[su_heading size=”30″ margin=”0″]SAR Veteran, Bloodhound Trainer Bob Cameron Has Spent A Lifetime Helping Locate The Lost[/su_heading]
[su_dropcap style=”light” size=”5″]C[/su_dropcap]all this guy! He’s lived an incredible life and has amazing stories,” my editor told me. So, I called Bob Cameron, a veteran of the US Air Force, an expert bloodhound trainer and handler, an expert witness for tracking, a legend in search-and-rescue (SAR) and the inventor of the most important $5 tool you will ever own. But first, to understand Cameron you have to understand bloodhounds and life in the rugged states of Montana and Idaho.
Cameron’s first experience with a missing-persons search came when he was a young teenager in the mountains of northern California’s Alameda County. The local sheriff’s deputies were looking for a couple of missing girls, and Cameron volunteered to help. Sixty years later, he is still actively participating in searches, although according to him, “I don’t do the technical climbing anymore.” For all of those years, the only time Cameron wasn’t searching for people was during the three years (1951-54) he spent in the Air Force, stationed at Mather Air Force Base in Rancho Cordova, Calif. Like many men of his generation, he lied about his age – enlisting at age 16. He was part of the aircraft rescue and air police. His job was two-fold: respond to flight-line crashes and provide security for the base.
AFTER HIS TIME IN THE AIR FORCE, Cameron moved to the wilds of Montana. He became active with SAR at his local sheriff’s office, and his involvement with bloodhounds happened by accident – literally. Ralph McKenzie, Cameron’s best friend, had been working SAR in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. He was hurt while on duty and could no longer care for a SAR bloodhound. He called Cameron and said, “I have a surprise for you.” That surprise was three-year-old Radar – Cameron’s soon-to-be best friend and partner in crime.
Radar was an unexpected addition to Cameron’s life and changed it forever.
BLOODHOUNDS HAVE an incredible sense of smell combined with a natural predilection to track. They have a long-term memory for scents, and can deftly distinguish one from another. According to Cameron, “Every sheriff’s office in this country should have a bloodhound for their SAR teams.”
We humans slough off 10,000 body cells a second. When we get excited, or scared, that number can jump to 100,000. The cells are distinct in their smell. You and I can’t smell them, but bloodhounds can and use them to track. They follow the scent of the cells. Most of the time the handler uses what is called a scent article – a shirt, sock, pants, bed sheets or anything that the target person has come in contact with will work. Once the dog has recognized and imprinted the scent, the hunt is on.
Handlers don’t always have a scent article for the hound, so they have a unique talent called drop-scent tracking. The dog is allowed to smell everyone present and then tracks the smell of the person who is no longer present. It’s the dog’s process-of-elimination skill. Amazing!
Radar found this man who had been lost for two days.
AS ONE CAN IMAGINE, SAR work can be very rewarding. Reuniting missing loved ones, catching criminals and rescuing stranded people bring these workers true satisfaction. However, not all searches have happy endings. Sometimes the work consists of body recovery and sometimes that body is of a child.
Jennifer, a two-year-old girl out of Grangeville, Idaho, was kidnapped from her bed on October 31, 1979. The county sheriff spent several days looking for the girl with no luck. They called Cameron and asked him to come and assist with the search. At the time Cameron lived in Hamilton, Mont., and worked as a deputy sheriff for Idaho County, Idaho. Cameron was understandably upset when he found out that the girl had been missing for a week. Three suspects voluntarily agreed to take polygraph tests. Two came to the office, but the third fled before testing.
His passion was so powerful that he gave a bloodhound to any law-enforcement agency or SAR team that wanted one.
The third, Robert Howerton, became the prime suspect, and using his T-shirt and a piece of little Jennifer’s bedding, Cameron and Radar began their search. The dog tracked through a wooded marsh area to an old trapper’s cabin. The cabin was green with moss, and inside they found mattresses stacked on top of each other also covered in moss – except for the very top one, which had been wiped off. Radar kept alerting to a ladder that accessed the attic. In the attic they found the little girl’s nightgown.
Radar continued to track from the cabin to the Clearwater River 3 miles away. At the river Radar began tracking down a dirt road, eventually losing the scent. After returning to the bank, Cameron was speaking with other searchers when Radar took off running down the river’s edge. The Clearwater was moving fairly quickly, so there was no way that the little girl could still be in the river – not after this long. But Cameron trusted his dog and asked the others if they had a boat or raft. Cameron and a couple of the men floated down the river in an inflatable raft until they came to a slow-moving eddy. They looked around and couldn’t see anything. As they were preparing to leave, Cameron looked straight down, and in about 5 feet of water he could see the shape of a tiny child. They’d found Jennifer. Cameron retrieved her moss-covered body and made history as the first expert witness allowed to present bloodhound evidence in a trial in Idaho. Howerton confessed to the kidnapping and was sent to jail, thanks mostly to Cameron and Radar having found the child’s body.
Radar and Cameron found the remains of a kidnapped two-year-old girl in the Clearwater River, in the southern panhandle of Idaho.
AS CAMERON BEGAN to understand the incredible benefits of bloodhounds, he decided to start breeding these amazing dogs. His passion was so powerful that he gave a bloodhound to any law-enforcement agency or SAR team that wanted one, and all they would have to pay for was the transportation of getting the dog there – that’s it.
In the mid-1980s, he got a call from Bob Herring, a young deputy in Fresno, Calif. Deputy Herring wanted a dog, but his sheriff wouldn’t allow it. Cameron wasn’t going to allow this to happen, so he pulled some strings and the deputy got his dog. The city of Fresno made a big deal of the dog coming onboard, and had all of the local press there to greet the bloodhound as he came off the plane. They named the dog Montana.
Deputy Bob Herring and his bloodhound Montana featured in 1985 The Sheriff’s Review in Fresno, Calif.
Herring and Montana made quite the pair, and went on to help locate dozens of victims during the Sanger, Calif., earthquake even while they were still in training. These two also caught a pair of thieves while traveling home from training in the mountains. Using the drop-scent technique, Montana was able to smell the store owners, then tracked the two thieves a couple of miles down the road, where Herring found them drinking their stolen beer. Herring, now retired, still trains officers on the use of bloodhounds.
EVEN WHILE CAMERON was raising dogs he was actively being called out on searches. He tells of a time when he and his partner John Michaels of Hamilton, Mont., were called to find a missing airman from Malmstrom Air Force base in Great Falls, Mont. Within 42 minutes of arriving on scene and getting a scent article, they and Radar found the wanderer. Had the lost airman gone any further, he would have ended up in lost in the wilderness and more than likely have died. The airman’s friends were amazed at how fast and physically fit Cameron and Michaels were. They were thrown off guard because the men were dressed in many layers, giving the appearance of being overweight rubes. When one of the airmen asked how they had gone straight up the mountain in the snow and found the man in 42 minutes, Michaels replied, “We just sit in the bar and drink beer until they call us.” No further explanation was given as they packed up and went home grinning.
In the 1980s a wealthy family bought a summer ranch next to the Salmon River in Idaho. The father raised Doberman pinschers and one pup was born with floppy ears, hence not worth selling, but his nine-year-old son wanted to keep it. The dad allowed it, and one summer day the boy and his dog wandered off and got lost in some of the most treacherous country in central Idaho. The sheriff called Cameron and asked for his help. Cameron and the team searched for the little boy, who by this time had been missing for five days. The terrain was steep and dropped almost vertically down to the Salmon, which is also known as “The river of no return.”
Bob Cameron (in cowboy hat) with a boy and his Doberman who were lost for five days in eastern Idaho and eventually found, thanks to bloodhound Radar.
