A Ride Along With A Burleigh County Sheriff Deputy
Humble, courteous, professional...
...that sums up 27-year-old Burleigh County Sheriff Deputy Zach Bugbee to a tee. I spent 5 hours last night on what's called a "Ride Along" - This was my 3rd one, the first way back in 1999 with a Poway Sheriff ( San Diego, California ), A Minot police officer had me in his vehicle about 4 years ago, and then on a cold Saturday night here in Bismarck. I met Zach in the summer during Bike Night at Sickies - he went ahead and set it up for me - this is something I HIGHLY recommend for a trillion reasons, and you can contact the Burleigh County Sheriff's Department for more info.
A quick background on Zach
He grew up in Fargo with a couple of dreams, one to play baseball and the other to be a cop. While he was in high school, his best friend planted a seed in his head to pursue the military - which he did - Six years as a marine, and two in the army. From there he went into law enforcement - more on that in a bit. To tell you what kind of person this guy is, he spent 4 years of his life working as a Residential Specialist at a special place called Centre, Inc - a nonprofit organization in North Dakota that provides rehabilitative services to individuals to achieve social reintegration. I can tell you from personal experience that restoring and saving lives mentally takes a special kind of person.
So how does one become a deputy sheriff?
Zach went through a 13-week state academy, then 6 weeks of in-house training - and two years later, there he was to greet me last night. Was I nervous, not at all ( that would come later ) - He led me down into their huge garage where most of the patrol vehicles sit - here is where I met sergeant Danny an easy-going guy.
Inside this huge garage, if you will, was a long, incredible trailer - inside was equipped with water rescue gear - if there is an emergency call officers can be ready to help in any situation.
The Patrol Room
So there I am wearing my San Diego Padre hat, and San Diego State sweatshirt, and I am sitting in the patrol room with about 8 other deputies ( some coming on duty, the others ending their shift ) and I'm listening to them talk about their calls of the day, as the sergeant takes it all in. Their conversation is helpful for anyone of them who might come across a situation later on that night, or in the weeks to come. It is now time to check out Zach's vehicle.
Unbelievable is what it is really, inside his car, Zach shows me how he works his radar - forward and behind - to obviously gauge how fast people are driving - he opens up his computer and gives me a run-down of how intricate and valuable this is - running license plates, and entering someone's license ( I held my breath as he ran mine ) - this will give all the deputies a background on if anyone has any warrants and such.
...was all I could think of as we rolled out of there, here I am front seat in a patrol vehicle. Zach and I talked about a ton of things, He loves to fish whenever he can, he works LONG weeks - 4 shifts of 12 hours long, and then he has SHORT weeks - 2 12-hour days and one 8-hour shift. These officers ride alone. There we are talking when I notice he zeroes in on a car he was about to stop. This guy has the eyes of an eagle, as we approached fairly close to the car, he was able to type in the person's plate number. We come to a stop, and Zach turns on a recorder ( that will tape his conversation with the person stopped - I am able to hear the whole thing inside the car. From start to finish, his conversation conduct is extremely polite, he gives them the reason for the stop - comes back to the car to run their license, and about 3-5 minutes later he hands back their photo, and off they go - with a friendly warning. During the time I rode with Zach, we had several traffic stops - and in all of them he displayed his humble personality - there was one incident that made me nervous.
Handcuffed and in the back seat
Not ME - so here is what I watched, NOT ON TV - a person that was pulled over for what is a misdemeanor, was taken out of his car, and walked over to the hood of our patrol car - I watched the eyes of this person who was just feet away, being handcuffed -for the safety of everyone - he was put in the back seat, and step-by-step was told what he needed to do to take care of his situation. I SAT there telling myself that I have seen this 1,000 times while watching the show COPS but this was the real deal, and deputies like Zach do this every time they work. One of the things he did in this 15-20 minute stop, as he was putting the cuffs on, he said "Thank you for being so kind and respectful"
Rural Enforcement Outreach
Zach is a part of a program at the Sheriff's Department called REO. The mission of the program is to establish a positive relationship with the rural communities of Burleigh County. For example, imagine walking into a Cenex in Wilton, and seeing a group of all ages drinking a cup of coffee with a Burleigh County Sheriff Deputy - he loves that.
There is no ticket or arrest quota
When I lived in California, years ago I remember people complaining that the police had some sort of ticket or arrest quota - NOT SO here in North Dakota - Zach does his job so well because he cares - When he pulls someone over, he is as courteous and polite as you will ever see, because "When you give someone ATTITUDE, it just makes your job harder" One of the things I observed is just how ALL the deputies on duty look out for one another. In a particular situation, a fellow deputy radioed in asking if he needed assistance.
My favorite moments...
...talking to a Deputy with a passion for taking drunk drivers off the street - I watched and listened to him tell me some pretty horrific moments, and WE ALL KNOW just how stupid and dangerous it is to drink and drive. Listen, I have zero sympathies for people saying that police/deputies "lay in wait" to catch drunks -that patrol cars sit in the dark just off the highway, close to a bar, in hopes of handcuffing someone over the limit - to those that say cops don't care, they are out there to STOP a drunk from killing someone else, like maybe a future family member.
A wide range of situations that deputies face at any possible minute...
...and I am guilty of this - the last call before MY shift was through was dealing with a "family matter" - on the way out to the house, Zach explained that this is part of the job as well. I can't give you the exact details, but I can tell you that he was patient, he listened to the complaint, he was able to deal with BOTH sides of the party - he calmly settled anxious nerves and was able to inform everyone the full extent of options that were available - he didn't rush to get out of there. He took his time with everyone, and just like all the other people he had dealt with in the time that I was with him, he would always say "Do you have any questions for me?"
I thanked him for his time and for being so patient...
...for it has to be so exhausting to try and explain everything...and there is SO much I'm sure that he couldn't even get to. Zach is one of those people you instantly like, he is a real people person - and to all the skeptics who for some reason or another despise cops, you haven't met Burleigh County Sheriff Deputy Zach Bugbee.