Busted

 

Produced by Jim Stilwell, all artwork copyrighted 2008

A good friend of mine was a Deputy Sheriff in Palm Beach County and one day he asked me if I wanted to ride along with him for one of his shifts. This sounded exciting as I always was curious about police work. I said yes.

This was before the TV show, Cops, so I wasn't sure what I was in for. The next 8 hours were very exciting, nothing to dangerous but we went from one call to another, from everything from a robbery report to a couple of domestic disputes. I found it fascinating, so much so I signed up to be a reserve deputy. After a background check, a lie detector test, psychological test and evaluation, the dreaded urine test, and I wouldn't doubt that they interrogated my 7th grade teacher, Miss Wilt, as to my character; I was accepted into the night-time police academy. Fifteen months later I graduated. I was now qualified to put my life on the line and not get paid. Am I nuts or what? I was married at this time and purchased a police scanner for my wife because I thought she would want to listen to it while I was out serving the public...I was wrong!

The main function of a reserve deputy is to ride along with full time deputies as a back-up officer to increase the police presence and provide him or her with an added safety factor. I chose Jeff as my partner because he was very dedicated and knowledgeable. He could also bench press a Volkswagen and my wife felt a little more secure when I was with him.

 The scale model depicted here was inspired by one of the adventures I had while volunteering as a reserve deputy sheriff. The building and scene were built by scratch, the cars were modified and customized from model kits and the figures were modified from action figures.

One summer, a gang of thieves were preying on convenience stores in our county. They would strike at random, robbing and roughing up the store clerks making off with whatever they could get from the stores' registers. This went on for several weeks and had all the police agencies frustrated. In addition to an increased uniformed presence there were undercover tactical units all over.

 One evening, while Jeff and I were on duty, a call came over our radio announcing an armed robbery had just occurred at a convenience store to the northeast of where we were patrolling. The dispatcher barely got out a description of the get-away vehicle when one of the undercover tactical units broke in announcing the bad guys just blasted by and he was starting a pursuit. The deputy requested backup and all heck broke loose.

Even though Jeff and I were three miles away we were the closest for back up. Jeff hit the lights and siren and punched the pedal to the floor. Our goal was to intercept the bad guys who now were speeding south on Interstate 95. We made it to I-95 in break neck time but just missed them and the pursuing officer. By now 13 other uniformed deputies and a dozen undercover and canine units had joined in. Racing onto the on ramp, we could see flashing blue lights at a distance. My heart was practically pounding out of my chest when Jeff put the car into hyper- speed warp factor 10. At this point I was hoping that Edrianna wasn't listening to the scanner.  

Let me tell you about Florida drivers. Most think that flashing blue lights only mean there is a special on paper towels at isle 4 and ignore them otherwise. Our patrol car was standing out like a Rolling Stones concert in a nursing home and drivers were slow to get out of our way. Traffic cleared a little as we crossed over the county line and we had the needle pegged. I had never driven this fast, ever. We were just about ten minutes into this madness and our car starts to overheat. I guess it had never been that fast either. We began to loose power so we turned on the heater. The last thing a police officer wearing 40 pounds of gear including a heavy Kevlar vest and non-breathable polyester uniform on a balmy Florida summer night needs is 120 degree air blowing in his face. I tried to put this out of my mind and concentrate on more important things like not crashing.

Now the chase had picked up dozens more police from Boca Raton, Pompano Beach, Broward County Sheriff's Office deputies and two sheriff's helicopters. Everybody wanted these guys caught. We were getting constant updates from the lead deputy and he suddenly blurted out "Holy #$%^@, signal 4", which is official police code for holy #%^@, they've crashed.

 We pulled onto the scene and it looked like a combination of every action movie and cop show I had ever seen in my lifetime. There were police cars from four cities and deputies from two counties strewn about as the two helicopters flew overhead. The bad guys missed an off ramp and decided to drive up an embankment, flipping their car. Thank God, no one was injured, not even the bad guys. The three perps were in custody, ending their crime spree.

I had the important job of placing crime scene tape around the accident scene.

I have since found safer ways to volunteer my time.

Hats off to all the men and women, who work very hard under all kinds of threats and dangers to protect the citizens of the world.

 This is an illustration I did for my graduating class

I have done additional artwork for The Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office over the years

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