A Pettis County Sheriff’s deputy displayed an unexpected act of kindness during a motorist assist stop on Wednesday by staying behind the parked vehicle for several minutes as a safety measure so the father of a newborn could feed his baby.
Scott Dehaven, a road deputy for the department since 2008, noticed a white Chevrolet Malibu with Tennessee plates shortly after 4 p.m. Wednesday on the shoulder of a busy northbound U.S. Highway 65, a few miles north of Sedalia city limits. He decided to see if there was a problem, or if he could assist, and discovered a young father had pulled over to feed his child.
After confirming the motorists were OK, he decided to stay behind them with his lights on until they were finished as a safety measure. After taking care of his “daddy duties,” the motorist drove off without incident and with a happy infant.
“I love to help people, love to help people,” Dehaven said. “You know I’m not the man that goes out and writes tickets to every car I pull over. Matter of fact, I probably write the fewest amount of tickets in the whole department.”
The deputy says his approach of helping people has served him well in all his roles as a peace officer, various and changing as they may be. He eludes that he prefers to address the core issues, if possible, of problems in the community by making things right instead of just making an arrest.
“If I can keep from arresting them, if that doesn’t solve the matter, you know let’s find another solution, or another way to help them,” Dehaven explained. “Obviously, I want to find another way to resolve their situation — maybe jail’s not the ultimate solution.”
But, he added immediately after, that “sometimes it is.”
Dehaven said he has never pulled his revolver from its holster in the line of duty since he started with the department more than five years ago. This has been his only job in law enforcement since he graduated from the National Police Institute in Warrensburg. He attended Otterville High School, worked at a lumberyard and then Bothwell State Park before deciding on his chosen career.
“Ultimately, I decided to do this because my brother is in it, also. He’s the one that kind of swayed me in this direction. I started doing some ride alongs with my brother and just absolutely loved it. So, that’s my story,” Dehaven said.
Given his good nature and love for the job, it’s not surprising he was recently chosen to be a field training officer.
“Recently, me and one of the other deputies, both became field training deputies. So, we get to train the new guys,” Dehaven chuckled. “That’s got a lot of perks. But, it’s fun to watch them transform from not knowing anything about the job fresh out of the academy, to making their first arrest and writing their first report and then graduate the training program.”
While he loves his job and said he plans on retiring from the department, obviously there are challenges. Many are the same problems departments across the county are feeling — lack of funding, lack of staff and lack of support from the community.
“I told the sheriff he could never get rid of me, I’m stuck here.”
On Wednesday evening, Dehaven was the only deputy on duty in Pettis County, which encompasses an area of 686 square miles.
“One of the biggest challenges is manpower. I’m working alone right now. It’s just me,” Dehaven said. “The corporal is getting ready to go off-duty. I should have help coming on later, but there’s times when you’re the only deputy for the entire county.
“Sometimes I may be on a burglary in progress, and you have an open door when you get there and you’re the solo person — you don’t know if somebody’s in there or not. The state troopers have really stepped up to that plate to help us out. When there’s one of them on duty they are right there with us trying to help us. Those guys are great. They’re our back-up lifeline I guess you could say.”
Budget cuts enacted several years ago have decreased funding for the department. However, Dehaven said the current county commission is working to remedy the situation and restore funding.
“We’re coming back. Our commission is really helping out with that now, but we’re coming back slowly but surely. We’ve got progress to make still. We just need more people, so that there’s more of us to cover the calls,” said Dehaven, as he is on his way to a call, a 911 hangup call in the southern portion of the county.
Police never know what the situation may be on the other end of the line. Officers like Dehaven put their life on the line every day to protect the communities where they work and live. But he shrugs it off with a smile before walking up to the home with a slightly ajar front door, protected from all sides with a chain link fence.
Is he scared?
“Scared? I don’t think I’ve ever been scared. Maybe nervous, a couple times. The adrenaline kicks in and that usually takes over so you don’t have to worry about being scared. I’ve dealt with scary people,” Dehaven said.
All is well. The 911 call is a child playing with the phone. Dehaven gets back in his vehicle and heads out, waiting for the next call, a call that could be a cat in a tree or a homicide. But, he seems ready for the next challenge.