To serve and protect

September 13, 2013 

For me, there is something fascinating about the field of law enforcement.

From the jail to investigations, or patrol to court services, the legal system plays a major role in our lives.

Like a lot of journalists, I thrive on the thrill of a breaking news story. But sadly, sometimes those events are truly horrible events – crimes, crashes or disputes – and law enforcement are expected to make split-minute decisions in how they respond.

Maybe that is how I ended up in the 10th season of the Cass County Sheriff’s Office Citizens Academy this month.

Along with about 25 students, officials from the Cass County Sheriff’s Office are teaching a eight-week course on Wednesday evenings about law enforcement.

In our second class on Wednesday this week, we covered what the judicial system expects of a deputy and what it will do if law enforcement does not follow the rules.

Over the course of several situations in recent months, I’ve seen close-ups of law enforcement in action.

I’ve seen the role a sheriff’s office take on a missing person case in Benton County, and this week, I’ve listened through a number of testimonies from law enforcement officials presenting information in court to be used to reach a verdict in a murder trial, here in Cass County.

My brother is also in college in preparation to enter the criminal justice field, so as his big sister, I’ve naturally become more interested in understanding the profession in recent years.

Maj. Jeff Weber spent some time in class this past week talking about the work that goes on within a crime scene.

After having spent the last few days hearing from testimonies about evidence that allegedly was either used or left behind in a murder, I have seen that there is no room for law enforcement officials to screw up, or make mistakes.

I’ve learned about the “chain of command” that must be followed when evidence is removed from a crime scene. Before it is moved, the item needs to be photographed just as it was left at scene after a crime had been committed. It then needs to be placed in a sterile bag by an official wearing latex gloves, sealed, and then checked into an appropriate evidence room vault of sorts.

I’ve also been keenly made aware about the exclusionary rule.

Through the class, and the trial, I’ve learned about the importance of making sure you have the right search warrant to search property. If evidence is illegally seized, it must be thrown out of court.

Weber said one piece of evidence could make all the difference in the world of whether an alleged criminal will do time behind bars, or will walk as a free man even if he did commit the crime.

As a part of this class, participants will also have the opportunity to be exposed to the multiple functions of law enforcement in Cass County.

From doing ride-alongs in cop cars to spending shifts in the jail and dispatch, it doesn’t sound like it will be a boring eight-weeks.

These exercises will give us perspective to where our tax dollars go – in an effort to protect us.

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