Finally, when they had almost given up hope, Cameron stood on a point overlooking the river and called the boy’s name as loudly as he could. A faint reply – “I’m down here” – led to the boy and his dog being reunited with his family. The father, a striking fellow standing well over 6 feet tall, was overcome with emotion. He offered Cameron a handmade walnut box. Inside was a rare S&W .357 revolver. Cameron explained that he could not accept the gift. After much discussion and negotiation – including a threat to throw the revolver in the river if it wasn’t accepted – Cameron took the gun on the condition he be allowed to raffle it off to raise money for a new SAR building.
“If You Can be Heard – You Can be Rescued!”
Whistles For Life offers emergency whistles capable of 120 decibels, perfect for outdoorsmen and -women, as well as children and people who need a powerful signalling device. (TROY TAYSOM)
CAMERON NO LONGER conducts technical searches, but he remains dedicated to people who might go missing, and has invented a must-have tool for anyone who goes outdoors. It’s a whistle, but not just any whistle. It’s a whistle that is capable of 120 decibels, which is the equivalent of a rock concert or a chainsaw 3 feet away. This whistle has been adopted by the Coast Guard, Forest Service, National Parks Service, Army Corps of Engineers and Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT), to name a few. The slogan for his company, named Whistles for Life, is “If You Can be Heard – You Can be Rescued!” Blowing a whistle is much easier than screaming, and can be sustained for much longer periods. This whistle also makes a great personal-defense item. I blew one and it seriously attracts attention. The whistles come in bright colors and are lightweight, as well as flat, making them easy to find and carry. Cameron is also a charter member, patron member and golden eagle with the National Rifle Association. Whether it is searching for lost university students, backpackers in the mountains of Idaho and Montana, armed robbers or kidnapped children, Cameron has been there to help locate them.
I spoke with Cameron for more than two hours, and it was some of the best time I’ve spent in my life. He is one of a kind. I told him that my son is studying recreation management, and is interested in doing SAR. Cameron immediately asked for my son’s name and told me to have him call. Bob’s knowledge of search techniques and bloodhounds is immense, but his heart is even bigger. His life and experiences could easily fill a book, and it’s a book that needs to be written before his knowledge is lost forever.
In a world that often seems lost, it is thanks to people like Cameron and his partner Radar who are the light at the end of the tunnel. ASJ
Editor’s note: If you are interested in more information about Whistles for Life, you can visit them at whistlesforlifellc.com.
Bob Cameron has spent most of his life working with and for law enforcement departments, and is considered an expert in search and rescue and bloodhound capabilities.
Cameron was an Idaho County, Idaho, deputy sheriff, but worked with law enforcement agencies all over the country that needed his expertise.
Idaho County, Idaho, was very proud to have Radar as one of its citizens.
Posted in Law Enforcement Tagged with: Bloodhound Montana, Bloodhounds, Bob Cameron, Deputy Bob Herring, Dog tracker, Dog trainer, Law Enforcement, Search and Rescue, tracking criminals, Troy Taysom, Whistles For life
[su_heading size=”30″ margin=”0″]Somebody’s Watching Me[/su_heading]
[su_dropcap style=”light” size=”5″]T[/su_dropcap]echnology gives us instant access to information. If something happens such as a car accident, riot or tornado, for example, we can see it instantly through the power of digital recording and the Internet. If we need an answer to any question, we can type it into Google and within milliseconds have one – right or wrong. The public holds the same expectation now for interactions between law enforcement and the public.
What are the first two questions asked after a police shooting? Was the officer wearing a body camera, and where’s the video? The public want transparency and answers.
The idea of officers wearing body cameras has been a topic that law enforcement agencies have been investigating for years, and some of the biggest policy makers in the business have now weighed in, including the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), as well as the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) and a presidential task force with their policy recommendations.
The race for the best body camera is on, and so are the regulations that will govern these little devices and how they are used. (REVEAL MEDIA)
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In a perfect world, a police shooting would be captured from multiple angles and all of the questions surrounding the event would be answered. But this just isn’t possible. The difficult part is that body cameras, or more appropriately titled body-worn cameras (BWC), will not provide everything either.
BWCs are a natural technological progression for law enforcement, but at best the camera will only capture whatever is directly in front of the officer minus any obstructions such as outstretched arms in the firing position or another officer.
The camera cannot capture subtle nuances. Officers tend to develop a sixth sense through their experiences, and the camera cannot see what they are sensing or what is happening beside or behind them. Simply put, the BWC is a tool – just another piece to a very complicated puzzle. The biggest hurdle for law enforcement is managing the public’s expectations.
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The technology involved with BWCs is advancing quickly. The Safariland Group, a respected and well-known law-enforcement products company, has a line of BWCs and has developed new software which allows BWC video to be redacted. This means the video blurs the faces of bystanders or other objects captured in the footage. The software is made by VIEVU, which uses an advanced algorithm for this process. The software is available to departments that use VIEVU’s solution cloud-hosted evidence system.
Microsoft has partnered with VIEVU in developing this new cloud technology, and the CEO is a former Seattle police officer.
The advanced software, such as the algorithm created by VIEVU, automatically redacts people’s faces and other objects from the video.
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Budgets are finite, and many cities, counties and states have seen discretionary budgets drastically reduced in recent years. These reductions are across the board and include law enforcement. The costs associated with body cameras are not insignificant, and in fact can be staggering. The initial purchase price of a body camera is close to $1,000 per unit. Money must also be budgeted for the replacement of these cameras over time.
Data storage is the biggest cost and only grows as time goes on. A department with 107 sworn officers including detectives and administrative types can expect to pay $70,000 per year for an off-site data-storage solution. If the department elects to host their own storage, the cost could be less, but then they assume all of the liability for security and data backup.
Many departments are opting for cloud-based storage, which puts the security and backup in the hands of the vendor.
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This is a big concern for the officers and administrators. Questions regarding when it’s appropriate to video are proving to be tough. Some departments have a policy where the camera is turned on for every callout regardless of its nature. This may prove to be problematic when dealing with sensitive issues. It may also be problematic if the responding officers find that no crime has been committed but the call was still a private matter. Situations might include: calls where citizens are deceased; sexual assaults; or child-related incidents.
There is also the question of the officer’s privacy. This has been raised by multiple unions representing officers. The fear, they say, is that supervisors will use the video to discipline officers who may be speaking ill of management.
Body cameras, like this VIEVU, can be a great solution for recording what is happening, but these devices cannot see and sense all the activity happening around the officer. (SAFARILAND GROUP)
There is also the fear that an officer who is a whistle-blower can be tracked and punished by using video from the camera. The unions contend that officers have some expectation of privacy while on duty and while speaking with their coworkers.
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It isn’t practical for a patrol officer to run their body camera every minute of every shift. Deciding on when a BWC should be turned on is up to each agency, but is also heavily influenced by state law. Some states have laws that require consent from anyone being recorded. These laws provide an obstacle that must be overcome through legislation, thus delaying implementation.
Here are just a few of the many policy recommendations from the IACP:
• Officers shall activate the BWC to record all contacts with citizens in the performance of official duties;
• Whenever possible, officers should inform individuals that they are being recorded. In locations where individuals have a reasonable expectation of privacy, such as a residence, they may decline to be recorded unless the recording is being made in pursuant to an arrest such as while searching the residence or the individuals;
• The BWC shall remain activated until the event is completed in order to ensure the integrity of the recording, unless the contact moves into an area restricted by this policy;
• If an officer fails to activate the BWC, fails to record the entire contact or interrupts the recording, the officer shall document why a recording was not made, interrupted or terminated;
• Civilians shall not be allowed to review the recordings at the scene;
• Officers shall not edit, alter, erase, duplicate, copy, share or otherwise distribute in any manner BWC recordings;
• Officers are encouraged to inform their supervisor of any recordings that may be of value for training purposes;
• If an officer is suspected of wrongdoing or involved in an officer-involved shooting or other serious use-of-force, the department reserves the right to limit or restrict an officer from viewing the video file.
