Ten dozen officers keep the peace on busy weekend

Long Beach, Pacific County and Washington State Patrol officers coordinated efforts to keep the Peninsula safe last weekend. NANCY BUTTERFIELD photo

LONG BEACH - More than 120 law enforcement officers from throughout the state checked into the incident command center Friday at the Pacific County Sheriff's Office in Long Beach. The extra officers were in town to help keep the peace during the 19th Annual Rod Run to the End of the World last weekend.

Saturday night just before sunset, the center was quiet, with most of the officers making their presence known on foot, in police vehicles, on bicycles and motorcycles and on the beach.

Washington State Patrol Capt. Gail Otto, who heads up the seven-county District 8, said WSP troopers were in town from Clallam, Kitsap, Jefferson, Mason and Grays Harbor counties.

Law enforcement teams included a 13-member Civil Disturbance Action Team trained in crowd control from Snohomish County, with squads of four officers on foot in the downtown area at all times "mingling and contacting large gatherings," Otto said. Two DUI teams were stationed north of Long Beach and between Long Beach and the Astoria-Megler Bridge. "The focus is on traffic safety," he said.

By 7 Saturday night, traffic was completely backed up on Highway 103 with onlookers tossing water, eggs and bleach onto the road to encourage "burnouts" by the vehicles in the lineup. Pacific County Sheriff John Didion and a few of his deputies took off to contact a particularly active group of trouble-makers north of town.

Two 45-passenger fully self-contained Department of Correction prison buses were parked in the garage at the county building, to be used as a holding facility before transporting miscreats to Pacific County Jail. Shortly after 7 p.m. Saturday, there was one person lodged in a bus with another being processed by Jail Manager Steve Sultemeier. Twenty-four people were taken to Pacific County Jail over the weekend. Last year 128 were arrested over the Rod Run weekend with more than 2,400 calls for service, according to WSP Trooper Glen Tyrrell. "The buses are a great asset if things get hopping," he said.

Also on hand at the command center were Grays Harbor County Sheriff Mike Whelen with two bike officers and two deputies and Lewis County Sheriff John McCroskey with five deputies, plus six Cowlitz County deputies and a captain.

The majority of problems over the weekend seemed to be with young people. Minor in possession arrests were numerous and Otto said there were problems with teen-agers with no identification. "It's hard to find out who they are," he said. "They're not required to carry ID and they won't tell who they are. We have to be careful to be sure we have the right person."

Long Beach Police Department Sgt. Flint Wright said 24 extra officers from Ridgefield, Longview, Montesano, Raymond/South Bend, Centralia and Cosmopolis police departments were on hand to help 11 LBPD officers. "Friday was a good night," Wright said. "Everybody was friendly and pleasant, even the guys we arrested. It's way different from past years."

Pacific County Sheriff John Didion said his whole department, 12 deputies and five reserves, were working the Peninsula, leaving one deputy to cover the north part of the county, and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife had seven officers plus Capt. Mike Cenci covering the beaches with 4x4 vehicles.

Downstairs at the command center, Paddy Brett, former manager of the Pacific/Wahkiakum American Red Cross Chapter, and her daughter, Christine, were grilling burgers and hot dogs for the exhausted officers. Local restaurants contributed food and money for the meals, including Don's Portside Restaurant in Ilwaco, Super 8 Motel and Cottage Bakery in Long Beach and Jack's Country Store in Ocean Park.

"I love doing this," Brett said. "Red Cross has always been supportive of firemen, but seldom does anything for law enforcement officers. I asked John Didion last year if I could do this and he said 'Sure.' It worked well so we're doing it this year, too."

"It works out well for all of us," Tyrrell said.

As the sun went down, officers were getting ready to wade into the wall-to-wall crowds downtown. Barricades were up at the Bolstad Beach Approach, South Third Street and the state park entrance off Ocean Beach Boulevard and all 120 law enforcement officers prepared themselves for a long night.

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