Inside the Newsroom

News, commentary, insight on local happenings and fun from the staff of The Saline Reporter and Milan News-Leader.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Ride along with the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office

I went on a ride along with a deputy of the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office on Tuesday this week. I have been looking forward to it for awhile. As the police and court reporter covering Washtenaw County, I wanted learn more about the sheriff’s department and its methods. I was assigned to ride along with Deputy James Roy, who has been with the sheriff’s department for about five years. He is part of a violent crime unit stationed in Ypsilanti Township, but there are a number of aspects of his job. Deputy Roy explains it himself in this video:

Deputy Roy showed me around Ypsilanti Township and the different areas he regularly patrols, which include neighborhoods like West Willow, some apartment complexes like Village Grove Apartments, and trailer home parks. Part of the reason for the patrols is simply to have a visible police presence in the community. I’m still pretty new to the area so I was seeing quite a few things for the first time. He also talked about the different technology and techniques he uses, and about his own experience as a law enforcement officer.

The different kinds of technology used by police are among what I learned about on the ride along. Recording equipment is heavily used. Deputy Roy showed me a body microphone held in patrol vehicles. When he leaves the vehicle he clips it onto his uniform, and it provides an audio record such as for interactions with residents and suspects. Patrol vehicles have cameras in them. Footage gets downloaded wirelessly when a vehicle gets to the station, which for him is usually the Ypsilanti Township Civic Center on Huron River Drive.

The sheriff’s department also looked into portable video cameras for deputies to keep on themselves like the microphone. Deputy Roy said he tested a few of these cameras out over the summer, trying to find something that works out good. It needs to be easily portable, he said, because deputies carry plenty of equipment already.

From my own understanding, recording equipment is used both as a record of what happened if needed in court and as a means to protect officers from accusations.

I was also shown the computer deputies connect to their vehicles while on the road. They look like heavily armored laptops. There’s all kinds of features, such as a touch screen and easy to navigate screens that allow deputies to look up information even while on the move. Systems are in place capable of pulling up any driver’s license photographs and mug shots a person may have, allowing deputies to cross reference – useful for determining if somebody has a fake ID. Some of the computers even have a print reader, which is able to pull up this information with the imprint of a finger or thumb.

I also learned quite a bit about Deputy Roy during the ride along. I could tell he was passionate about being part of the sheriff’s department and working to make the community a better place.

“I could do this every day,” he said. “It’s what I always wanted to do.”

Three members of his family are also in law enforcement, two cousins and an uncle, so one explanation for his interest in law enforcement is that it’s simply in his bloodline.

Overall the ride along was a good experience. I’m glad I got to know Deputy Roy. He invited me to do another ride along pretty much whenever, but there were some suggestions like a midnight shift in July. I was told that’s one of the most active times in the year for law enforcement – mostly because people are themselves more active and get out more when its warmer, and this activity peaks in July.

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Thursday, December 22, 2011

A different kind of Christmas (well, Advent) decoration in Saline

Driving from Milan on Saline-Milan Road, I spotted a unique Christmas decoration in one front lawn.

It was four "candles" in some bushes made to look like an Advent wreath.

It was something I hadn't seen before that big, and thought it would be worth the share.

The Advent wreath is useful by Catholics and some Protestants to mark the four weeks leading up to Christmas. It has four candles, one new one is lit each week until the week before Christmas, where all four burn.

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Monday, December 12, 2011

Blogging at the Saline Senior Center

We're at the Saline Senior Center with a blogging class of 11 people. They are setting up their own blogs currently (those with computer access, anyway).

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Sunday, December 11, 2011

Is it a myth that icy roads cause accidents?

I recently received an e-mail from a reader in regards to a story I wrote on the accident on M-52, the accident that led to the death of former Manchester village president David Little. She disagreed with the following sentence: 'At this time it looks like icy roads and improper driving caused this accident, according to the sheriff's office.'

She told me this furthers a myth that icy roads cause accidents. I almost thought it wasn't a serious comment at first because I'd never heard that some believe that this is a myth. Even after thinking a bit about it I didn't really see the arguement that could be made. Icy roads can lead to accidents, sounded about right. I asked the reader to elaborate, which she did, and I can now say I can see where she's coming from.

She wrote: "Inability to adjust your driving to the road conditions is what causes the accidents. If one was driving at a prudent speed, able to maintain control of their vehicle under the present conditions, there wouldn't be all these accidents.

"Icy roads don't cause accidents. People not adjusting their driving to the road's conditions causes icy roads."

She also told me drivers with technology like electronic stability systems drive like they're exempt from slipping when they're not, and that when road conditions are so bad the answer is to just not drive. I'm not entirely convinced that its a myth that icy roads cause accidents. Improper driving given road conditions plays a role in many situations, I would imagine, but I think there are situations like a rare patch of black ice on a day of otherwise clear roads would present a problem for all but the most cautious drivers.

I try to drive carefully, but occasionally I will lose some control over my car during bad road conditions. Fortunately it's never led to an accident. Personally I try to be the most careful about turning and stopping, because that's where the majority of problems seem to happen.

I spoke with Saline Police Chief Paul Bunten about icy roads and he shared some traffic safety tips.

Feel free to share what you think about whether or not it's a myth that icy roads cause accidents.

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