• BWC recordings are not a replacement for written reports.
Here are some of the recommended restrictions of using BWCs:
• Encounters with undercover officers or confidential informants;
• When on break or otherwise engaged in personal activities;
• In any location where individuals have a reasonable expectation of privacy, such as a restroom or locker room.
Body cameras come in many different styles as demonstrated by TASER International’s Axon glass-mounted camera. The high priority for law enforcement is determining when a body camera should be on or off. Sensitive situations such as sexual assaults or those dealing with children may not be appropriate for the public viewing. (TASER INTERNATIONAL)
The IACP isn’t the only group to publish their research and recommendations. The BJA has created a national body-worn camera toolkit for law enforcement agencies to use. This toolkit is free to departments and includes research, costs and other important information.
The President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing included a section on body cameras in their report released in May 2015 too.
The resources are there for departments to design policies and procedures. Many questions still remain unanswered, but will be answered in time as situations and cases arise. The important point in all this is that technology is a tool that can be leveraged in law enforcement. But it is just that – a tool. It isn’t an answer to every problem or situation. ASJ
Not only is the privacy of the public in question, so is personal space of the officer themselves. These decisions have an impact on when the camera should be on or off. (SAFARILAND GROUP)
Posted in Law Enforcement Tagged with: Body Cameras, IACP, International Association of Chiefs of Police, Law Enforcement, Police cameras, Reveal Media, Sheriffs, Taser, Troy Taysom, Vievu
[su_heading size=”25″ margin=”0″]It Takes An officer[/su_heading]
Story by Troy Taysom
[su_dropcap style=”flat” size=”4″]T[/su_dropcap]ommy Norman grew up in North Little Rock, Ark., a medium-sized town north of Arkansas’s capital city of Little Rock. Like many, Norman didn’t have any direction or burgeoning career aspirations at the time. He worked as a hospital orderly and provided the basics for his small family. Service was always a part of what Norman did. Long before he became a police officer, Norman volunteered with Big Brothers, Meals-on-Wheels and any other group that helped and looked out for the underserved part of his community.
Growing up, Norman had an uncle who was a chief of police for a small town, but he never even considered a career as a cop until he was 26 years old. The youngest of nine children, he eventually decided to apply to the North Little Rock Police Department, was hired and went through the law enforcement academy. Upon graduation, he was assigned to the patrol division, where he still serves today 17 years later — with no desire to ever leave.
Seventeen years after graduating from the law enforcement academy, Norman still works on a patrol unit, and says he never wants to leave.
When Norman started patrolling the streets of NLR, his mother would call him each night at 2:00 a.m. to make sure he was safe. No matter how old one gets, a mother will always worry, and she wouldn’t be denied knowing her child was well.
Seventeen years ago terms like tweet, viral video, post, Instagram and Facebook either didn’t exist in our lexicon, or meant something completely different. Times have changed. Smart cops have embraced that change and use social media to their advantage. Tommy Norman did just that and became, unexpectedly, a Facebook superstar and Instagram sensation. He has always been a great guy and compassionate cop according to his community and peers.
From the beginning Norman understood that to be a successful cop required public trust. The same people who often have valuable information for the police can be the same people who trust the authorities least. Gaining this trust, while not impossible, takes years to build and can be destroyed in seconds.
Hamilton Boys and Girls Club in North Little Rock.
Officer Norman knew that the way to be a part of a community was to be a part of its lives and without prejudice. This is not to say that Norman won’t arrest someone who broke the law. On the contrary, part of gaining his community’s trust is by being fair and keeping the streets safe for the law-abiding citizens; final judgment is left to the judge and jury. Norman works around people who have difficulties and sometimes need to be punished. This allows them to learn, move forward and change.
On weekday mornings, you can find Officer Norman at school bus stops, where kids wait for him with anticipation.
Officer Norman is Making a difference. A man named Willie was recently arrested in NLR for stealing copper piping from an abandoned house. Norman (not the arresting officer), spoke with Willie while he was in jail and discovered that he had stolen the piping to pay his rent. While it was clear that Willie needed to be arrested because he had commited a crime, Norman also saw a chance to help him out and showed him other ways to get help without breaking the law. Norman mentioned this incident on one of his social media accounts and received a check from a woman in Pennsylvania to help Willie pay his utilities. Norman took the money and paid Willie’s utilities. When he presented the receipt to Willie and explained what had happened, Willie cried. “I had no idea people cared,” Willie said.
It’s images like these that have inspired a nation to follow Norman on social media.
Recently a couple from New York contacted Norman to tell him about their wedding anniversary gift. The wife, Kim, wanted to buy clothes and shoes for one of Norman’s best little friends, Tim Tim and his brothers. Tim Tim and crew were new to the area and in need of help.
Another video that Norman posted shows him meeting up with Gloria, a former drug user and homeless woman, whom he would see walking the streets late at night and early in the morning. On the day of the video, Gloria had been clean for three years, employed and living in an apartment. She and Officer Norman danced a little jig in the lobby of a local fast-food restaurant to celebrate her sobriety.
A couple, Deborah and Jay, who both have special needs had met in a homeless shelter. Because of their financial situation they move regularly, and always picked a dwelling in Norman’s patrol area simply because they felt safe with him around. Norman was their best man for their wedding vow renewal.
Kids, adults and senior citizens alike trust Norman and know they can count on him to be there for them.
Several years ago Norman saw an opportunity to get to know the kids in his patrol area. Many of them stand around at school bus stops, but instead of being bored they wait with anticipation. Will today be the day that Officer Norman comes? Will he dance? Sing? Will he ask about grades? The answer is, “Yes.”
Tim Tim and his brothers needed a bit of help when they first arrived in Norman’s community. People who followed Norman’s posts sent shoes and clothing for them as a gift.
Norman is reknowned for posting videos on social media of dancing and singing with kids at their bus stops. He doesn’t care that the kids laugh at him when he doesn’t know all the dance moves, or that they think he looks silly doing the “NaeNae,” a type of celebratory dance. He also doesn’t discriminate when it comes to the age of what he calls his “victims.” Browsing through his video catalog one can see him dancing with fellow officers, senior citizens and young and old alike. All of his videos have one thing in common – everyone is smiling. A smile is really a snapshot of the heart, a physical demonstration of what is happening on the inside. For a brief moment in time, these people have forgotten their everyday worries and stresses.
There are many hard realities that a police officer must deal with, but the most difficult of all is a child in need, says Norman. Many of the bus-stop kids come from homes that cannot afford to feed them breakfast in the morning. One of the first questions Norman asks is if anyone is hungry. You’ll never see this part of his visits on his videos simply because, I imagine, Norman wouldn’t want any of these kids to be embarrassed.
He carries Pop-Tarts and juice in the trunk of his car in case any of the kids haven’t eaten. He could refer these kids or their parents to a social programs and call it good enough, but he realizes that he can feed a child right here and now. This love goes beyond police work and speaks to Norman’s humanity and caring. While a Pop-Tart and a juice box won’t solve world hunger or poverty, it helps a child know that there are people who care, and many of them wear a law-enforcement uniform.
