Sheriff's Department Ride-along

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Crawford County Sheriff’s Deputy Shawn Lenzendorf uses his in-car computer to look up the driving record of a man he stopped for speeding.


Training, innovative equipment help deputies keep Crawford County safe

By Ted Pennekamp


On a recent fall day, the patrol of southern Crawford County by Sheriff’s Department Deputy Shawn Lenzendorf is “routine,” but as Lenzendorf says, “You never know what you’re gonna run into on any given day. You might be doing traffic patrol, or you might be chasing cattle all day.” 

Of course, at any given time, a deputy might become involved in a dangerous situation, as well, as he strives to serve and protect the county’s citizens.

Lenzendorf said he has been involved in a couple of incidents where a man had a firearm and emotions had escalated during a dispute. In each instance, deputies were able to “talk the man down” and alleviate a tense situation.

“Communication is a major part of the job,” said Lenzendorf. “Communication with each other and with the public.”

Whether it’s a traffic stop or a tense situation, Lenzendorf said he is always learning. He said deputies often “bounce things off of each other” about how best to handle certain situations. Not only does he double check with fellow deputies, Lenzendorf said he will also check with Sheriff Dale McCullick from time to time about situations that arise.

In addition to learning on the job and gaining experience, Lenzendorf and his fellow deputies also undergo 24 hours of training per year. Some of that training involves keeping up with ever-changing state-of-the-art equipment the Sheriff’s Department has received in recent years, such as body cams, in-car cams, in-car computers, GPS units and a radar unit, to name a few. 

The body cameras and in-car cameras have both audio and visual and are for the protection of the officer as well as the public. The computer and Internet access allow a deputy to quickly access information about the driver of a vehicle and also to quickly type up a citation or a warning. The computer, along with the GPS system, allow for all deputies patrolling the county to see where each one of them is on a map on the computer screen. They can also see state troopers who are in the area as well as deputies from neighboring counties. Lenzendorf said that 100 hours of training is needed in order to properly operate the radar unit. 

On my recent two-hour ride-along, Lenzendorf set his speed at 58 miles per hour. He stopped a car heading west toward Wauzeka on Highway 60 and issued a warning. Later, a man driving a pickup truck at 78 mph in a 55 mph zone was stopped and issued a citation for speeding. Lenzendorf said the man admitted he was caught up listening to music and that he was indeed speeding. Lenzendorf issued a citation for 74 mph rather than 78 mph. The citation carries a fine of $200.50 and four points off of the man’s 12-point driving license. Seventy-eight mph would have been a stiffer fine and six points. 

Lenzendorf said each case is different depending upon the driving history of the driver, whether he or she admits to speeding and other factors. The highest speeds Lenzendorf has pulled someone over for are 101 mph by a diesel truck, 100 mph by a motorcycle and 95 mph by another vehicle. 

Lenzendorf and other deputies call in each traffic stop to the dispatcher at the communication center at the Sheriff’s Department in Prairie du Chien in order to get information about the driver and for safety reasons. “The dispatcher is hugely important,” he said. “The dispatcher will do a status check on the deputy if the dispatcher hasn’t heard from the deputy for awhile.”

Crawford County Emergency Government and the Sheriff’s Department have been greatly aided by the installation of more communication towers and equipment in the past few years. In the past, Crawford County’s hilly topography made communication from some areas difficult or non-existent. The increased communication helps increase the safety of law enforcement as well as the general public.

In addition to increased technology, Lenzendorf noted that each squad car comes equipped with a shotgun and an assault rifle. The deputy, of course, also wears a sidearm. 

With the fall season upon us, Lenzendorf urged motorists to be extra cautious and watch for deer, which are moving more now than in the summer. “I shoot a lot of deer that are hit by cars,” he said.

Deputies work 12-hour shifts on a rotating basis. Typically, said Lenzendorf, one deputy will patrol the southern part of the county while his partner will patrol the northern part.

Lenzendorf said he began his law enforcement career by attending Southwest Technical College in Fennimore for two years, having graduated in May of 2012. Since being hired by the Sheriff’s Department in April of 2012, Lenzendorf has been jail certified and road certified.

“I’ve always wanted to be in law enforcement,” he said. “I like interacting with the public and I’ve always been community oriented. Plus, my fellow employees are all good people.” 

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