by Rick Emert
When Sgt. Jim Soltys’ patrol shift started at 3 p.m. Feb. 12, two children were missing on Fort Carson, a group of new military police patrol officers were in training and it was the first night of a four-day holiday weekend.
It appeared the night would be a busy one for the Department of the Army Civilian police officers and military policemen.
While Fort Carson is no Detroit — or Colorado Springs, for that matter — the post’s military and civilian police officers can keep pretty busy.
Or, just as often, they have an uneventful 10-hour shift.
“Until something happens this (driving around on patrol) is what I do,” Soltys said. “Other times it’s going from house to house to house.”
The first few hours of the Feb. 12 patrol were quiet. The mere presence of Soltys’ vehicle noticeably reduced the speed of traffic on the roads.
“Sometimes it’s kind of aggravating, because they’ll do five miles under the speed limit,” he said. “I’m not asking you to speed, just go the minimum. By and large, it’s kind of funny.”
During Soltys’ dinner break — absolutely no doughnuts were eaten — a call came across the radio for a domestic disturbance with possible shots fired.
With the patrol lights on and the siren blaring whenever the vehicle came to an intersection, Soltys drove quickly to the scene.
The call came from an area that, earlier in the shift, Soltys said produces many of the calls for police assistance on any given shift.
When he arrived at the scene, a few other patrol cars were parked at the scene. There were no shots fired, but a young Soldier had thrown several glass items in the direction of his wife inside their home and had kicked the back door off its hinges. A neighbor had made the 911 call.
None of the items struck his wife, but the Soldier was apprehended and later released to his unit. In such cases, the unit keeps the Soldier away from the spouse for 72 hours. If no physical violence is involved in a domestic dispute, the Soldier is kept away for 24 hours, Soltys said.
The call would be the only bit of excitement for Soltys during the shift. The missing children were found at a friend’s house.
The only other incident came when Soltys warned a driver in a housing area that one of his headlights was not working.
“I’ll remember the car, and if it’s not fixed next time I see it, I’ll cite him,” Soltys said.
The vehicles and homes in the post’s housing areas are familiar to Soltys, who spends his entire shift driving multiple times around the perimeter of the post and through the housing areas.
While some of the patrols spend time sitting near stop signs or traffic lights to monitor those, Soltys said he feels more productive on the move.
“I’m not a big sit-and-watch-stop-signs kind of guy,” Soltys said. “It’s like I affect one person every 80 or 90 cars. How many people am I actively affecting when I’m driving? It’s the presence, especially as you go through the housing areas.”
Although the patrols do have busy nights on Fort Carson, the amount and severity of crimes are nothing like the surrounding community’s, Soltys said.
“You don’t have crack houses on the corners and drive-by shootings,” he said. “Are there criminal elements? Of course; it’s a microcosm of a city — it’s got a hospital; it’s got the schools, the houses, the shopping centers and restaurants and that. It’s really a small city, but it has nowhere near the issues of Colorado Springs.”
This proved to be especially true on the Feb. 12 evening patrol, and Soltys had some ideas of why the first day of a four-day weekend was so quiet.
“They may be bolting for the weekend,” he said. “And, it’s Valentine’s weekend, so maybe they’ll not duke it out this weekend. There are a lot of returnees, as well, so maybe that love affair hasn’t worn off yet.
Whatever the reason, the calm night would have made for a disappointing episode of “Cops.”