Hot On The Trail Of A Bad Idea

by Calendar Hacksaw

Carl Sparks, Sheriff
Kern County Sheriff’s Department

Hey, Carl:

An alert reader has sent my way a dispatch from an early April edition of the Bakersfield Californian under the headline " Plan Would Give Kern Off-road Patrol," a pretty clumsy description of the article which followed, but I’ll let the copy desk deal with that.

What I read is that the Kern County Sheriff is inviting public comment on a grant application to put deputies on patrol in remote parts of the county, using all-terrain vehicles.

I am taking this opportunity to file comments not only on behalf of myself, though that should be sufficient (given my considerable political clout in these parts), but also in my separate and complementary roles as Booshway of the Weaver Creek Indentured Trappers and Grand Exalted Leader of the Landers Meadow Lock ‘n Load League.

Now, Sheriff, before all kinds of folks start asking, "Where do I sign up to become a "Trail Deputy?," I think we need to give this thing a little closer scrutiny.

The article quotes at length from Sgt. Jeff Niccoli, architect of the program, who is undoubtedly standing first in line to head up the proposed unit, which would be made up of one sergeant and a handful of hand-picked deputies, probably guys who regularly ride with Niccoli during their off-duty hours.

As I am given to understand, this elite unit--culled from the ranks of experienced lawmen--would roam the distant reaches of the County for days on end, even camping in the wilds at day’s end. Now I can just picture that. Come "end of watch," ol’ Sarge commands his troops to pull their ATVs into a tight circle near the edge of some meadow and commence to pitchin’ camp for the night. Someone gets a good campfire going, another opens a few cans of beans and sowbelly, while off in the distance a latrine is being dug. After supper, Sarge hauls out his old guitar and commences to singin’ some lonely cop ballads for a spell before the whole posse beds down under the stars. And they all sleep at time-and-a-half or double-time, since technically they’re still on duty. What the hell, it’s all just "grant money;" not like anyone had to work for it. By the way, Sheriff, can you tell me what kind of tree "grant money" grows on, and how I might get my hands on one?

I don’t suppose these keepers of the peace will provide their own ATVs and gear; this is different than the mounted posse. No, the members of this team will be assigned state-of-the-art quads fully equipped with two-way radios, sirens, flashing lights, air conditioning, power door locks, everything typically found in a black-and-white. They’ll be wearing custom designed uniforms and boots, matching helmets and gloves, goggles tinted so dark you’ll wonder if anyone’s behind them. These deputies will be the toughest thing on the trail, make no mistake about it, and if some crazed teenager decides to flaunt the law by racing down the Pacific Crest Trail, you can bet our finely tuned fleet of four-wheelers will be in hot pursuit.

Ya know, around Twin Oaks when someone uses the term "cowboy," everyone knows what it means. But in law enforcement circles, especially around places like L.A.P.D.’s Rampart Division, it takes on an entirely different meaning. Loosely translated, a "cowboy" is a rogue cop; someone who has no respect for the law he’s sworn to uphold or the public he’s sworn to protect. My greatest fear is that in no time at all these trail deputies will become "cowboys" in the worst possible way, imposing their vision of law and order where it isn’t needed, trampling human rights, violating private property and creating more liability than the County’s taxpayers could ever hope to handle.

Bein’ a trail ridin’ deputy will get old pretty fast; I know from personal experience that sometimes many days go by when not a single motor vehicle passes by my place. These cowboys will undoubtedly get restless, and go lookin’ to provide someone—hell, anyone--with a little "education and guidance." Or, lacking that, they might hear of a Saturday night dance over in Claraville, so they’ll stash their uniforms and weapons down by the creek bed and put on their Garth Brooks shirts, hopin’ for a little action from the locals. Either way, it spells trouble for all of us.

I can just imagine the rate of on-the-job injuries this unit would rack up. Hell, deputies regularly call in sick on Mondays after a weekend of fly fishing. Now the taxpayers will get to foot the tab for an entire range of "in the line of duty" illnesses and injuries, ranging from bee stings and fractured vertebrae to rattlesnake bites and social diseases.

I suspect quite a few folks will bristle at any inference that this entire unit would be made up of deputies of the masculine persuasion. But let’s assume, just for the sake of argument, that the squad is entirely female, except for Niccoli, since it was his idea and all. Anyone got any problem with that? I don’t. Lotsa good female ATV riders out there. So what if Niccoli has to occasionally ask, "Would you ladies mind looking the other way for a minute?" I can hear ‘em gigglin’ now.

And I can also hear the conversation around the house when these deputies go home on their days off: "Daddy, can we go camping this weekend?" or "Mommy, you promised me you’d let me ride my ATV out on Jawbone!" "Heck, no, kid; what do you think I’ve been doing all week?"

So, Sheriff, let’s scrap this whole idea. You and I both know that a brigade of this type would cause more problems than it would solve. We already have plenty of law enforcement in the back country, what with forest and park rangers, BLM types, the CHP, Fish and Game, militia of every stripe, and what-not; we don’t need more.

I’d respectfully suggest that you forward this vile and ill-conceived grant application to Fox, UPN, or one of the other networks. "Baywatch" is fading fast, so "Bods On Quads" just might become the next prime time hit.


Calendar Hacksaw

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