Citizens’ Police Academy 3: Office procedures, Administration, fire department, counseling

This is the third of 9 entries in a column about reporter Ethan Fowler’s participation in the Bainbridge Island Police Department’s 10-week Citizens’ Police Academy.

Senior Police Clerk Barbara Seitz said her four plus years working at the Bainbridge Island P.D. has proven the “most interesting, engaging and fun” job she has ever held.

Seitz was one of three people who spoke at last Tuesday’s third class in the Citizens’ Police Academy. She was followed by Bainbridge Fire Marshall Luke Carpenter and psychologist Dr. Ted Rosenbaum closed the night by talking about the programs in place to help officers and firefighters cope with some of the grim sights they see as part of their work.

Seitz told the group she daily helps an average of 20 people who visit the police station. Concealed weapon permits, copies of incident reports, finger printing and dog licenses are some of things she handles.

Paper record retention ranges from five years for driving while license suspended arrests, 10 years for driving while intoxicated, 50 years for traffic fatalities and 75 years for missing person cases. Files that are saved electronically are never deleted, which helps officers in the field when they view a person’s record.

Sexual offenses or allegations, mental health and cases still under investigation are some of the incident reports that aren’t released to media outlets when people like me compile the weekly police blotter.

Carpenter said Bainbridge firefighters are all trained as emergency medical technicians and that each firefighter is required to take training classes for the rest of his career each Tuesday.

Station 21 on Madison Avenue always has a minimum staff of at least four firefighters, Station 22 on Bucklin Hill Road has two people on staff always and Station 23 on Phelps Road isn’t staffed. However, Station 23 is where Carpenter works from and it’s also where they assign firefighters when they have extra staff from the other two stations.

The Bainbridge Fire Department receives about 2,500 calls for service annually. These range from building fires to cat-in-the-tree calls. Carpenter said the department does hire some of its full-time staff from its volunteer resident program, which are provided with living accommodations and guaranteed shift assignments.

He said a volunteer from Olympia is able to pull off the long commute because firefighters work 48-hour shifts but then are off the next four days.

“It doesn’t happen often when we can sleep at night,” Carpenter said of a work shift.

The fire department treats about 12-16 heart attack victims a year.

Within 90 seconds of being alerted by dispatch about an emergency, firefighters try to have tires on the road. The average response time for the Bainbridge Fire Department is 6 1/2 minutes and “we like to be lower than that,” Carpenter added.

He suggested for homeowners to come by one of the island’s fire stations to get a blue and white reflective sign to help increase address visibility. The police department also provides the signs, Officer Carla Silas said.

With not a lot of time left in the scheduled two-hour class, Rosenbaum quickly went through a PowerPoint presentation on how they screen police applicants. They seek future officers who are dominant and not domineering.

“You want someone who can take control without being badge heavy,” Rosenbaum said. “People not too rigid of right and wrong.”

Applicants typically require 3-4 hours of writing for one of his tests. People who try to list themselves “too positively” tends to make his “radar” go up, Rosenbaum said.

Combating stress or strain is a key factor for both the well-being of police and fire staff, both of which Rosenbaum works for on the island. Responders who have long-term effects from stress often have declining work performance, deteriorating family relationships, increased health problems and other issues.

To help defuse a stressful or unsettling emergency call, Rosenbaum said within 24 hours of the incident he will discuss concerns that an officer or firefighter may have. The formal process of Critical Incident Stress Debriefing helps to reduce the amount of time a responder needs to recover. However, with a catastrophe like Sept. 11, 2001, such steps likely won’t be adequate enough.

“There’s not as much stigma as there used to be with these meetings,” said Rosenbaum, who also works with spouses of emergency personnel.

Next: Our class will learn about the municipal court process with new Bainbridge Island Municipal Court Judge Sara L. McCulloch, who took her oath of office in December.

Bainbridge Islander, Fire Department, Police

About Ethan Fowler

Ethan Fowler has more than 20 years of journalism experience with 19 years of daily and weekly newspaper experience covering news, features and sports, as well as being an editor for 14 of those years. He has won several writing awards over the years in Washington state, Virginia, Texas and Georgia, including award-winning investigative journalism. Fowler was paid by the Review & Herald Publishing Association in 2009 to co-author a book, "Brushed Back: The Story of Trevor Bullock," with his wife. The book details the real life of a top minor league pitcher in the Philadelphia Phillies organization and his Christian faith. "Brushed Back" has sold more than 2,000 copies since its release.