One of Norman’s favorite pastimes is reading to the kids, and he carries books in his car so he is always ready. Kids usually see reading as a boring exercise. Norman is teaching these kids that someone cool loves to read, and because he has gained their trust, his example has value to them. The quickest way out of poverty is by having dreams and an education. Books provide both.
Honorary officer King Jennings is ready to back up Norman on his next call.
Among the stops along Norman’s beat are the senior-citizen assisted living centers where there are people who suffer from disabilities, along with the homeless and downtrodden. He has even deputized two men who have cerebral palsy and are wheelchair bound. He refers to them as Officer Pickens and Officer Sharp. He reports in with them regularly, bringing smiles to their faces and to the faces of the thousands who see
Norman can be seen in his videos pulling over children in their toy cars and issuing citations – unless they escape! He’s been locked in the back of his police car by an unforgiving child officer, and laughed at by citizens of all ages as he tries to do the Quan, yet another type of dance. More importantly, he inspires others.
Sadly, not all of Norman’s experiences have had a happy ending. During our interview, Norman told me of a young man named Tupac whom he had known from the street. In the beginning, this child would smile, wave and run to meet up with him. As the child grew older, he would look away when Norman approached. Pretty soon the kid wanted nothing to do with him or any other police officer. He had mixed in with the wrong crowd and started making poor decisions. A couple of months prior to our interview this young man was shot and killed in the street.
Norman takes the time to read to kids in an effort to inspire them to be educated.
Officer Norman has been on CNN and The Today Show, and has been recognized by multiple community organizations for his work with the citizens of NLR. He has inspired people from New York, Pennsylvania, Utah and many other locations who were willing to get involved. More importantly, he is inspiring other officers at the community level. He doesn’t expect everyone to get involved the way he does, but he does give sound advice to fellow officers via Instagram: “Bring back the human factor and stop creating an us-against-them mentality. I challenge every fellow officer to get out of their cars and walk, talk, dance, play and interact with their community. There will be less lives lost and more mutual respect.”
Will all of this matter in the big picture? Will it matter that he gave out Pop-Tarts, sang and danced at bus stops? It matters to those children. Those kids love him and one day when they need him most, they will know that they can count on him. ASJ
Editor’s note: If you would like to see Officer Norman’s videos and images, or follow his daily routine, you can visit: Instagram at TNorman23 or Facebook.com/Tommy.Norman.944.
Tommy Norman is a patrol officer who spends a great deal of time on and off duty with the community he serves. Images like this one he’s posted on social media pages have gone viral.
Posted in Law Enforcement Tagged with: Arkansas Cop, Community Policing, COP, Cops mentor a community, North little Rock Police Department, Officer Tommy norman, Tommy Norman, Troy Taysom
[su_heading size=”27″ margin=”0″]How Officer Reyes Is Protecting Those With Autism[/su_heading]
Story by Troy Taysom • Photographs by Laurie Reyes
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GLOSSARY OF TERMS
• Autism Spectrum – Autism is not a single disorder, but a spectrum of closely related disorders with a shared core of symptoms. Every individual on the autism spectrum has problems to some degree with social skills, empathy, communication and flexible behavior.
• Intellectual Development Disability – A disability characterized by limitations with intellectual functioning and difficulties with a variety of everyday social and practical skills
[su_dropcap style=”simple” size=”5″]P[/su_dropcap]olice officers deal with a variety of people and problems daily. Some of the problems are self-inflicted, others are the result of genetics and some simply have unknown origins. Misidentifying a problem is an all too common occurrence in law enforcement. A person approached by officers may suffer from mental illness, a genetic disorder like autism or even a disease like Alzheimer’s, which renders them incapable of following simple commands.
These types of encounters have had really bad outcomes in the past. An officer may mistake a person with autism for a noncompliant individual, or a person with mental illness for a drug abuser. What many people don’t realize is that these individuals are less than capable of following commands because of their disorder, not because they are defiant or high. This shift in thinking is saving lives, careers and creating a cohesive bond between cops and citizens.
Laurie Reyes of the Montgomery County Police Department (MCPD) in Maryland, is the leading advocate for this paradigm shift. To understand Reyes one must first be able to comprehend selflessness, dogged determination and unconditional love. If these concepts don’t register, then stop reading, because you will never understand her. If, however, you know what it’s like to fight uphill battles, deal with heartache without quitting and love those who are misunderstood and ostracized, then you will love Reyes and her story.
Officer Laurie Reyes of the Montgomery County, Md., Police Department with husband Tarik.
Since the age of five, Reyes knew she wanted to be a cop and nothing less would do. She loved everything about cops; the cars, the lights, etc. And helping those in need was programmed into her DNA. She never wavered from her goal of becoming an officer, and after completing her bachelor’s degree at the University of Maryland, Reyes was hired by the MCPD.
Reyes spent seven years in the patrol division before being assigned to special operations. Her job with within this department was to oversee Project Lifesaver. Project Lifesaver is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose stated purpose is “(t)o provide timely responses to save lives and reduce potential injury for adults and children who wander due to Alzheimer’s, autism, and other related conditions or disorders.”
Officer Reyes has been working to integrate this project into the MCPD for the past 10 years. The program provides tracking bracelets for adults and children who are predisposed to wander or elope, due to cognitive disorders. The bracelets are trackable by air up to a couple miles away. While a wonderful tool for caregivers and police, the bracelets don’t address perhaps the most serious issue and that is an officer’s interaction with people suffering from a cognitive disorder.
Cognitive disorders are not mental illnesses. The autism spectrum, while it affects the brain, is not a mental illness like depression, anxiety or obsessive compulsive disorder. Because of this officers need to understand how to identify and, more importantly, approach and interact with a someone who has autism. This is where Reyes comes in.
Reyes has worked tirelessly to create a program that teaches officers to recognize autism and understand the intricacies of interacting with these people. The normal procedures for dealing with a citizen will not work with a person with autism. In fact, standard practices could potentially escalate a situation. This can be confusing not only to the citizen, but for the officer as well.
Fortunately, Reyes has spent countless hours studying and learning about autism, and its potential effects and manifestations. Speaking with her, I found that she is well versed in the subject and its unique challenges. My wife works in special education and I have learned a great deal from her about those who suffer from cognitive disorders, especially autism, and she helped me put together questions for this interview. It was extremely helpful to have an assistant who helped me understand Reye’s answers.
Officer Reyes designed T-shirts and bracelets for people and children with autism so they can be readily identified.
Children with autism have what Jake Edwards, a young man with autism – more about him in a moment – calls his “super powers.” These powers tend to be heightened senses, especially hearing and touch. Many autistic people are sensitive to loud noises such as music, crying babies, yelling and sudden loud sounds. These can trigger the child to act out in an attempt to stop the noise, and at times the actions can be violent. They are also very sensitive to touch, both being touched and needed something to hold. Simply touching a child with autism may also lead them to be violent, but on the other hand, they can be calmed when given an item such as soft toy, a string of beads or a textured ball to hold. This need for holding or touching an object is called sensory.
Reyes understands all of these issues and has started training the officers of the MCPD to approach situations in a different manner. She wants the officers to think, “Could this be autism? Would a bag of skittles work better than going hands on?” Give simple commands, in a calm voice, and allow the person time to process what is being asked. At no time, however, is officer safety to be compromised, but children with autism respond differently, and this difference must be accounted for.
It isn’t just the police that Reyes works with; she is also involved with the parents and primary caregivers, and helps them get identity bracelets (different from the tracking bracelets), which help officers immediately identify a person with autism. With the help of their parents, children are encouraged to approach police officers in public and show them their bracelet.
