The Surveyor does…A day with the LCSO

If you’ve followed the news in the last few years you’ve probably heard and read stories regarding controversies surrounding the police force in various areas across America.

Yours truly was fortunate enough to spend a day with one of Berthoud’s finest, Larimer County Sheriff (LCSO) Deputy Ryan Gebhardt. And the term “Berthoud’s finest” is most especially appropriate in describing Deputy Gebhardt. Perhaps what stood out the most was the commitment of Gebhardt, and the rest of the LCSO Berthoud squad, was the unparalleled certainty that ensuring public safety is at the very forefront of their job. In
our five hours together, everything came back to that, and it was not platitudinous lip-service or a savvy attempt at good PR.

Photo by Dan Karpiel – A Boulder County
Sheriff’s deputy takes a Berthoud minor into custody
.

No day is the same for our men and women in law enforcement, something Gebhardt said was one of the biggest appeals of the job. Our day started out with the deputy getting on a conference call with an attorney and the district attorney’s office regarding a DUI arrest Gebhardt had made in June. Over the roughly 20-minute phone call, the deputy outlined a plethora of specifics regarding the gentlemen he had cited, the cause for his initial investigation into the situation that included everything from tire tracks in mud to the state of the accused’s clothing. In less than a half-hour, yours truly learned more about the operations of law enforcement than I have in hours upon hours of police and crime dramas that fill the airwaves.

After that, we departed the office in Gebhardt’s Dodge Charger police vehicle, which Gebhardt says he prefers to the Chevy Tahoe’s the LCSO also uses for patrol. We traveled to the west side of Berthoud where a somewhat precarious situation had arisen. A minor, who attends school in Boulder County, had been accused of spreading messages on social media that had some red flags that pointed to potential violence at his school.

As we traveled to the neighborhood, where Gebhardt was to wait for the arrival of Boulder County Sheriffs who would be apprehending the young man, some details of the situation became clearer. Due to the fact this person was a minor and his family has a measure of standing in Berthoud, it was determined it would be best for me, a member of the media, to remain in the patrol car and not accompany Gebhardt into the young man’s home. I agreed it was probably the best course of action as my presence could have made an even more uncomfortable situation for the family.

I waited about 15 minutes before the Boulder County Sheriff arrived, entered the home, and a few minutes later emerged with the boy in handcuffs. The young man was assisted into the back of the SUV without incident and he and the Boulder deputy departed. As Gebhardt and I departed the home, he mentioned it was an awkward situation in which he had just found himself and, while he personally believed the young man’s social media postings were in all likelihood innocuous, Boulder County decided not to take any risks when it came to the potential for school violence.

Off on daily patrol we went. Just driving around it was interesting to observe the other drivers’ behavior in the presence of a police vehicle; everyone used their turn signal, stuck to their lane and remained at or very near the posted speed limit. Gebhardt explained a fascinating part of his job is to observe how people’s driving behavior changes when he is present in his squad car versus when he is traveling in his personal vehicle.

We came across an abandoned vehicle that was parked adjacent to the railroad tracks in a southeastern section of town. The vehicle appeared to be in good repair and no one was present in the area. We searched for a potential driver, thinking perhaps the vehicle had broken down and the driver was in need of assistance. After canvassing the area and running the information on the vehicle registration, the owner had an interesting history of behaviors, including potential for “suicide by cop” behaviors. This perked up Gebhardt’s attention quickly, as the possibility for a dangerous situation suddenly became very real.

This really stood out to me; something as innocent as a car parked on the side of the road near the railroad tracks set off a bevy of possibilities. It dawned on me quite poignantly that this is the deputy’s daily life; every situation has the potential for life-threatening danger. Nothing too much came of the abandoned car, but it was fascinating watching Gebhardt put
together the pieces of the situation.

Throughout the day, Gebhardt regaled me with stories from his time on the force; some humorous, some heartbreaking, some that even sent my pulse racing. He talked about the difficulties of the job, having to respond to a suicide by a man who was home alone with his five-year-old child and how he and his partner responded to a situation in a Loveland hotel where a woman was being sexually assaulted.

At the end of the day, let’s all try to remember our local police force is not there to harass us and put constraints on our lives and that the only profiling they undertake is that of the behavioral variety. I know it was a day I will never forget.

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