Supervising Firestone Deputies
by Duane Preimsberger
Sometime ago, Bill Bernsen and Jack Miller both asked for some input for the FPK site from folks who’d been supervisors at Firestone Station about how they saw their jobs. I didn’t initially respond because I wanted to give the subject some thought and now I have done that.
Perhaps my assignments there as a Patrol Sgt, Patrol and Detective Lt. were a little different than other folks because when I found out I was about to be promoted I went and asked the Firestone Station Captain for a job. Since I’d worked there for several years as a Deputy, I knew I would be honored to return to work at that very busy place. Unfortunately, I missed being the Firestone Station commander (Captain) but I did manage to be in the FPK chain of command as an Area Inspector (Commander), Sheriff’s Executive Assistant, Division Chief and Assistant Sheriff.
By the time I was promoted to Sgt. I’d worked as a Deputy at the Honor Ranch, Main Office, Firestone, Emergency Services Detail and Temple. I’d seen a wide range of capabilities in those who were unit, facility and station brass and I’d easily identified my favorites. Those were guys who knew what Deputies did. They understood the job pressures, the politics, the penal code and what constituted good performance. These were men who were approachable and helpful if you needed assistance in solving a problem, albeit, personal or professional.
All of them seemed to be focused on that bit of advice we got when we first pinned on that shiny six pointed star; “ you don’t violate the law to enforce the law,” without question, these were men of honor and integrity. When you’re responsible for the job performance of others that kind of focus is not just desirable, it’s a necessity for a supervisor!
I tried to bring that kind of attitude along with me as I returned at different ranks to FPK and I added another element or two to the mix. I’d never ask a Deputy to do anything I wouldn’t do and I tried to get into the field and roll on calls at all levels of my career so that I’d know what was up in the streets. In hindsight I can say that I was one of just a few brass who responded to incidents big and small; made or helped to make arrests and talked to our Deputies about their job and what they needed to do it better or more easily.
I tried, but didn’t always succeed in treating folks as I’d like to have been treated given the reverse of the circumstances. Every once in awhile I get disappointed when I was lied to and sometimes, to my regret, my temper would get the best of me. I also realized that there were some very knowledgeable, smart, experienced Firestone Deputies who could be relied on to help out in tough circumstances. These weren’t folks just passing through in a year or two to get their tickets punched so that they could brag about being a Firestone Deputy, these were men and women committed to working a difficult assignment and giving their very best to doing a good, no… an excellent job, every day. I tried to include these individuals when I was confronted with a tough task or when planning for handling a problem and I was always pleased and sometimes amazed at their valuable input.
As a supervisor at Firestone Station, my worst nightmare was that one of my people would be injured or killed and keeping them as safe as I could was always on my mind. These weren’t just people who worked there, these men and women were my family and I cared deeply about them and when a bad thing happened to one of them, it happened to me as well.
Unfortunately, not everyone who worked at Firestone Station was always at the top of their game. We employed human beings and supervisors at Firestone Station saw human failings. Some were minor and could be dealt with and corrected through a counseling session that could take place in the Sergeants office or, occasionally, at the far end of the station parking lot. When I did the latter it was always in the hope that I’d save someone from getting into deeper stuff in the future. On other occasions I had to deal with unconscionable and sometimes criminal behavior and like it or not, that was my job and I had to do it with honor and integrity and that was how I approached those dilemmas. Recommending discipline or discharge was never a circumstance to be taken lightly or easily!
One of the best aspects of the supervisory job at Firestone was the humor. You got to see or hear about the weird and sometimes hilarious incidents that constantly tickled our funny bones as the Deputies policed the streets. Sometimes it got more personally focused, I can recall getting up from the watch sergeant’s desk to get a cup of coffee and returning to find one of 68th and Central Ave’s ugliest hookers handcuffed one handed to my desk chair while eating a chicken drumstick and using my contents noted stamp on the reports in the in-box. Amazingly, no one knew how she got there???
My assignments there taught me way more than I gave in return. Those folks who made Firestone Station run year after year were some of the finest professional law enforcement officers I’ve had the honor to work with during my 40 year career. As I look back on my days there as I learned to be a supervisor and a manager; it was these folks who taught and supported me as the direction of my career became focused. They are the real reason that I was successful. They were there for me and from them I learned how to be a cop and how to supervise and manage police work and to my last breath I’ll be grateful for what they gave me.
It’s getting close to 50 years since I first walked through the back doors next to the booking cage at Firestone Station and I’ve long realized how fortunate I was to have been assigned to work there as a fledgling Patrol Deputy, Sergeant and Lieutenant. My Firestone Station experiences and memories are of the caliber of which others can only dream. One day, I’ll leave this earth, proud to have served with folks I cared deeply for and at a place that I will always recall with great affection.
Being Firestone brass was a privilege that I am fortunate and grateful to have enjoyed and hopefully, in the sight of those who there worked with me, a privilege that I earned!