Reyes has also had bright yellow T-shirts made that she gives to caregivers and parents. These shirts identify the child as having autism and says, “If I’m alone call 911.” It also has the MCPD badge on the back with the same admonishment. These shirts have helped dozens of children who eloped and were later found by citizens. They are only given to the children that are prone to eloping, are nonverbal and a danger to themselves. Many of them are resistant to wearing the bracelet because of their sensory issues.
This job has given Reyes some of the highest highs and lowest lows that one can experience in police work. She told me of a young man whom she had worked with when he lived in Montgomery County. The boy had autism and was nonverbal. The conditions he lived in were deplorable. Reyes lost contact with him when he moved to a neighboring county, but some months later officers from the MCPD found him. They identified his bracelet, called Reyes and said, “Hey, we have one of your kids down here.” The scene was horrific; the young boy was carrying a bedpost to which he was chained and locked. He had somehow broken the bedpost away from the rest of the bed and walked several miles back to Montgomery County.
Reyes told me, “This crushed me to the core.” I could hear the sadness and anger in her voice as she relayed the story. She still keeps and shows officers the dog leash and padlock used to hold him, but she says, “Jake Edwards makes it all worth it.” Who is Jake Edwards? According to her, “Jake will change the world.”
Chief J. Thomas Manger, Officer Reyes, Jake Edwards and Jake’s mom Jenn Lynn celebrate Jake’s public speech.
Jake is a young man with autism. He is a vocal, self-advocate who was recently named the ambassador for Autism Night Out in Montgomery County. At this year’s event Jake gave a speech in front of a crowd of hundreds of people. The speech, which can be found on YouTube, was moving. So moving, in fact, that it brought 38-year law enforcement veteran Chief J. Thomas Manger of the MCPD, to tears. Very few in attendance had a dry eye when Jake was finished speaking. Do yourself a favor and watch the speech – you’ll be a better person for it.
Jake’s vibrant personality, along with his indominatable spirit, makes him the perfect person to represent those with autism. Reyes’ plan is for Jake to speak directly to recruits in the police academy, giving them a chance to speak and deal with a person who has autism in a safe, controlled environment. Education is really the key when it comes to understanding these people.
Jake Edwards, who has autism, giving his speech during the MCPD’s Autism Night Out.
Reyes will be the first to tell you that she does not, and could not, do this alone. Caregivers, like Jake’s mother, Jenn Lynn, are Reyes’s number one supporters. She is also supported by her colleagues like, Officer Tara Wimmer and Paula Aulestia, an amazing volunteer who works closely with Officer Jason Huggins, a search and rescue unit coordinator, as well as all of the officers that belong to this specialized group.
Officer Reyes was quick to point out that her husband Tarik and their sons have been supportive of her career in law enforcement too, especially her work with Project Lifesaver. Her parents, Roger and Dee Nelson, actively support Autism Night Out, passing out pizza and greeting everyone with their infectious smiles. The approach: get everyone involved and the kids become the winners.
Laurie Reyes’ parents Roger and Dee Nelson during an Autism Night Out event.
Simply put, Reyes’s job is to save lives. She works assiduously to make sure that all officers’ interactions with people who have intellectual developmental disabilities are safe and nonviolent. Thirty years ago people with autism were hidden away and forgotten by society; today they are living productive lives. This dramatic turn of events would not be possible without people like Reyes and all of the dedicated, loyal caregivers and educators who work with these children and adults on a daily basis.
Chief Manger of the MCPD told me, “Officers like Laurie Reyes are the heart and soul of our police department. Her work in the community has made us better at what we do. Among everything she has done, putting on the police department’s Autism Night Out event is amazing, and one of my favorite nights of the year!”
It’s not just the chief who admires Reyes. Jenn Lynn said, “Officer Reyes means a future for our children. I’m less scared about my child’s independence, knowing Officer Reyes is leading our county and the country in autism education for all officers. Her heart is gold, and her efforts tireless. She is devoted to our children and saves lives every day.” ASJ
Editor’s note: To learn more about autism and how to get involved in your community go to autismspeaks.org.
Posted in Law Enforcement Tagged with: Autism Night Out, Autism Spectrum, Autismspeaks.org, Behind The Badge, Chief J. Thomas Manger, Cognitive Disorders, Intellectual Development Disability, Jake Edwards, Laurie Reyes, Law Enforcement, MCPD, Officer Jason Huggins, Officer Tara Wimmer, Paula Aulestia, Project Lifesaver, Troy Taysom
[su_heading size=”27″ margin=”0″]Bronze Medal Deputy – Nick Worthy[/su_heading]
Interview by Troy Taysom • Photographs provided by Nick Worthy
- Meet Nick Worthy, currently a road patrol deputy for the Brevard County Sheriff’s Department in Florida and also an Army Ranger. Worthy is a Bronze Medal of Valor recipient for his bravery and actions while on patrol in Afghanistan (above) in 2010. The American Shooting Journal is honored to have this exclusive interview.
[su_dropcap style=”light”]N[/su_dropcap]ick Worthy grew up in a child’s paradise; his hometown of Satellite Beach is located on Florida’s eastern shore on a strip of land a mile wide, bordered by the Banana River to the west and the Atlantic Ocean to the east. Worthy’s high school is literally across the street from the beach, making attendance difficult, especially when the waves were big. I know from personal experience, as I too lived in Satellite Beach during my formative years. Satellite Beach has the feel of a very small town and is a peaceful and fun place to grow up. Watersports abound, from surfing to scuba diving, water skiing to sailing and, of course, excellent fishing. The beach is never more than a 10-minute walk or five-minute drive.
Worthy, now a deputy sheriff in Brevard County (where Satellite Beach is located), grew up doing what kids in small beach towns do – surf. When Worthy wasn’t surfing, he was wrestling for his high school.
Immediately after graduation, Worthy enlisted in the United States Army on a Ranger track and was assigned to Charlie Company 1/75th Rangers. He attended Ranger School a year later. Ranger School consists of 60 days of sleep deprivation and stress-induced missions. Each mission forces the Ranger candidate to think critically under less-than-ideal situations. The school has three phases, each more difficult than the last. The beginning phase takes place at Camp Darby, Fort Benning, Ga., followed by mountain training at Camp Merrill in Dahlonega, Ga., and culminates in the Florida Phase at Camp Rudder and Eglin Air Force Base. The graduation rate hovers around 50 percent or lower, and most have to start over at least once during the course. Worthy completed the course the first time through.
After earning his Ranger tab, Worthy went back to Charlie Company and began working his way through the ranks. He started out as a rifleman and advanced to grenadier, M249 Gunner, M240 Gunner and finished his enlistment as an E-5 sergeant team leader. Worthy found that his favorite weapon system was the MK 48, a light belt-fed machine gun chambered in the hard hitting 7.62x51mm. Worthy told me, “[The MK 48] is an amazingly lethal weapon that saved the lives of many fellow Rangers and prevented the enemy from advancing on us almost instantly.”
During his 2010 deployment to Afghanistan Worthy was involved in an operation that placed he and 30 fellow Rangers in harm’s way. Although the details remain classified it’s easy to surmise that Worthy and his fellow Rangers were doing what they do best – looking for and eliminating bad guys. As is usually the case with special ops units, they were deep in Taliban territory and undoubtedly being watched by the enemy as they made their way through the rugged countryside. Soon they found themselves surrounded by 100-plus Taliban fighters. Their squad leader dead, Worthy and his fellow Rangers fought their way out. Worthy told me that he didn’t do anything differently than any of the other Rangers, but his superiors didn’t see it that way and rewarded him with the Bronze Star Medal with a V for valor in combat. It’s a classification for heroism.
