To protect and serve – with a smile
Editor’s note: This is the fourth in a series of articles featuring ridealongs with officers from local law enforcement agencies.
BRECKENRIDGE – It’s the 9:30 p.m. shift briefing. The Breckenridge Police sergeant on duty is relaying updates on policies, patrol priorities and informative tips, but Officer Bryon Scott’s mind is still on the dream he had the night before.
For the second night in a row, Scott explains, he dreamt his gun didn’t work as a suspect came at him shooting. Scott describes how he’s able to fire twice and hit the suspect; the bullets don’t faze the man, and fear paralyzes Scott in his dream.
“I need to sit down, take all my guns apart and clean them,” Scott says. “This is a bad sign.”
But it’s completely normal, Sgt. Nicola Erb tells Scott, nothing to worry about. For people in high-stress jobs, especially when their minds are full of new information and overactive, dreams of helplessness or malfunction are common. In her dreams, she says, the bullets dribble like water out the end of the barrel. “It means you’re normal,” she tells Scott.
Scott listens as the sergeant gives instructions for the night: Check on the volleyball nets at Carter Park. Try to do some speed-checking on Boreas Pass Road. Check out a new subdivision map. Read the new policy for handling sex assault cases. And, because of the wildland fire near the Dillon Dam, expect to take a few calls for the Sheriff’s Office.
Then Scott prepares to hit the streets:
10 p.m. – Scott parks off Boreas Pass Road to run radar speed checks. “If it’s within 10 mph, I usually don’t bug ’em,” he says.
Scott is something of an anomaly in the police world. At 33 years old, he’s been a police officer for just over a year. The year before, he was a manager at Keystone Resort’s Alpenglow Stube restaurant, a profession in which he spent years in his native California. He always wanted to be a police officer, Scott says, but he “became a slave to the restaurant money,” and couldn’t put himself through the academy.
Breckenridge Police Chief Rick Holman was keen on Scott’s service background and hired him for a special town program. The town paid Scott a salary while putting him through the police academy in Glenwood Springs. “I really lucked out,” Scott says.
10:10 p.m. – Scott clocks a speeder at 42 mph in the 30 mph zone. He pulls the car over in the parking lot of the ice rink. The senior driver is courteous and Scott returns the favor: He issues the man a written warning.
“We usually give warnings if it’s not too bad,” Scott says. “The town and the department support that and, to be honest, I hate going to court.”
A department policy, based on an incident with Denver police, requires Breckenridge officers to distribute a “contact card.” The card lets citizens know who to call if they feel they’ve been stopped unjustly or racially profiled.
“Up here, a lot of people get a laugh out of that,” Scott says. “You couldn’t profile if you tried, especially at night.”
10:37 p.m. – After patrolling north on Highway 9 to County Road 400 (the limit of Breckenridge’s jurisdiction), Scott doubles back into town. He spots a car rolling through a stop sign on Lincoln. The car turns down French Street, and Scott follows. The car rolls a few more stop signs, crosses Main and Scott stops the car within sight of City Market.
“She seems alright,” Scott says, returning to the car with the driver’s information. “She says it’s her boyfriend’s car, so she’s not used to the brakes.”
Scott waits for dispatchers to clear the driver through a national database. The state’s record database is out of order, so Scott won’t get information from the Department of Motor Vehicles or insurance status. The driver is frantically looking for insurance paperwork in Scott’s headlights and picks up a cell phone to make a call. Dispatchers report the driver has no warrants for her arrest.
“I feel bad,” Scott says after letting the driver go. “She called her boyfriend all ticked off – she was crying because she couldn’t find the papers. I told her, “Sorry, I didn’t mean to upset you so much.'”
11:32 p.m. – A second speed check on Boreas Pass Road nets another violator – 48 in a 30 mph zone. Scott catches the car at Main and Jefferson. The occupants are in town for a wedding. Scott jokes with the driver, telling him if he still looked like he did in his driver’s license, he’d have gotten a ticket. Instead, he gets a warning.
“I smelled alcohol, but when I had the guys in the back rolled down the window, I could tell it was them,” Scott says.
11:55 p.m. – Scott’s wife of four years calls on his cell phone. She’s a restaurant manager and the two don’t get to see each other very much, he explains.
“She always calls or wants me to call at the end of my shift to make sure I’m still alive,” Scott says. “But sometimes, it’s so early when I call, she never remembers it.”
12:25 p.m. – Scott and another Breckenridge officer respond to a noise complaint at Pine Ridge condos. When they locate the unit, a crowd gathered outside flees. Some men run and the officers give chase. They catch the men hiding in the shadows around the corner. Scott makes them dump out their beer cans – Breckenridge has an open-containers ordinances – and tells the men to not make him come back.
“I hate it when they make me run,” he says.
12:50 p.m. – Riding up and down Main Street, Scott talks to pedestrians. He waves, tells them to be safe. He spots a bicyclist, a waitress he knows, who’s dressed in dark clothes with no lights on her bike. He catches up to her and tells her to think about getting a brighter ride. “I just don’t want you getting hit, OK?” Scott says.
1:35 p.m. – “It’s getting to be the witching hour,” Scott says. He drives back to Pine Ridge – he knows the noisy bunch will still be around – and locates two men outside. He makes one dump out another beer and asks them if they’re having a good time in town. “We appreciate you guys coming to stay with us in Breckenridge,” Scott says. “We just want you to act responsibly.”
2:10 a.m. – Scott spots a car coming the wrong way out of a one-way alley onto Jefferson. He loops around and stops the car at Main and S. Park Avenue. “He smells of alcohol, and he’s being really, really courteous – which is scary,” Scott says. “Like he did something wrong.”
Scott asks the driver to perform voluntary roadside tests and the man agrees. He misses the letter K in reciting the alphabet, takes six steps when asked to take nine and has to hold his arms out to stay balanced on one leg. He refuses to blow in a preliminary breath test.
“He won’t blow, so away we go,” Scott says. He cuffs the man and puts him in the back of the patrol car. He wants to search the car, but the man’s dog barks loudly when he tries to lean in through the door. The cursory search is enough to reveal a glass pipe with suspected marijuana in it.
The sergeant on scene calls the driver’s friend to come pick up the dog. She waits at the scene until the friend arrives.
Scott takes the man to the jail, which is backed up processing arrestees. An hour after the stop, the driver finally takes his breath test. He blows just over .1, the legal limit for DUI. Scott leaves the jail at 4:15 a.m.
He returns to the police department to enter his evidence and complete his reports. He has just enough time left on his shift to go out and hunt for more speeders, but issues no tickets. He clocks out weary at 7:30 a.m., knowing he’ll be back at 5 p.m. to begin another shift.
“I like it, though, as long as I can stay busy,” Scott says. “And if I can help somebody, it’s even better.”
Reid Williams can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 237 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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