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New Deputies Face Grueling Jail Assignments

BEHIND THE BADGE: THE MAKING OF A DEPUTY: Last of a four-part series detailing the training of law-enforcement officers in the 74th San Diego County Sheriff's Academy.

August 13, 1986|GLENN F. BUNTING | Times Staff Writer

Duffy said he wants to cut the current 18-week academy to 10 weeks and send cadets into the field for 10 more weeks of patrol training before they go to the jail. In addition, the sheriff said he has directed his personnel administrators to limit jail duty to three years. To accomplish that, Duffy said he intends to send veteran deputies back to the jail.

"When you're young and you're in the academy, you want to get into patrol," Duffy said. "But after you've been out there a while . . . the job in patrol gets to be very routine, very dull. The jail's a change of pace . . . and it's not a bad place to work."

He acknowledged that his administrators have resisted his suggestions, but vowed that the changes will take place in coming months.

"I've been telling them up there for a long, long time that we are going to do this," Duffy said. "They say, 'Well, do you mean detectives, too?' And I say, 'Yes, detectives too. What the hell's wrong with that? Part of our operation is the jail . . . ' "

Because a large share of the department's growth in coming years is expected to take place in new jails, however, deputies privately expressed skepticism that jail duty will be reduced anytime soon. One jail sergeant predicted that the current crop of cadets from the 74th Academy will be working inside the jails well into the 1990s.

The new deputies must pass an 18-month probation period from the time they were hired. On July 25, Betsy Vint, 35, became the first deputy to be dismissed after graduating from the 74th Academy. She was dismissed because she "had difficulty" learning the jail operation, a sheriff's spokesman said.

The following are interviews with four other graduates:

Deputy Teri Hartley, 28. Before Hartley and her classmates began jail duty, the Sheriff's Department held a "Family Night" at the downtown jail, an outdated facility with cast-iron bars that houses the county's most dangerous felons. The tour gave friends and relatives a chance to see the jail work environment.

Many of the guests were frightened by the tour, including Hartley's fiance, Boe Telnes. After walking past suspected murderers, gang members and child molesters in their cells, Telnes expressed concern for Hartley's safety.

"I have to worry about her being in there," Telnes said. "If she ain't gonna have no gun or night stick, how is she going to protect herself?"

Telnes was not comforted by the response that deputies must learn how to talk to the inmates.

"They're going to take you," said Deputy Herbert (Hub) Brown. "Really, if they want you, they got you. You learn how to use your mouth. That's your best defense."

After three months inside the Las Colinas County Jail for women in Santee, Hartley said she is startled by the amount of stress and danger.

"I've seen inmates fight over an orange," said Hartley, who hopes to work in a men's jail soon. "You don't turn your back on the inmates or you could get your butt kicked."

Hartley described her job as "glorified baby sitting." She said she is learning a lot about criminals, their behavior and language. She did not know, for example, that "toad" refers to a homosexual.

But Hartley has found much of the work depressing. She said she still can't forget the time she dragged a drunken elderly woman kicking and screaming into a detoxification cell. The woman could not control her bladder.

"She had no teeth," Hartley recalled. "She was screaming but we couldn't understand the words. We took her to the pit, took her clothes off and searched her. . . . She was cussing and spitting and had a skin problem.

"It makes you physically sick to your stomach. . . . It's hard to handle. You think of an old woman as a grandmother. It was horrible. It's the only way to describe it."

Hartley has responded to two suicide attempts, one of a woman who slashed her wrists and the other of an inmate who tried to hang herself with bed sheets.

"She was standing on the top bunk with sheets around her neck threatening to jump," Hartley said. "To actually walk in and see somebody try to do it . . . it bums you out. After a while, I guess you get a little insensitive to it. But it's a shock."

Deputy Tom Bedsworth, 34. Being a sworn peace officer is going to take some getting used to for Bedsworth. He did a double-take recently when he noticed a sheriff's uniform and badge hanging in a closet. Bedsworth asked himself, "What are the cops doing in my bathroom?"

During his first week at the jail, Bedsworth was at the beach with his 3-year-old when two burly men approached. They recognized Bedsworth from having spent time inside County Jail in Vista.

To avoid any possible confrontation, Bedsworth denied that he worked for the Sheriff's Department. "No, not me," he responded. The two men said they could have sworn they saw Bedsworth in the jail, then they walked away, he said.

A passive, low-key individual who is accustomed to taking the path of least resistance, Bedsworth said he has developed "a tougher hide" since joining law enforcement.

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