Originally published in Focus Magazine, May 2016
“We will continually strive to maintain and enhance the quality of life in Lake County through service to the community, by working together to provide effective crime prevention, law enforcement and judicial support.” This is the Mission Statement of the Lake County Sheriff’s Office.
I mention this because a few days before we went to print (May, 2016 issue), I had the chance to do an evening ride-along with Sgt. Greg Holtzclaw, the sector commander covering deputies from Mt Dora to Lady Lake.
Once I donned my bullet-proof vest, Sgt Holtzclaw and I hit the road. Much to my dismay, I didn’t get a chance to press any buttons, respond to dispatch or turn on lights and sirens. According to Holtzclaw, ours was “a slow evening.” Maybe for him; but for me everything was new and compelling.
Our evening started with a trespass call as a young woman (who Holtzclaw had previous incidents with) wound up unwanted in an ex’s front yard. Early to mid 20s, I was told she had a history of trespass, drugs and prostitution. As Holtzclaw spoke with her, and noted what looked like a jail-house tattoo, we learned she had already been imprisoned. He did everything he could to help her including recommending LifeStream but as he told me when we got back into the car, “you can’t force someone who is not in immediate danger to help themselves.” She would walk off – with everything she owned in a backpack and duffel bag – in search of a place to stay and by all reasonable assumptions, would do whatever it took to survive another night.
Our night also included a domestic dispute call between two mature adults (probably in their late 50s) that turned bloody… over a cell phone. This appeared to be a nice, middle-class family with a teenage son (who was in his room playing video games while it all unfolded). I wondered what drove them to the point of a physical altercation, the stress in their lives, the tension in their home… over a cell phone.
And my six-hour shift ended with a heartbreaking and disturbing call to a rundown “motel apartment” in Fruitland Park where two females in their 20s were arrested on charges of possession of Meth, prescription pills and delinquency of two minors – a two year old and a four year old. “What are these cops doing here? Where’s my mommy?” asked the sweet and calm and unfazed 4 year old girl. I was so impressed by the professionalism and compassion displayed by all the LCSO deputies (as well as a Fruitland Park officer who responded), both for the suspects and the kids caught in the proverbial crossfire who would ride off with a DCF agent at 11pm when most kids their age should be safe in bed.
I’m not naïve enough to think this didn’t exist here in Lake County. I had heard about it and heck, we’ve even reported on it. It was just that I had never experienced any of it firsthand. The night has stuck with me and I still wonder about what happened to those small children. I wonder if the women who wound up in an ambulance instead of her nightshift lost her job… over a cell phone. Or whether the first young lady we met will ever turn her life around.
But most importantly, what I learned was that every member of our Sheriff’s office that I came into contact with that night clearly exemplified the Mission. I am grateful for the sobering opportunity and wish all the men and women in the Lake County Sheriff’s Office continued safety, success and appreciation.
This experience was an excellent example of two of our RED APPLES Core Values:
- “People are our priorities. Relationships drive success” and
- “Live for what you love. Work to make a difference.”