We provide classes so you can form a team in your own neighborhood in the event of a disaster. You can take care of your own community in the event we cannot get there quickly."
I had the privilege of riding with IRCFR over the course of four months last year for my book project. I am including some of the photos from my experience and the book here:
Last up was Rick Vidiri, Executive Director for Treasure Coast Crimestoppers. He was a Sergeant with IRCSO for 30 years!
"We cannot solve crimes without the help of the public," he says. "Many people for numerous reasons may be fearful to give us a tip, and through Crimestoppers, you can give the tip and remain anonymous. If your tip leads to an arrest, you may be eligible for compensation as well!"
He explains that the reward money comes from fees paid by those arrested, not tax dollars. Even receiving the reward money is done anonymously. "We have a deal set up with one bank. You come to the drive-thru, give your 'password' and receive an envelope. It's a lot like a drug deal," he laughs.
There are three ways to provide a tip. 1) call 1-800-272-TIPS, 2) visit www.TCWatch.org, and 3) send a text (which he feels is least effective).
"I get up every morning and look at reports, then I determine each jurisdiction and send the report to them," he says.
When there are big cases with media attentions, lots of tips will come in. They number the order of calls and give rewards based on the tips that first gave them the information to make the arrest. "Last year we had 1000 calls which yielded 100 arrests, and we paid out to only 35% of those tips that led to arrests because most people don't collect their rewards for whatever reason."
The sign he is holding in the photo below is one of a large batch which were just finished and will be delivered to all law enforcement by the end of this month so they may be placed at all crime scenes. He also shares that on the last Friday of every month, all area law enforcement meet for breakfast to network and discuss cases. "This open communication and sharing of information often leads to more arrests," he says.
I wanted to include the two volunteers who are there every week signing us all in, and only one would let me take his photo (left) after a bit of arm twisting. Also I neglected to get his name. I will get it at the next session and post it here. UPDATE: This exceptional volunteer is JIM LUBY!!!!
Well, that wraps up Day 10 of Citizen's Academy. See you next week for -- sniff sniff -- the final class. The entire session will be dedicated to Training, and promises to yield great photos as we see what officers must go through to train for their difficult jobs.
I am an official, fully vetted volunteer with the Indian River County Sheriff's Office (Citizen's Academy, background checks, fingerprinted, etc.). Since my expertise is photo-journalism, producing these stories is one way I give back to my community.
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