The Cop Column
August, 2006
Sgt. Rick Hord
Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office

A Complaint That Wasn’t

            “Where would I file a complaint on a Deputy?” asked the woman at the Courthouse Annex.

            She had seen one of our Deputies using his patrol car’s blue lights to drive on the shoulder past backed-up traffic the previous evening. She felt certain he had driven in that manner because he didn’t want to wait in a traffic jam. She believed that for two reasons: first, she knew a cop in another state who used to brag about using his blue lights to get through traffic jams; and second, she saw the officer turn off his flashing blue lights when he got into a turn lane after making his way through the congestion. 

            With the time, date, location, vehicle description, and car number provided by the lady, I offered to find out the Deputy’s name and help her direct the complaint to the appropriate supervisor. Thanks to the miracle of computers, I returned about three minutes later with a printout showing the minute-by-minute sequence of events she had witnessed.

            The Deputy who had attracted her attention had been one of three responding to an alarm of a robbery in progress at a restaurant. The first Deputy on scene reported the robbery call was a false alarm, so the backup units immediately ceased any form of emergency response.

            That’s a rather common occurrence. Okaloosa Deputies respond to an average of about a dozen false alarms per day, every one of which is treated as a true emergency until the situation at the scene is ascertained otherwise. Many incidents other than alarm activations, such as a fight in progress or a traffic crash just occurred, might also prompt backup officers to turn on their blue lights… only to turn them off moments later for no visible reason.

            The woman had her question answered and was no longer upset.

            I, however, was not so fortunate. I remained with unanswered and upsetting questions.

Who is this officer who brags about using his blue lights for his own personal convenience? Does he really do that, or is he just talking? Either way, does he realize how much damage he is inflicting to the profession?  

            I was not surprised the lady said her erstwhile cop friend so unwise in the operation of his blue lights and his mouth was from another state. Such behavior would be a serious career-inhibitor at our agency. Getting in a crash, even one that’s not your fault, while wrongly using blue lights, could be an instant career-killer. Our people know that, and the public should, too.

            I thank the concerned woman for coming forward with her observation and question. Her complaint would have gone directly to the appropriate supervisor if there had been any question about the Deputy’s driving and use of blue lights. Such a complaint would be taken seriously. Any cop selfish enough to act as the woman believed is a poor law enforcement officer. Thanks to concerned citizens like the lady I encountered, such an officer wouldn’t last long.