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'Ride along' with York County deputy is enlightening -- night shift is dynamic and unique
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'Ride along' with York County deputy is enlightening -- night shift is dynamic and unique

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YORK – What is a York County deputy sheriff’s job like? Deputy Taylor Samek gave this writer a first-hand look at the night shift on a recent evening.

Samek, a two-year member of the York County department, brought several years’ previous experience from Merrick County. He works the night shift by choice, each 12-hour overnight on the same three-deputy team. They work 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. twice one week and five shifts the next. His crew includes deputies Jordan Dickson and Nick Schleich.

Samek’s vehicle includes dash camera, front and rear facing radar, GPS “so we know where everybody is located” on patrol at all times, a .223 caliber center-fire rifle and enough computer power to search information by name, driver’s license number and other sources. Dispatchers provide access to even more resources than those mounted in his patrol vehicle.

Samek also carries NARCAN, an instant-acting antidote for opioid overdose victims he has deployed twice, once to save a Seward County Deputy who was accidentally exposed while on a case and again for a woman who overdosed, potentially fatally, at a local gas station.

Behind Samek’s driver’s seat is Justice, a Dutch Shepherd female and constant companion. Justice, he said, is fully certified in narcotics detection. Samek has been a canine officer 3 ½ years, the last 1 ½ years with Justice at his side.

Attached to his body proper is a body camera, two sets of handcuffs, a couple extra ammo magazines for the Glock 9mm semi-automatic handgun in the holster at his hip … all of it backed up by a ballistic vest.

The deputy said night shift, not surprisingly, is when narcotics most often appear. The same is true for impaired driver arrests … though the latter are not as often by alcohol and most folks might think.

“We see more meth and marijuana” impaired drivers on the roads than drunks, he said.

The night shift deputies patrol roads, highways and towns within the county and of course I-80 as well as Recharge Lake and other NRD recreational properties.

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Traffic violations or vehicle lights, turn signal use and other failures are most often how drug cases and impaired driving arrests begin.

“We can’t see anything” inside a vehicle at night like day shift officers often can, so reading signs that something is amiss begins when contact with those in the vehicle is made in person.

In terms of wrecks, Samek agrees there is no such thing as a fender bender on I-80, citing as just one example a 4 a.m. semi rollover that scattered 50-foot lengths of pipe far and wide on and adjacent to the interstate … a dangerous and daunting wreck scene to manage in the face of so much traffic at high speed compounded by total darkness.

“Of course on snow days it’s amplified,” he said of inherent problems patrolling I-80.

A Lincoln native and Lincoln High School graduate, Samek earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology more than seven years ago at Hastings College. His wife is an officer on the Seward PD. They met – where else – at an accident scene.

“I wanted to be in law enforcement since I was a child,” he said. That goal was in no small part due to the influence of two much-admired neighbors who were both police officers.

“All the stuff I like to do occurs at night,” he said, specifically DUIs and drugs.

On this night it was not long until an improper taillight turned into a high speed pursuit over gravel roads. The driver was clocked once at 87 mph. The stop was ultimately made under full lights and a screecing siren.

The lone occupant admitted to possessing marijuana and handed it over. A two-part field sobriety test was passed; however a methamphetamine pipe was discovered in the vehicle. In all, five deputies peered into all cracks and cavities of the vehicle with flashlights and patted down every item inside. On scene in addition to Samek, Dickson and Schleich were deputies Alexa Nichols, Brad Reis and a Nebraska State Patrol trooper.

The subject was Mirandized and transported to the York County Jail for booking. As jail staff tended to those procedures, Samek took the paper bag of seized evidence to a basement lab to test the substances, all of which were positive for either marijuana or methamphetamine.

Asked what he would have York County residents know, Samek said it’s that, “When they’re sleeping” we “come to life at night” to stand guard over their well-being and protect their property.

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