Some days are ‘normal’

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By Amy Ryffel-Kragh

When he turns on the ignition and heads to work at 6 a.m., he never really knows what the day will bring. For John Rawls, a master deputy for the Marion County Sheriff’s Southwest District, he starts each working day with a sort of routine.

Rawls, who has been employed at MCSO since 1998, said if he does not have to relieve a nighttime deputy he routinely does his security checks at local businesses to make sure nothing has been disturbed. This is especially important on the weekends, because some businesses are closed.

For those that are shut down on Saturday and Sunday, a crime may not be discovered until Monday morning. Rawls, who served in the National Guard, said the weekend checks establish a timeframe of when a crime has been committed.

Depending on the day, the more than 20-year law enforcement veteran will work in some traffic enforcement during the morning hours of his shift. “State Road 200 is a bad road for people speeding into town trying to get to work on time,” he said.

Between 8 and 9 a.m. the calls for service start to pick up.

When Rawls gets a call, he can hear it over the radio from the dispatcher and see it on his computer screen. The monitor in his patrol car shows the transaction number; the zone the call is in, and the address of the report, among other details.

Rawls, who considers himself an “old school deputy,” said if he is unsure where the scene is, he does things the old-fashion way. “I learn my district as best I can” and if he is still not sure, he pulls out a map of the county. Other deputies with the sheriff’s office have GPS systems in their vehicles.

In addition to the computer systems in the vehicle, there is an instant message system allowing the deputy to communicate with other MCSO employees.

All of the active reports in the county are displayed on the monitor and each call is color coded. Green indicates a low priority incident, yellow translates into a medium priority, blue are special details, and red is an emergency call, Rawls explained. A special detail assignment could be a Friday night football game or the recent Republican and Democratic rallies that were held in Ocala.

During the afternoon portion of his Friday shift, he was dispatched to several reports during a three-hour period. One of the calls took him out to the Dunnellon area off S.R. 40. Though it was not in the Southwest District, the closest unit available to take the call was Rawls.

While driving down the two-lane road, the radar on the dashboard clocked a motorist traveling in the opposite direction driving over the speed limit. On that day, the driver got lucky. If Rawls had not been on the way to a call, the motorist would have been stopped and ticketed.

Earlier in the shift, a well-being check came in about a couple who had a family member worried about them, due to their phone number being disconnected. After receiving the call on the radio and seeing the address of the residence on his computer screen, he pulled up to the home in question for the check.

After knocking, the homeowner opened the door. Rawls explained the reason for his visit and the man relayed that his phone number had been changed. After checking on the couple, he headed back to the vehicle.

Before he can move on, the call has to be cleared by giving a code to classify the incident, the grid number where the report was located, and what the result was.

When there is any downtime during the day, he uses the time to check on registered sex offenders, patrol neighborhoods and check on residents in the Seniors at Risk Assistance (SARA) program in the Southwest District. He visited one of them about a week or so before Christmas and dropped off a stocking made by volunteers of the MCSO and the Kiwanis Club.

About an hour before his shift was over, Rawls headed back to the district office to drop off his ride-along reporter. Before he pulled out of the parking lot, Master Dep. Rawls turned on to S.R. 200 and he was off to another call.

Contact Amy Ryffel-Kragh at 854-3986 or e-mail akragh@newsrlsmc.com.