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Law enforcement weekend a reminder about who's really laboring

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By Laura Lewis, Reporter

It had been a long, crazy-quilt week. I was tired. I still had unfinished chores to do at home.

And I’m sure, given back this time slot at 9 p.m. Friday to be “free” instead of “working,” I’d be at home scrubbing floors, weeding out clutter and straightening closets instead of tuned into cyberspace, “20/20” and “World’s Dumbest.” We’ll never know for absolute sure.

As it was, I was to report with cameras (both still and video models for the Beacon’s print and ATMC-TV news show editions) to Brunswick Community College’s South Brunswick Islands Center near Carolina Shores. A roomful of law enforcement officers had already convened there for a quick supper before getting down to business and overnight duties.

Their assorted vehicles spanned the parking lot, including barking, air-conditioned K-9 units. There was also the Booze It and Lose It BATMobile bus, the centerpiece of the ensuing night’s assignments for the roomful of officers from throughout the region.

Spit-and-polished in their uniforms and glossy shoes, the officers were briefed on their duties by First Sgt. Billy Caulk with the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office Aggressive Criminal Enforcement (ACE) team. They didn’t seem the least bit weary or upset that they were here, instead of ensconced at home with their families and TVs and maybe even a comfy napping bed.

I took another gulp of some of the evening’s sweet tea and gradually started to awaken and liven up. Overnight adventure awaited just ahead on U.S. 17, N.C. 179 and Hickman Road, and these uniformed men and women seemed stoked about it.

I was also sitting in one of the evening’s best law-enforcement-protected rooms in Brunswick County. I had never felt so safe in my life.

Ditto for when the law enforcement caravans started heading to their respective assignments posts for annual Labor Day weekend Hands Across the Border checkpoints along the aforementioned routes.

I confidently parked my own wheels at the closed Stateline Fireworks store on U.S. 17 in Horry County, S.C., and moseyed a few feet over to the local officer checkpoint in North Carolina.

For the next five hours or so, officers stayed busy stopping traffic and nabbing impaired drivers and outstanding warrants in the process.

The Booze It and Lose it bus quickly filled up, and I was forced to exit as it ran out of seats. The officers were all professionalism as they dealt with involuntary “clients,” ones who might be difficult or upset, who would rather have been anywhere else than on the safest bus in Brunswick County for BATMobile testing and potentially facing DWI charges.

As the clock approached 2 a.m., I started to run out of steam. Sheriff’s office spokesman Del Routh promised they were just getting started. The 2 a.m.-to-4 a.m. time slot is typically when they start to see the most action, he said, as bars close and travelers start to head home.

If I thought working until 3 a.m. or 4 a.m. was enough for an officer’s shift and Labor Day weekend, I needed to think again. Event organizer Caulk said 10 officers, including himself, would be reporting to Charlotte on Saturday in time to work at the site of the impending Democratic National Convention. Then on Sunday, they had regular work duties to resume, he said.

Routh, meanwhile, had plans to go deer hunting at 8 a.m. Saturday.

I wondered when these guys sleep.

They said most of the officers would likely go home and snag a few hours slumber before arising to some new Saturday-and-Sunday tasks.

“Happy Labor Day weekend,” I joked.

They just smiled good-naturedly. These officers are used to working when others are playing or sleeping—or drinking and driving too much.

 

Laura Lewis is a staff writer at the Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or email llewis@brunswickbeacon.com.