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Another High Speed Scare

It can get very lonely out in the county by yourself in that patrol car. You know that at any moment you might be called upon to put your life on the line. Your radio is like a lifeline, because you know that if you get into trouble, as long as you can get to that radio there will be someone coming to help you.

On the other side of the coin, if you hear an officer needing help, you know that you must get to him as quickly as possible. It's all mutual trust. You know the other officers will bust tail to get to you if you need them and they know you will do the same for them.

You have to arrive safely to do anyone any good, but you are of no help if you are even seconds too late. No officer wants to arrive too late to save another officer's life. One way to know you did all you could, should you happen to get there too late, is to push it to the limit of safety on the way.

This mutual support does not know departments or county or city lines. If a police officer needs help and you are able to help you do it, no matter where he is or who he is.

We received a call for assistance from a Deputy from the county just north of us one night. He was at a bar just over the county line. There had been a shooting and the suspect still had a gun. That was all we knew other than that the Deputy needed help right now.

I was the second closest officer in Beaufort county, about ten miles away. Both the other Deputy who was closer, and I responded. To get to this bar on the county line we had to travel down a two-lane paved road. The road had woods right up to it on both sides. A perfect area for deer.

I don't know how fast the other officer was traveling, but I had my car wide open, which amounted to about one hundred twenty miles an hour. I'm sure the other officer was doing the same.

At that speed you must drive approximately two blocks ahead of your car. By that I mean that you look for and react to things that far away, because anything closer and it is too late to worry about.

A lot of people think that police officers love to drive at those kinds of speeds, and when I was a rookie I did like it but a police officer soon learns some very sobering facts. For one, a person does not walk away from an accident at one hundred twenty miles an hour. For another you are responsible for everything you do out on the street. No matter how good your intentions were, if it goes sour you own it. If you were to hit and kill someone at that speed you would go to prison. As a cop, prison is the same thing as the death penalty.

If everyone knew these things, they might wonder why we ever drove that fast. It's simple, you know if you were the one with your back against the wall you would want someone else to come to you the same way.

While I was still about five or six miles away, the dispatcher reported that the officer who had needed help had told his dispatcher that for the time being he had the situation under control.

The Deputy who was ahead of me called and said that he was about a mile away and he would check and let me know if I needed to come on or not. I told him okay and I slowed down to about ninety miles an hour. After going one hundred and twenty, ninety seemed like walking.

Just about the time I was thinking how slow ninety was I saw a deer ahead of me and to my right. It had no more than registered on me, that it was a deer when I felt it hit the front right corner of my patrol car. I saw it as a brown streak flying back to the right. I stopped, expecting that I was going to find the front of my car a total wreck.

I got out and looked, and to my amazement there was nothing except a dust-free spot on my bumper and a little brown fur. I looked for the deer but could not find it along side the road. I was told that I was not needed at the bar, so I headed back toward Beaufort at about fifty miles an hour, which for some reason seemed plenty fast now.

Ralph L. Dettwiler
(Former) Sergeant
Beaufort County Sheriff's Department
Beaufort, South Carolina

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