Many years ago the man in my life told me I was not allowed to work at the Sheriff’s Office. He wasn’t using reverse psychology to get me to apply for a higher wage job within the County. Simply, he didn’t want me to be on a first name basis with any law enforcement personnel. My man was handsome, charismatic, and very intelligent but he did drugs, which he vehemently denied, and lost jobs numerous times, while I was still working at the County over a decade and a half. My man also had anger management problems and he was a mean drunk. One Christmas I took my Golden Retriever and three Shelties plus all my junk and left Mr. Perfect to his own world.
Not long thereafter I applied for any available position at the County Sheriff’s Office. I wanted to feel safe and protected. I also wanted an exciting life and an exciting job. Have you heard the expression, from the frying pan into the fire? Don’t base real life on what you see on television. The real world is not edited. There are no commercials and the cast of characters are sometimes more dangerous than fiction.
My first job was in the jail booking criminals, working alongside other civilians, officers, deputies, attorneys and the public. In a booking situation you are not secluded in a glass or screened in room. The crooks are up close and personal. It was a hectic, frenetic, heart pounding first day for me that started when our shift entered the “spine” (the main corridor) through heavy metal doors that slammed behind us, locking in the crooks, as well as the officers and other staff.
The newly arrested men and women stared at me from their holding cells, some yelling obscenities, crying, or pushing the intercom button demanding attention, or they were sitting in an open area watching television quietly. Then they were each brought to the booking staff. I met murderers, child molesters, rapists, drunks, thieves, and couples who tried their own method of marriage counseling, assault and battery. Bad behavior knows no sex, race or age. I’d come home from work and call my parents who lived across country.
“Mom, you won’t believe what this one man did. He murdered someone and then he stood there and joked with me while I was booking him.” Mom was incredulous. She did not like my new job.
After four months I transferred to the safe, secure and relaxing Civil Department where I stayed for two years. But the urge to find a job more exciting and mentally stimulating came upon me once again and I applied for a position in the Detective’s Division. That was another eye-opening opportunity for me. I registered sex offenders, who, by the way, are not necessarily lecherous old men. They are sometimes women, young handsome men, old handsome men and yes, a few icky, ugly types. In time I was able to search on the database and locate where these sex offenders lived. Some of them lived near my house, which was near a school. Really, we have no clue what people have done with their lives unless they volunteer the information.
Another job I was assigned in the Detective’s Division was typing taped confessions or victim’s statements verbatim. Other women within the department said they had cried while typing the Detective’s taped statements. It was so sad to hear unedited stories of someone’s terrifying moments before they were attacked. It was also upsetting to hear someone try to outsmart the Detectives and give false information. The Detective’s knew they were lying and I knew it listening to the tapes. Eventually the person would be caught up in his or her lies and would go downstairs to the jail.
During a slow time in Detectives I worked in Property Evidence and eventually became an Evidence Officer. Keep in mind that absolutely nothing on television prepares you for what happens in real life at a Correctional facility. When police come onto a crime scene they work hard to take anything necessary to convict a criminal, such as drugs, money, computers, cars, jewelry. I would come to work to find clothes dripping blood in the overnight lockers. This was not ketchup. Someone had been killed or seriously injured. Regular 35mm cameras were used at the crime scenes. Digital cameras were still new. Deputies would give us several 35mm canisters of film which we would drop off at the prearranged local pharmacy to be developed. The next day we’d pick up the photos and enter them into evidence. I’ll never forget one picture of someone’s head after it had been blown apart from a bullet. I’m assuming some jury man or woman also had sleepless nights after viewing the photos.
After five years it was time to kiss the Sheriff’s Office goodbye, mainly because the criminals and the Sheriff himself had way too much in common. In the end both the bad guys and the good guys all worked for the same demon: power or money or both. I never did play office politics well. When I was caught in the cross hairs along with numerous other employees I lawyered up and transferred out to a safer department.
But I’ve changed as a result of my time “in jail”. My intuition, my upbringing, my common sense and my dogs keep me safe for now. But I’m ever alert and now call 9-1-1 when necessary in a calm manner and give detailed information. Because now I’m no longer that innocent woman who listened to the steel doors slam behind me. The woman who walked away from that modern, cream-colored cement building is now strong-inside.