09/28/09 — On patrol ... really

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On patrol ... really

By Laura Collins
Published in News on September 28, 2009 1:46 PM

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Wayne County Sheriff's Deputy Garrison Nance and News-Argus reporter Laura Collins leave the Wayne County Sheriff's Office Wednesday at the start of her 12-hour shift.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is a new series by News-Argus reporter Laura Collins. She will be spending time doing various jobs around the community.

The Assignment: Wayne County Sheriff's Office

The Job: Patrol deputy

The Location: Wayne County

My shift with the Wayne County Sheriff's Office got off to a shaky start. My conversation with Capt. Dwayne Edwards didn't quite produce the results I was looking for.

"Can I have a badge?"


"Can I have a vest?"


"Can I have a walkie-talkie?"


"So you'll think about it?"

"You can have a sticker," he said handing me a gold sticker that says "Junior Deputy Wayne County."" I think it's what they hand out to children during parades. Not quite as official-looking as I'd like it to be.

I thought after the vest/badge/walkie-talkie exchange, asking for some kind of weapon/pepper spray/handcuffs would have been pushing it. I decided it'd be best to ease into that conversation later in the shift.

The deputies work 12-hour shifts from 7 to 7, but to get a feel for both day shift and night shift, I worked from 3 p.m. to 3 a.m. I started with Deputy Garrison Nance and it was "on like neck bones," as he would say.

The first call he and his partner Cpl. Patrick Hux responded to was a man who was intoxicated and threatening to harm himself. They transported him to Waynesboro Family Clinic then to Wayne Memorial Hospital. Turns out, this suspect was a bit of a comedian.

"How many warrants I got," the man asked Nance from the back seat of the car.

"You don't have any warrants, sir," Nance said.

"Well, I want some ... can I borrow your gun?"

During the trip to the hospital, the man's mood ranged from happy go lucky to downright angry and at one point he asked Hux if he would shoot Nance. The exchange between the deputies and the man didn't seem to faze either one of them and I realized the amount of patience it takes to do their job.

At 7 p.m., I switched teams and rode with Deputy Aaron Cantwell and later Sgt. Richard Blizzard. They filled me in on the shift's dynamic. After hearing Nance, Cantwell and Blizzard talk about the Sheriff's Office and their fellow deputies, they seem like much more than your average coworkers. They hunt together. They fish together. They know each other's families and babysit each other's children. And like siblings, they don't seem to miss an opportunity to give each other a hard time.

"The only call you never want to get is an officer call for help," Nance said. "You hate to get that call."

Later in the night, Cantwell responded to a breaking and entering call at someone's house. I told him I was going to stay in the car and write down some notes. Sadly, "writing notes" turned into "falling asleep." It's always mildly embarrassing to be a grown woman and fall asleep places you're not supposed to, and I was a little disappointed that I didn't make it the whole shift without falling asleep. Maybe I was having an off day. That's when I realized that they aren't allowed to have an off day. If I have an off day, I write a boring article, but it's not the end of the world. The deputies don't have that luxury. They always have to be on.

I also realized that "law enforcement" seems to completely understate the wide spectrum of work they actually do. The deputies said no day or situation is ever the same, but one phrase -- which was repeated several times during the night, like an unofficial motto for the deputies -- can be used as a guide: Treat others how you want to be treated.