Beyond the Badge
Sheriff Clayton shines a spotlight on his deputies.
From the September, 2018 issue
The command is barked. "Everybody get down! Down!" Frightened-looking Dexter High teachers hit the floor and scramble behind desks as a "shot" rings out.
This time, it's just an exercise-a video simulation titled "Protection." Produced by the county sheriff's department, it's part of an online series called Beyond the Badge. After a two-year hiatus, new episodes began filming this summer.
Sheriff Jerry Clayton initiated the series as a way to strengthen relations between his deputies and the general public. Though Clayton addresses viewers in each episode, he says, he wants "the focus to be on staff."
It does do a lot to humanize those military-looking figures. In one episode, a deputy, herself the mother of young kids, chokes up as she recalls responding to a car accident in which children died. A happier episode has deputies taking some of Ann Arbor's low-income kids Christmas shopping. Another takes viewers to the county jail, where a guard meets a soon-to-be released inmate (all prisoners' faces are blurred) to discuss how she can make a good adjustment to freedom.
Although Clayton emphasizes "We are not Cops," a fast-cut opening montage shows a suspect in handcuffs, a man being searched for weapons, and a sheriff's SUV speeding down the street, lights flashing. As of last month, the Dexter High simulation had attracted more than 4,200 views, toy shopping about 6,400.
Future episodes, Clayton says, will focus on everything from emergency dispatchers to deputies working with other organizations on issues like mental illness. While the earlier episodes were funded by the LaFontaine Auto Group, the department now pays the cost-about $25,000 a year-from its own budget.
Whether or not they succeed in winning friends in the community, the shows already are working as a recruiting tool. Clayton says a couple of new deputies told him that the series inspired them to apply
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