Looking back on a year with the police
It was a pretty calm day for Truckee police.
Of course it wasn’t Friday night, the busiest night of the week.
Sgt. Ted Bier had just finished displaying a Truckee Police Department vehicle – a Ford Expedition equipped with safety equipment, shotguns, radar, thermal imaging equipment, a video camera and a bear diversion kit – when we got our first call.
Three men, one or two of which were extremely drunk, had tried to pick up a student from Sierra Mountain Middle School.
Seeing that a couple of the men were drunk, and that none of their names were on release forms, school officials contacted the police.
After a quick stop at the school to get a description of the vehicle and a license plate number, Sgt. Bier was on the lookout.
It only took a couple of minutes to identify the car and pull it over.
Out came a high school-aged boy, dressed in blue.
Sgt. Bier unsnapped his gun, approached the car and began asking questions when two other officers on patrol stopped to help out.
Although the subject said the other two men weren’t in the car, and officers found nothing after searching the car, they filled out a field interview card and took a picture of the subject.
“A traffic stop can be one of the most deadly situations a police officer can be in,” Sgt. Bier said. “Once I leave the car I’m basically in a kill zone.”
He said most officers have probably unknowingly stopped a handful of people during their careers that have a firearm in the vehicle, but didn’t know it because it wasn’t used or in view.
Bier said he and the other officers were most concerned that the boy was affiliated with a gang.
“He was wearing all blue, which is one of the colors of the gangs and he had been stopped the other night by one of our gang officers,” he said.
“I’ll bring you a Slurpee if you wear all red tomorrow,” Officer Dirk Stoddard said, after the subject said he wears both red and blue.
After circling Tahoe Donner and downtown Truckee, Bier assisted officers Stoddard and Tom Werner at a house on the corner of Highway 267 and Old Brockway Road. After a fire alarm had gone off, firefighters entered a shed that was unlocked and found two marijuana plants. The officers decided to wait until the owners could be contacted and see if they could enter the house with permission, otherwise they would have to get a warrant.
Seeing that everything was under control, Sgt. Bier drove downtown to help out with a man who had been threatened by his landlord. The man wanted officers to stay with him while he packed up his belonging, but with only four officers on duty, Sgt. Bier had to go.
He promised to send another officer later on to patrol the area.
Earlier in the day, Bier described the common perception of police officers: “Write tickets and beat people up. That’s what people think we do.”
The one-year-old Truckee Police Department, though, has done a whole lot more in its short time in town.
Besides taking about 5,700 calls for service since Sept. 1, 2001, the police department has handled four robberies, five rape reports, 69 assaults, over 130 burglary calls, 242 theft reports and 26 vehicle thefts. Police have arrested 620 people, 138 of which were juveniles.
With the release of its one-year report, the police department highlighted its past accomplishments and the things it hopes to achieve in the future.
Chief Dan Boon hopes the department will be able to do more community outreach – to show the community how and why the police function as they do.
It’s also a great way for the department to feel the pulse of the community, Boon said.
“We have plans underway to host a citizens academy,” Boon said. “There’s all kinds of things that people can do to get involved with the police department.”
Bier reflected on the department’s philosophy – community policing – that’s at the heart of the actions of the department.
“It’s no secret what we do,” Bier said. “What we do is open. If you try and hide something, all that does is create more problems for you.”
Also, he said, the police department can’t do its job alone – it needs a good relationship with the community.
The police department’s philosophy – “no call for our service will ever be too small” – relies on that relationship with Truckee residents.
“We’ve had a number of our officers complimented for taking the time to talk with people,” Bier said. “It’s not the first thing that pops into your head when you think of police officers.”
The police department’s one-year report will be posted on the Town of Truckee Web site at http://www.townoftruckee.com.