Finding the bad guys

bbashioum@demo-mo.comOctober 11, 2013 

Cass County Deputy Robyn Burger works on a report during a patrol shift Oct. 6. Burger is a 10-year veteran on the force and the only female in the patrol unit.

BETHANY BASHIOUM/DEMOCRAT MISSOURIAN

Deputy Robyn Burger told me to close my eyes if I got scared.

“It’ll be over in a second,” she said, moments after flipping on the lights and sirens to her gray-colored No. 16 Cass County Sheriff’s Office Dodge Charger patrol vehicle after being called over the radio to respond to a call for help in East Lynne.

Scared? No, I wasn’t. Excited? Definitely.

A ride-along with a deputy is one of the opportunities presented through participation in the Cass County Sheriff’s Office Citizen’s Academy.

On this run-of-the-mill Sunday evening shift Oct. 6, a call came over Burger’s radio at 19:59 (7:59 p.m.) for help at the scene of a domestic disturbance situation at a residence in East Lynne.

Up into this point, the evening had been quiet. The call came in as Burger was almost to Austin to do a routine sweep of residence and business checks.

After Burger pulled over on the side of the road to look up the address on her computer, we made our way north toward East Lynne.

“I don’t get excited until I know where we’re going,” Burger stated.

She turned on the red and blue lights and off she went.

Never had I been in a patrol car with the sirens ablaze. I almost felt like I was in a movie as we raced halfway across the county.

Along the way, Burger’s supervisor, Sgt. Walter Burr, communicated with us that he would also respond to the scene as it is protocol for two deputies to respond in domestic dispute situations.

Reaching speeds of about 70 mph and taking special precautions not to cause injuries to us or other drivers, Burger reached the residence in about 12 minutes.

Burger reminded me several times, excitement like this is only occurs about 10 percent of the time.

Upon arrival to the scene, Burger joined Burr and the paramedics who had already arrived.

As the deputies investigated the altercation, a 33-year-old male was taken under arrest for allegations that he had assaulted his father. The suspect was also questioned about a mark that had been discovered on the neck of his 6-year-old daughter earlier in the day.

The action was not necessarily criminal, but a reason for questions to be asked and social services to be contacted.

“We see a lot of humanity at its worst,” Burger said. “You can’t carry it with you...you just have to pray for the victims.”

Burr put the suspect into the backseat of his patrol vehicle and took him to the Cass County Jail while Burger was tasked with taking written statements from witnesses at the home.

After collecting the statements, Burger went back to the Sheriff’s Office to take care of a few things before she was sent out on a call for assistance by the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office at a residence on the east county line near 2001st Road and SW 600th Road.

Burger was requested to help look for a suspect who may have fled into a field after bothering a resident owner. Using the light beams on her vehicle, she drove around the property with deputies from Johnson County in search for a suspect. The suspect was not identified or found.

The other 90 percent of Burger’s time on the shift could be labeled as mundane, but it is a critical part of job for helping reduce crime in her zone which stretches 400 square miles from Pleasant Hill to Creighton across the southern half of the county.

“Good people go to bed. I go hunting,” Burger said.

A good portion of her time is spent doing business checks – driving around dozens of southern Cass County businesses, looking for anything of unusual nature – such as open doors, unknown vehicles or suspicious people lurking around.

“You have to put yourself in the mind of the bad guy,” Burger said. “Officer presence is the biggest determinant to criminals.”

We drove through cemeteries and parks – looking for drug dealers, kids causing mischief, and anything else of suspicious nature. She also keeps out a look out for suspicious residential activities and an eye on the road for speeders or vehicles in violation.

Burger said she feels somewhat responsible when crime, such as break-in, happens on her watch. She has a sense of responsibility to keep citizens safe.

As Burger told me about her career in law enforcement throughout the 10 hours I rode with her, I was, nonetheless, impressed with her resume – and also inspired by this hero.

At 48 years old, law enforcement is Burger’s second career.

She’s spent the last 10 years with Cass County. Prior to becoming a deputy, she also had short stints as a police officer in Deep Water and Garden City.

But before she became a cop, Burger was a fast food restaurant manager at Hardee’s.

“I didn’t want to turn 40 and to still be saying that I served fries for a living,” she said.

That was the ultimatum that she gave herself, and now today, Burger is a respected member of the brotherhood of the deputies of the Sheriff’s Office – something that must be earned, especially as a woman on the force.

Burger is also the only female deputy on the patrol.

She is modest when sharing the countless stories where she has shown acts of both bravery and wit.

Burger has been on a hot pursuit with a criminal who rammed his vehicle into her patrol car. She has taken big bad guys to jail after bar fights. She also saved the life of a non-responsive newborn on the floor of a convenience store bathroom moments after the baby’s birth before paramedics arrived.

From being diplomat to a comforter, it’s all in a days work.

“You have to be a jack-of-all-trades,” Burger said.

In addition to her work on the patrol, she serves as a field training officer, crisis intervention team member, crime scene investigator, hostage negotiator, DERT team member, DWI court tracker, and the CERT team leader.

“I don’t ‘work’ because I love my job,” Burger said. “I miss it when I’m home.”

At the end of the day, she finds satisfaction in that she was a part of the chain that has saved another life.

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