As Worthy’s enlistment came to an end he followed his father’s example and also became a road patrol deputy for the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office where his dad has been a deputy for some 30-odd years. The transition from service to his country to service to his community was a natural one for him.
As I spoke with Worthy it was apparent to me that he is a humble, quiet man who didn’t want to talk about himself more than he had to. When I asked him if there was a seminal moment when he knew he had made the correct choice in becoming an officer, he told me he couldn’t think of one, but promised to think on it and email me later. He did as he promised and emailed me a story. That he would rather email the story than say it out loud demonstrates his humility. Here’s the story in his own words:
“I responded to a trespass call at a local gas station. The clerks advised that a homeless male was loitering on the property and they wanted him to leave. When I arrived the man began to pack his things and said ‘You must be here for me. I didn’t mean to bother anyone; I was just trying to stay warm.’ I decided to stay there and talk to him about his situation. It turns out the man wasn’t asking for money. He only wanted to get into one of the local shelters; however, his ID card was stolen, and he stated that the shelter will not accept anyone without an ID. As the male looked down and proceeded to walk towards his bicycle I told him I had to go back to the precinct right quick but wanted him to meet me at the Subway [sandwich shop]. When I met back up with him I gave him an unofficial record of his ID card that was on record from a previous consensual encounter with another deputy. The man began to cry and told me that nobody has ever gone out of their way like that to help him, especially the police. Since he was too proud to accept any cash for a sandwich I gave the money to the cashier to make him one when he came inside. I wished him luck and told him the cashier wanted to ask him a question as I left in my patrol car.”
Singer Don Henley released a song in the 1980s entitled “Dirty Laundry.” The song is about how much the news media loves tragedy, pain and suffering. One line in the song says, “I make my living off the evening news, just give me something, something I can use. People love it when you lose … ”
- Most cops are humble protectors of our communities who perform daily acts of kindness, never expecting or wanting thanks or recognition. Here, Worthy (right) is on bike patrol by John Decossaux and Corey Bertini.
The song’s lyrics are almost prophetic in describing today’s news reporting. Stories of murder and mayhem abound, and the volume is cranked to 11 if the story involves a cop. There is no shortage of news stories casting cops in a bad light, but what you rarely see are stories like the one Worthy shared with me. My bet is that he hasn’t shared that story with anyone besides maybe his fiancee.
Worthy could have just as easily sent the homeless man on his way without trying to help him out. My experience has been that people who witness war and all its tragic occurrences like Worthy has usually end up one of two ways: 1) callous and uncaring about other people and their problems; or 2) they vow to alleviate as much suffering in the world as they can. It is obvious which path Worthy has taken.
Regrettably, not all calls end in a positive way. Monday, March 9, 2015, was a defining date in the young life of Deputy Worthy. At 9:08 p.m. a 911 call was fielded describing a man standing in the street firing a handgun at random cars and houses. The house from where the 911 call originated was occupied not only by adults but by children as well. The City of Cocoa was the primary agency responding to the call, with Deputy Worthy responding as back-up. It turned out that he was the closest officer and arrived first.
When he got within two blocks of where the shooter had last been seen he stopped to retrieve his Colt AR-15 patrol rifle and approached on foot. His time as a Ranger had taught him that the element of surprise was worth its weight in gold, but like all well thought-out plans his was subjected to Murphy’s Law. The original plan went by the wayside within seconds of his arrival.
Worthy’s car was blacked out, meaning no lights of any kind were on, when he saw a man standing in the street. Worthy turned on his headlights to get a better look at the man. The man, who turned out to be the active shooter, acted as if he was going to run, so Worthy activated his blue lights announcing that he was a deputy sheriff. As soon as the lights came on the suspect reached into his pocket, pulled out a handgun and began firing at him.
One of the first shots came through the patrol car’s windshield and embedded in the headrest, narrowly missing Worthy’s head. Worthy exited and sought better cover behind his car. The shooter, in a highly agitated state, pursued Worthy to the rear of the car, shooting the entire time. At one point the suspect, later identified as 30-year-old Cedrick Bishop, was running towards Worthy and it was at this time that Worthy confronted the suspect and killed him. Worthy’s experiences in Southwest Asia saved his life that night.
Worthy was fighting for more than the lives of the residents in that small Florida town; he was fighting for his future. His fiancée, who was nine months pregnant with their daughter, and her young son were at home. If it were not for his quick response you may very well have been reading his obituary and that of several citizens of Cocoa instead of this article.
As Worthy and I were talking about the shooting he told me that taking a life is never a good thing. I agree, but the decision to take a life that night had already been made and not by him. The active shooter had decided that someone was going to die and ultimately made the decision that it would be him.
- When Worthy isn’t on duty, he spends time with his stepson, newborn daughter and fiancée (left) Rachel Trexler. He takes his family camping and passes on some of his Ranger skills, such as knot tying, making a good shelter and finding food and water to his little buddy. He also likes to snowboarding in the mountains of North Carolina.
It was a privilege for me to interview Worthy. Something that struck me while speaking with him was his desire to deflect credit away from himself and give it to others. He did this when I asked him about his heroic efforts in Afghanistan, and on March 9, 2015. But isn’t this what real heroes do? This modesty is what confirmed it for me. As a father of three boys I can imagine how proud Worthy’s parents are of him. As a citizen I know how proud we are of him. As a son I know how proud his kids will be of him when they are old enough to know what their dad has done in the name of service.
In this age of overpaid, overindulged athletes, entertainers, and other public figures, it is refreshing to know that people of character are out there. These quiet men and women go about their jobs every day never seeking the limelight or fame. They go to work with the singular goal of protecting the citizens in their jurisdiction no matter the cost. These officers deserve our gratitude and support for their willingness to sacrifice all so that we can be safe.
Worthy said it best: “I did what any other law enforcement officer would have done; I just happened to get there first.” What Worthy doesn’t say is that when the shots first ring out, he and his fellow officers (and soldiers) run towards the danger, not away from it, all to protect their citizens. ASJ
- After completing basic training, AIT and jump school, Worthy attended Ranger Indoctrination. This is a tough course designed to weed out soldiers from the ranks of potential Rangers. Worthy passed the course and was assigned to Charlie Company 1/75th Rangers. A year later Worthy attended Ranger School.
Posted in Law Enforcement Tagged with: afghanistan, Army Ranger, Brevard county Sheriff, Bronze Medal of Valor, Deputy, Florida, Nick Worthy, Troy Taysom, Veteran
[su_heading size=”35″ align=”Center”]SilencerCo – The Doom Of Boom[/su_heading]
Story by Troy Taysom
[su_dropcap style=”light”]G[/su_dropcap]uns have been around in one form or another for 800 years. Much has changed, but the firearms industry cannot be accused of being on the leading edge of technology. The 1911 handgun is still widely used and adored, as is the AR-15. The 1911 by its name alone tells you that it has passed the century mark, and the AR-15 is more than 50 years old. These are just two examples of the antiquated technology employed by most firearms industry manufacturers; but not all of them.
What happens when a newcomer to the industry combines tradition with cutting-edge technology and 21st-century company culture? Magic. Welcome to the universe that Josh Waldron and Jonathon Shults have created in the Salt Lake Valley of Utah. Two less likely candidates to start a firearms company have never come together before.
(Right) Jonathon Shults, a sound engineer, and (left) Josh Waldron, a professional photographer, founded SilencerCo.
Waldron was a professional photographer by trade. He spent years on assignments for publications like Newsweek, Outdoor Life and Forbes. Feeling maxed out as a photographer, Waldron wanted to do something challenging, but fun. “If you’re going to work, do something that you love; otherwise, what’s the point of being on this earth?” Waldron said during our interview. He grew up in northern Utah County, Utah, where shooting sports are popular and places to shoot and hunt are abundant.
