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Solving problems peacefully is all in a day's work

Staff writer

The most gratifying part of being a law enforcement officer is solving somebody’s problem, Marion County Deputy Sheriff Michael Ottensmeier said Friday while on patrol.

He was given a chance to solve a problem when he responded to a reckless driving complaint. The caller was driving north on U.S. 77 when he tried to pass a slower car, he said. The driver of the other car sped up so he couldn’t pass. The incident left him flustered to the point that his hand was shaking when he gave Ottensmeier his driver’s license.

The deputy told the man he would search for the other driver and file a report with the county attorney to determine whether to take action.

After some searching, Ottensmeier found the other driver and asked for his version of events. Without knowing what the other driver told the deputy, the driver said he sped up to prevent the other driver from passing him, but he didn’t mean to upset anyone.

Ottensmeier told the man that speeding up to keep someone from passing is against Kansas law. He added that his actions could be an example of “road rage.” He explained that he would file a report, and what happened after that wasn’t his decision.

Ottensmeier later said he hoped the driver would think twice before doing something like that again. If he never has an accident, the lesson will be well worth the price of a possible ticket.

Throughout the incident, the deputy spoke calmly and took the drivers seriously. It is important for law enforcement to treat people the way they would want to be treated, he said.

“We’re no better than anybody else,” Ottensmeier said, but he added that officers should strive to set good examples.

Transitioning from Marion Police Department to Marion County Sheriff’s Department had a surprisingly steep learning curve, he said. Serving civil process is a major component of working as a deputy, and it can be difficult, he said. Often someone involved in a lawsuit is in a no-win situation because of bad luck, he said.

An officer’s plans can change in an instant. Ottensmeier responded to a noise complaint in Goessel, but as he reached the city, a bank alarm call came from Lincolnville.

The deputy turned on his lights and siren, and made haste toward Lincolnville. Even as he sped to the call, he was careful to not pass in no-passing zones and to slow down in traffic. An officer who crashes because he is in too much of a rush creates an extra problem for law enforcement and ambulance crews, he said.

Every day he returns home safely is a good day, Ottensmeier said. Even in the safest areas, there is always risk to be a law enforcement officer. He recalled several times when he faced the possibility of a fight with somebody he knew he couldn’t beat. In those instances, he told his opposition that he couldn’t beat him, but that backup would come, and a peaceful solution was best for both sides.

His law enforcement career has spanned more than two decades with local, county, and state agencies in Kansas and Texas.

“It’s been a great ride,” Ottensmeier said. “I’ve had a blast.”

Last modified March 11, 2010

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