“If you don’t like rain and cold, this isn’t the job for you, “ quipped Richmond County Deputy Charles Bowles as we prepared to go out on patrol. Last Monday, the 23rd, was a nice day to stay in and read a good book. It was dreary, cold, and wet, but Deputy Bowles seemed to take it all in stride as part of the job.
The first stop in the ride along was to direct traffic at Rappahannock High School just outside of Warsaw, Virginia. Joined by anther deputy, they moved traffic and got the buses out of the high school parking lot in short order despite the rain pouring down.
A number of property checks were done while patrolling. This is often requested by individuals who will be out of the area for an extended time, or by residents who have reason to fear that someone may cause them harm. After each check is completed, it is then called in to have a time frame as to the condition of the property should actual harm be done later. Included in a check is a survey of whether or not anything has been done to the area or if there is a trespasser present. Various properties from residential to business and churches are visited by the deputies at no cost to the owners.
“We want to keep a strong tie with the community,” said Deputy Bowles, “so this is a way of giving back to them for their support to the sheriff’s office.”
As the patrol went on, it became more and more evident that the deputies that worked in Richmond County look on the work they do as more than just a job. Although a sizable area at 216 square miles, Richmond County only has a population of 9,000 people. As a native, Deputy Bowles stated he knows a lot of people, a fact that he feels enhances his position as an advocate for the residents in the areas he covers.
“You get to know people and their situations,” said Bowles, “when there is a problem, you can have a better understanding of how to handle it.”
A graduate of Rappahannock High School, Bowles spent a year at Hampden Sydney College before going into law enforcement. He stated that fire and rescue work had always interested him and he volunteered in the area as a teen. After leaving Hampden Sydney, he volunteered with the Richmond County EMS until his twenty-first birthday when he was hired there and worked as a professional. He completed his bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice with a minor in business from the American Military University online. Bowles worked as interim Chief of Police for the town of Warsaw and as a deputy for the Westmoreland County Sheriff’s office prior to coming to the Richmond County Sheriff’s office in 2015. Bowles stated there is a strong camaraderie among the people in the department. People frequently socialize with one another on their own. The spouses understand what each other is going through and are there as a support group. Because the department is small, everyone knows each other and very willingly works together.
It was noted that Sheriff Smith has been a strong leader in presenting to the community a law enforcement agency that actually cares about the people they serve. Bowles commented that he is a very progressive and proactive leader who is open to ideas and concerns the deputies may have without having to go through a lot of red tape. Often Sheriff Smith will be seen on the job with his deputies working side by side. A recent addition to the community was a safe parking area to make internet transactions between people, so no one has to worry about having to meet where it may be unsafe.
Lt. Conkle started out with an interest in fire and EMS work before joining Richmond County in 2007 as a Patrol Deputy, then working as an investigator prior to being promoted to Lieutenant in 2016. Lt. Conkle mentioned that no one works for the Richmond County Sheriff’s department for the money. With all the personnel, they do it because they love what they do, and want to serve the community they are in. Each Deputy is given a lot of training. As was with many of the Deputies, Lt. Conkle was certified after graduating from the Rappahannock Regional Justice Academy in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Recently, he completed a three month training at the Forensics Science Academy in Richmond. Deputy Bowles commented later that the training he received is considered very prestigious, and those who complete this training have accomplished a great deal.
Like other departments in the Richmond County government, the Sheriff’s department is expected to do more with less. Lt Conkle stated that one of his responsibilities is to see that the automobile fleet used by the Deputies is kept updated and maintained. He commented that it is a full time job almost keeping everything running as it should be, in addition to other duties he has.
Lt. Conkle made the same statement many of his co-workers made,”We are here because we love what we do.”
While on the ride along, there was little to no activity, what was revealed was the hearts of the Richmond County Sheriff’s Department beating strong.
The web page for Richmond County describes best the duties carried out by the Patrol Division of the Sheriff’s department quite simply:
The primary function of the Patrol Division is to provide twenty-four hour services to the citizens and businesses of Richmond County to ensure security, safety, and maintenance of order.
Scott Richards is a Northern Neck News correspondent.