Shults, Waldron’s partner and lifelong friend, was a music producer and sound engineer before they joined forces to revolutionize the suppressor industry. He too, grew up in northern Utah County.
MANY EUROPEANS COUNTRIES ENCOURAGE THE USE OF SILENCERS SIMPLY TO FIGHT
What brings two artists into the world of manufacturing and firearms? Customer service, or more accurately the lack thereof. Waldron told me, “Shults and I have always loved shooting and we started buying suppressors in our early twenties. We were often disappointed in the quality, as well as the customer service. It was horrible.” Not only did these two dislike poor customer service, they also felt that the suppressor industry was archaic and inept. The market was ripe for a revolution, and Waldron and Shults were poised to lead it.
BUILDING THE TEAM
Describing the diversity of SilencerCo’s team is much like describing the taste of sugar; one must experience it first hand in order to truly grasp the concept.
The team is an eclectic group: beards, tattoos, bright red hair and piercings are just a few of the things one will see when walking the floor. What is immediately apparent from the moment one steps into the workspace is excitement, fun and creativity. These are exactly the things that are generally lacking in a firearms manufacturing facility.
A mural inside the SilencerCo factory created by graffiti artist Gerry Swanson depicts the company’s Fight The Noise campaign. (TROY TAYSOM)
The team members come from across the country and all walks of life. While I visited their 72,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Salt Lake City, I met this group. Many are prior military representing all branches of service, but there are also ferriers, blacksmiths, graffiti artists, gun armorers, painters, photographers, graphic artists, videographers, editors and engineers. They do not fit any kind of traditional mold other than they love what they do and are creative thinkers. The SilencerCo atmosphere is more like a software firm than a firearms company. If you are looking for crusty old men talking about the good ol’ days, you’ve come to the wrong place.
Product director Willie Booras plays with Ellie the golden retriever. (SILENCERCO)
The director of product, Willie Booras, is a twenty-something with the most vibrant, almost iridescent, red hair I’ve ever seen. She (yes, she) is from a small town in Wyoming and studied industrial design at Georgia Tech before coming to Utah. She is a fun, smart, no-nonsense lady who gets things done. Not only does she oversee all of SilencerCo’s products from start to finish, she is also in charge of large-scale events, as well as branding and public relations. A testament to her abilities can be found in SilencerCo’s award for best booth at the 2015 SHOT Show.
SilencerCo’s CFO, Josh Mercer, has an unusual background. Before becoming a financial wizard Mercer earned his Bachelor of Science in biochemistry, followed by a Masters of Business Administration with an emphasis in finance.
I also met Ellie, a beautiful, fair-haired golden retriever that comes to work with Booras, and another dog named Izzie, a blue healer, that kept a close eye on me during my tour of the facility, making sure that I, too, was well behaved. All employees are encouraged to bring their dogs to work.
The customer service team is the number one department at the company. SilencerCo came to be because of poor customer service, so they make sure this area is the best of the best. They warranty all of their products for life and will, according to them, “even fix stupid, once.” They told me about a customer who had used the incorrect thread adapter to install his suppressor on a handgun. This ruined the baffles as well as the threads on his barrel. They fixed not only the suppressor, but the threads on his barrel at no cost – once.
THE FACES OF SILENCERCO
Firearms companies tend to use known gun celebrities in their ads and on their websites. SilencerCo headed in another direction. Waldron uses personalities outside of the traditional gun channels. On his website you’ll find videos of Aoki, a music phenom who double majored at U.C. Santa Barbara in Women’s Studies and Sociology; Travis Browne, an MMA fighter in the UFC’s heavyweight division; and Cam Zink, an insane, professional mountain-bike rider who apparently fears nothing. These three have nothing in common except that they all love shooting firearms, sporting suppressors from SilencerCo, and value their hearing.
What makes Waldron and the SilencerCo team think that this kind of marketing will work? Waldron stated it very simply: “If you want to control a market, you use known industry insiders in your marketing, but if you want to create a new market, you use other industry insiders.” Waldron and his team of fanatics have created an entirely new market, which is where shooters from all areas of the industry come to buy the highest quality and most reliable suppressors made by the most innovative company in the firearms industry, where excellent customer service is the minimum and exceeding customer expectation is mandatory.
ALWAYS ON THE MOVE
SilencerCo handles all aspects of production, manufacturing, quality control, advertising, PR, photography, video, editing, to name a few, in-house. (SILENCERCO)
Times haven’t always been this good, though. In the beginning there were many weeks when Waldron had no idea how he was going to even make payroll, and it was two and half years before he actually took a paycheck home. Waldron and Shults had trouble finding people to loan them money to grow the business, and when they did find a lender, they were forced to endure loan-shark-level interest rates.
While Waldron no longer worries about making payroll, he isn’t sitting in his office admiring his successes either. Everyday Waldron worries about his company and strives towards perpetual innovation. When a company stands still they are actually moving backwards. Complacency breeds laziness, which can ruin companies. There is no laziness or complacency at this company, and this applies to the CEO, president, machinists, office staff and everyone else in the SilencerCo family.
For a company to be highly successful and creative they must espouse a company philosophy. SilencerCo takes this seriously; so seriously, in fact, they have a vice president of culture.
The VP of culture focuses on recruiting and retaining the best and brightest talent available. This atmosphere is vital when creativity is essential. Creators and innovators must think outside of the proverbial box in order to be successful. Once inside a box, creativity is stifled and innovation suffocated.
While the worries of being a new company have, for the most part, passed, new worries have taken their place. The biggest is production. Waldron and his crew are so good at what they do and are providing such a superior product that they are operating at full capacity — all the time. While this may sound like a highlight, operating this way leaves a company vulnerable to disaster if a machine or an employee goes down.
Inside the SilencerCo test-fire range. (TROY TAYSOM)
Wait times are another issue that must be addressed when a manufacturer is operating at full capacity. Most consumers will happily wait for quality, but not forever.
SilencerCo is vertically integrated, meaning that you only rely on outside companies for raw material. In the manufacturing world this is the holy grail. Quality and precision are in the hands of their talented machinists, allowing the company to avoid issues of correcting outside quality-control mistakes.
Not only do they control manufacturing from start to finish, all of the advertising, PR, photographs, videos, editing and anything else they need is handled in house.
CHANGING THE LANDSCAPE
It’s not just innovation, creativity and operating at full capacity that have Waldron and the SilencerCo crew occupied; they have also started a campaign aimed at getting the archaic and invasive National Firearms Act changed to reflect the 21st century. Many may think that the 1934 NFA was passed in an attempt to thwart gangland mobsters like Al Capone, Lucky Luciano and Bugsy Moran from getting silencers and concealable and automatic weapons, but in truth it was designed to thwart poaching and to keep hunters from quieting their firearms to shoot under the radar.
Inside the SilencerCo’s 2015 SHOT Show booth which won “Best Booth” this year. (SILENCERCO)
Flash forward to the 21st century and the law still stands, as does the tax stamp required to own silencers. The misconception is, of course, that a silencer (or suppressor, depending on who you ask) only reduces the noise level to a tolerable and safe decibel. It does not render a firearm completely silent. The ammunition someone is shooting (supersonic, or subsonic) will determine how quiet a gun’s report will be. A supersonic round will still crack and a subsonic round will be much quieter.
With these issues in mind Waldron started the Fight The Noise campaign. This effort focuses on hearing loss in the shooting-sports world. The number one medical claim for veterans today is tinnitus, a constant ringing or buzzing in the ears. This problem alone costs close to $2 billion in medical bills annually.
