I had a little too much fun this weekend and neglected to get the latest installment of Citizen's Academy up on time! That is not to say that I didn't thoroughly enjoy class #9 which featured Major Jim Harpring, Deputy Roberta Barker and Detective Joe Abollo.
Jim Harpring is legal counsel for IRCSO but he does so much more. In fact I bet he needs an extra closet to hold all the many different hats he wears.
"Yes I am responsible for a great deal and I do get to each area several times a week but I also trust my staff to get the job done," he explains. He goes on to use a bunch of acronyms (I couldn't keep up!) and says, "We are in law enforcement and we love acronyms. We think it's C.O.O.L."
As head of the Bureau of Administration, Jim (may I call you Jim?) is in charge of 9 different critical areas of our IRCSO. First, he is responsible for all of Human Resources. "With 460-500 employees at any given time, we have to run the agency just like a business," he says. Again he refers to his excellent staff, specifically Martha Asher. Remember Marsha's Game of Jeopardy from session 4? "Marsha Asher is one of the best people you will ever come across."
Next, he handles General Services. "Think of this as an ongoing Honey-Do list," he says. "This is literally the nuts and bolts of the operation, from fixing leaky pipes to changing light bulbs to purchasing uniforms and equipment."
Third, he is in charge of the Fleet. "We have 300 plus things that move," he explains. "Cars, golf carts, the MRAP, buses. They all need servicing and our excellent fleet mechanics are on top of it. In fact we have one individual whose mission in life is to save every car."
Fourth is I.T. "We have 220 plus laptops in every car, 200 plus office computers, 7 large servers and our 9-1-1 Dispatch. There are always challenges. In fact just yesterday we had to run new fiber optics cable because squirrels chewed through it!"
Next, he handles the Records Department. "We have a high volume of extremely important 'stuff' - to use a technical legal term," he laughs. He mentions another staff member by her first name - Monique. "She deals with each and every records request," he says. "I cannot believe she doesn't chain-smoke!"
Sixth on his list of responsibilities is the Courthouse. "I oversee all security there and also the legal/civil subpoenas and summons process," he says. "The Courthouse is our highest liability in regards to the potential for danger, especially in domestic court, where emotions are high. Today we brought 16 inmates to the Courthouse and 3 more were remanded to our custody so we brought back 19. Also this week we sent out 200 plus summons and 350 plus subpoenas. We processed over 1000 civil lawsuit papers."
Number seven is Internal Affairs. "This is the process where we police ourselves whenever we have a complaint from the public or internally," he explains. "Sheriff Loar has given me strict marching orders to thoroughly investigate every claim. Our process is designed to protect the confidence of the public and our employees in the agency. A good internal affairs investigation is important to our agency during litigation."
Eighth: He is the Chief Legal Advisor and Counsel to the IRCSO. He defends lawsuits and claims. He negotiates costs for the corrections unit, like medication costs of inmates. He also negotiates employee and union contracts. "Our most valued resource is the individual," he says. "Union or not, our employees get the same compensation."
Finally, he provides Legal and Ethical Training to officers and at the police academy. He concludes with, "I am privileged to have this opportunity to serve IRCSO. Here at the agency we hit the ground running each day. We don't have many clock watchers here. I never turn off my cell phone. I come in early and leave late. It is an honor."
Next up was Deputy Roberta Barker to discuss Crime Prevention Affairs and Identity Theft. We learn that she grew up in Indian River County and her father Ray Barker was with the Vero Beach Police Department for 33 years. On our Citizen's Academy Graduation night July 31, Roberta will celebrate 25 years with IRCSO.
"I tell people all the time to be aware of your own personal safety," she says. "Always stop and think what you are doing, who is around you and what is going on."
She continues, "Everything I tell you is the truth. I do not fabricate. You will be scared when we are finished - that is why we have free stress balls for you to take home."
She explains that Identity Theft is the #1 crime worldwide and that Florida is the #1 state for it. "The average victim is 35-49 years old," she says. "Identity Theft is not a new concept either." She describes her very first case. "Back then you did not need a photo ID to get a social security card or open an bank account. A group of transvestites from South Florida came up and were taking the names off cemetary headstones. They would then go from there, stealing identities and opening bank accounts."
Here are the highlights I took from her session: 1) Always know the area where you live and your way around if you have to take an alternate route; 2) Don't write checks and put them in your mailbox; 3) Don't show that you are carrying a lot of cash and don't leave your purse in your shopping cart; 4) If you purchase something online make sure it is a secure site - there will be a lock symbol in the address bar and right corner and the address will start with "https" (not "http"); 5) What I say today will possibly change tomorrow as thieves are always perfecting their tactics; 6) Know your credit score and get a report every quarter using a reputable company like Equifax; 7) Don't use an ATM if you don't have to and always look for a fake 'overlay' - it will be grey in color and will cover the headphone symbol and part of the Braille; 8) look for overlays on Gas Pumps too; 9) Once you get your receipt hit the clear/cancel/exit buttons; 10) "Lock it or Lose it!"; 11) Don't leave visible items in your car; 12) If you receive a suspicious email, right click on the address to see its country of origin; 13) Always shred all mail with your name and address on it and use a cross shredder, not a traditional shredder because "there is an APP to put traditionally shredded documents back together again!"; 14) Don't put your garbage out the night before and take labels off shipping boxes (and shred the labels too); 15) Don't carry social security cards and the like around and keep them in a safe box at home which you bolt to the floor; 16) Be wary of your credit card leaving your sight at a restaurant as now people can buy "Skimmers" and swipe your card and later sell to identity thieves; 17) When buying a gift card in a store, dig into the back to get one that probably hasn't been compromised; 18) Don't leave your garage door opener in your car and don't leave your garage door open.
"Don't be complacent or you will be a victim," she closes. "How do you protect yourself? I don't know what to tell you. Hide in a corner." We laugh, but then go grab our stress balls and go back over her excellent list of how we can in fact protect ourselves!"
Lastly - yes this was all in one night! - Detective Joe Abollo spoke to us about Criminal Investigations. With him were Sgt. Eric Flowers and Sgt. Milo Thornton.
"TV and real CSI are not the same," he says. "On TV everything happens quickly and in a logical order. In real life you are juggling sometimes 30 cases. You have to have a thick skin to be a detective and you have to be able to handle multiple tasks and cases. You have to be very organized because you might be called into court to discuss a case several years later and you have to be able to recall everything clearly. If you cannot organize you will fall apart."
"The main thing we do is talk to people," he explains. "We carry all of our cases with us 24/7. I have been to a judge's house at 3 am knocking on the door to have him sign a search warrant. Also we look at people differently. The way they talk and walk. The way they look at me. Subtle clues tell us a great deal. We are constantly assessing what is a threat and what is not a threat."
Here are some of the slides from his presentation which give excellent insight:
We went overtime but that is because we wanted to go into the detective bureau to see where they do their work. We got to look at the personal offices which had numerous photos of wanted criminals (I did not take any photos in there!). And we got to see the interrogation room where we saw one underway (can you recognize the people?).
Sigh. Only two more classes left until graduation. See you next week, and I promise to not wait so long to post! (By the way: A+ once again to Deputy Roberta Barker for the food!)
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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