Guns by their very nature are loud, but that doesn’t mean the shooter should be subjected to punishing noise during target practice, hunting, serving in the military or working as a cop. The United States is falling behind the rest of the industrialized world in our treatment of suppressors. In Denmark, Finland, and Germany only a firearms license is required to own a suppressor. In Poland, Ukraine and Norway, suppressors aren’t regulated at all. Many European countries, including France, encourage the use of silencers simply to fight noise pollution.
Josh Waldron (SILENCERCO)
Fight The Noise is pushing back and not accepting status quo as an answer.
The webpage is clear on their goals: “Fight the Noise is a movement to regain our voice. To exercise our right to protect our hearing and silence the sound. To be responsible gun owners and be treated as such. We want law-abiding citizens to have the ability to purchase and own silencers without being subjected to excessive wait times, paperwork, and taxes. We are the silent majority, and it is our time to be heard. We are your friends. We are your coworkers. We are the suppressed.”
With this campaign, Waldron and crew hope to educate the general public, making them aware that: 1) silencers are legal; 2) you shouldn’t have to pay an extra tax and wait months for the ATF to act just to own a silencer; 3) and guns don’t have to be loud.
The campaign is clever in its simplicity. Supporters are asked to take a picture of themselves with a piece of tape over their mouths. The tape says Fight The Noise. There are pictures of kids, mothers, grandmothers, businessmen, cops and soldiers. There are also a fair number of celebrities who have joined the fight, including Jep Robertson of Duck Dynasty. All races and walks of life are represented in the campaign lending an aura of unity amongst a diverse following.
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
Steve Jobs spoke of people like Waldron and his SilencerCo mates when he said:
“Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently, and not fond of rules. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things, they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.”
If you think that SilencerCo will stay in their lane, you have a big surprise coming. I’ve been sworn to secrecy about what’s next for them, but I can tell you that they are poised to make waves in other parts of the industry in the very near future. Love ’em or hate ’em, you can’t ignore ’em. They are here to stay and are ready to change the way business is done in a good ol’ boy industry. ASJ
SilencerCo, known for their sound suppressors, started a campaign called Fight The Noise to change federal laws governing the sale of the sound suppressors. (SILENCERCO)
Posted in Industry Tagged with: Best booth, Duck Dynasty, Fight The Noise, Jep Robertson, Jonothan Shults, Josh Waldron, SHOT Show, Silencer, Silencerco, Steve Jobs, Suppressor, Troy Taysom, Willie Booras
[su_heading size=”35″]Supporting The Boys In Blue[/su_heading]
Story and photographs by Troy Taysom
[su_dropcap style=”light” size=”5″]A[/su_dropcap]t some point in our lives we have all probably called 911. We may have needed help or heard disconcerting noises in the night, or worse, witness a tragedy or an accident where someone’s life was in peril, possibly already lost. Whatever the case, we call 911 when we have reached a point where we are stressed, scared and in need of immediate help. We take for granted that when our call is answered we will hear a friendly, calm, professional voice, no matter the time of day or night. This voice belongs to a 911 dispatcher, perhaps the single most important support person during an emergency. The 911 dispatcher is the disseminator of information to the police and a life line to the public.
The dispatchers in this facility work in sync like a machine. Each knowing what the other is doing without the need to verbalize and acting on the collective work of the others. These ladies are impressive!
I recently sat in a meeting with John King, Chief of the City of Provo, Utah, police department, and a recorded 911 call was played for us. The caller was sobbing uncontrollably and it was impossible to understand what they were saying. I’m not exaggerating when I say that it took me 30 to 45 seconds before I really even knew what was happening. It was stressful; I knew the caller needed help, but I didn’t know what kind and I was stunned that the 911 operator could figure it out. The dispatcher was calm and deliberate with her questions and her statements.
“Hon, you need to take a deep breath and tell me what is happening?” I heard the dispatcher say. “Sweetie, I can’t understand you. Can you tell me if the person is still there?” She went on, “It’s going to be OK. The officers are almost there, don’t hang up no matter what, even if you have to stop talking, don’t hang up.” The call lasted a short eight minutes; it felt like it went on for hours.
I can’t dwell on a past emergency, that would interfere with the next call.
After hearing this I decided that I needed to meet the people who choose a job where they constantly speak to people in crisis. No one calls 911 to give good news. The dispatchers answer the phone having no idea what they are about to hear. I’ve lived a long time and seen some bad things, but what I have experienced in 47 years is what a 911 dispatcher hears in a month.
Provo City, Utah has operated its dispatch command center for over 20 years. In that time only one dispatcher officially retired. It very rare that someone will retire from a dispatch center — the turnover rate is astronomical. The emotional stress that comes from working as a dispatcher cannot be quantified, but plays a significant part in the turnover rate. (Far right) Chief John King.
I sat down with the training supervisor for Provo City PD’s dispatch center, Gen Pratt and Lieutenant Brandon Post, the lieutenant in charge of dispatch, to find out what makes these support personnel tick, and how they handle such a stressful job.The dispatch center has a staff of 21 people, with a budget for 24. According to Pratt and Post, the dispatch center is rarely staffed to the allotted 24 people. They have a very difficult time hiring people, and when they do, chances are that they will not make it through training. The turnover rate is higher than that of the people that they support – police, fire and paramedics.
Provo City has had its own dispatch center for 20 years now, and in that time only one dispatcher officially retired. Lt. Post said that less than one percent of hires will retire from the dispatch center – the turnover rate is astronomical. The emotional distress that comes from working with the city’s crisises cannot be quantified, but plays a significant part in the turnover rate.
These quiet and dedicated support warriors pay a high price for their desire to make a difference.
The center in Provo fields 150,000 calls per year. With a staff of 21 people that means that each person takes approximately 7,143 calls per year. That is close to 27 calls per day, per person. That is an amazing number, especially when one considers that these aren’t your Sunday afternoon calls to grandma.
After the interview, I listened to the dispatchers, whom were all women, take calls. At one point everyone was on a call or dispatching. They worked in sync as if they were one person. I had no idea what was happening; everyone was speaking, radio traffic was crackling and the clacking of keyboards was coming from what seemed to be every direction. No one, besides me, got flustered or stressed. These five women just kept talking and somehow communicating with each other. When it finally slowed down, the ladies went back to talking to each other about their plans for the weekend or what their kids were doing. I was in shock; my head was still swimming, trying to figure out what had just happened.
Law enforcement and emergency medical dispatchers have an uncanny ability to multitask. Handling emergency calls, while simultaneously activating emergency services, tracking their officers’ locations and entering information into their computers, is done swiftly and efficiently without thinking twice.
I asked Pratt if calls ever disturbed her. She said, “Not really.” She had learned to treat each call as an in-the-moment experience, and when the call ends, she moves on. I asked her about closure, or wanting to know the disposition of calls that she receives. Pratt said that she can’t dwell on calls and wonder about what has or hasn’t happened. That would interfere with the next call. She did say that there have been calls which have created lasting memories; her first fatality call and her first baby-not-breathing call after returning to work from maternity leave. Both of these calls have stuck with her during for her 11 years at dispatch. This tenure makes her one of the veterans.
When all is said and done, these quiet and dedicated support warriors pay a high price for their desire to make a difference. Burnout is common; retirement is not. Stress is customary and emotional punishment the norm. Recognition is almost unheard of; not because they haven’t earned it, but because so many of us simply don’t think about them – until we need them! ASJ
Posted in Law Enforcement Tagged with: 911, Behind The Badge, Chief John King, Emergency Dispatch, Emergency response, Lt. Genevieve Pratt, Troy Taysom