CSI: Night Patrol In Satellite Beach Yields Surprises
By John M. Egan // April 15, 2012
BREVARD COUNTY • SATELLITE BEACH, FLORIDA – When it comes to police work the term “Thank goodness it’s Friday” does not apply.
Often Fridays are one of the more active days of the week for police officers.
For many of us, the day marks the beginning of a weekend, a break from work and a chance to relax and catch up on various neglected chores.
However, for the police Fridays mark the beginning of increased traffic and accidents, weekend revelers and crime.
It was on a recent Friday evening that this reporter experienced first-hand just a mere sample of what a police officer encounters on an evening patrol, as I rode along with Satellite Beach Senior Patrol Officer Michelle Hoskins.
Officer Hoskins is a four-year veteran of the Satellite Beach Police Department.
The wife of a Satellite Beach firefighter and the mother of two sons, Hoskins became a police officer later in life.
As a youngster, Hoskins described herself as a tomboy. She raced dirt bikes with her brother and hung around with his friends.
“I never had a Barbie doll,” she said. “I just liked to do the guys stuff, but I always wanted to be a police officer.”
In 2001, Hoskins laid the groundwork for the long road to her goal by enrolling in the criminal justice program at Florida Metropolitan University’s Melbourne campus.
After earning her degree in criminal justice, she applied and was accepted in the Brevard Community College Police Academy.
While working full time during the day she attended the academy’s night school and in August 2007 graduated among the top police cadets in her class.
“That was a very proud day for me,” she said. “I graduated in full uniform and was hired by the Palm Bay Police Department.”
After not quite a year in Palm Bay, she wanted to be closer to home for her children and applied for a position at the Satellite Beach Police Department.
“I was intrigued by their department,” Hoskins said.
In March of 2008, Hoskins was sworn in as a Satellite Beach police officer.
Excitement came early in her career.
One summer afternoon in 2008 while training with a field training officer, she was at the helm of a marked unit when the radio crackled an alert.
“A BOLO (Be On the Look Out) alert was issued by the Melbourne Police Department to watch out for two armed robbery suspects,” she said. “The information was that they were suspects in a jewelry robbery and were armed and last seen on Eau Galle Boulevard traveling east. The alert included the vehicle’s description and partial license tag.”
Moments later she spotted the car.
“There it is,” Hoskins said as the vehicle went right past them on Highway A1A at Park Avenue. “An unmarked unit came up behind the suspect’s vehicle as it began to accelerate.
“We pulled in behind the unmarked unit and off we go,” she said. “The speed increased as other agencies, including the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office and the Cocoa Beach Police Department directed traffic to the side and secured the intersections as we continued into Cocoa Beach in excess of 100 MPH.”
The suspects were taken into custody without incident, more than 17 miles away at State Road 520 and Highway A1A. “After everything settled down, I recalled saying ‘Holy Cow, did that just happen?’”
Hoskins and fellow officers received an official letter of commendation for their brave actions by former Satellite Police Chief Lionel A. Cote.
It was later learned the male suspect was wanted by the FBI for an armed bank holdup in Orlando.
As each shift starts, each police officer reviews their respective emails, which may provide information from the state attorney about pending cases or BOLOs.
These communications may contain information from other agencies or county departments who are looking for a witness in an open case needed for prosecution, a suspect that may be in the area, or the description of a vehicle wanted in a hit and run or other crime in another city.
Other information contained may include citizen complaints and possible highway closures.
Officers also exchange information with other officers from the previous shift.
It may pertain to a particular area, for incidents of thefts, and other concerns in their area of patrol.
The evening ride begins for Hoskins this night at approximately 7 p.m. as she checks her vehicle and equipment before heading out on her evening patrol.
“This city is my family,” Hoskins said. “To me they are my family members and we, the police officers, are here to protect them. My area is the entire city.”
We patrolled north on Highway A1A, through Atlantic Plaza then into the back streets toward South Patrick Drive, pausing briefly as she observed a group of teenagers in a shopping plaza and then we continued our patrol.
We drove through smaller streets of the city, with no particular pattern, pausing again as she waved to a neighbor who was outside attending to his lawn.
“I am community oriented,” she said. “I want to know everyone as much as possible in my city. We have a department meeting every two months and Chief Jeffrey Pearson reiterates the fact that we are a community oriented police department.
“I make personal contact with the business people, those on the street, the parents with their children and the elderly,” she said. “I want our citizens to know that we the police are here and we are approachable. A missing dog may not be an emergency, but to that owner it surely is. In my eyes it is your emergency and that is what my job is, to help you with your emergency.”
Hoskins’ new boss, Satellite Police Department Chief of Police Jeffrey M. Pearson, was promoted to the position last August.
“I always knew what I wanted to be a police officer, even as a kid,” Pearson said. “There was not one specific inspiration, but I recall at only 16 years of age riding along with my friends who were in law enforcement. That was exciting.
“I applied for a dispatcher position, but I was too young at the time, you had to be 18,” he said. “When I turned 18, I applied again and in 1987, I was hired as a dispatcher. That was the beginning of my police career.”
Pearson said the Satellite Beach ride-along program has been in place as far back as he can remember.
“We encourage our citizens to come out, to ride along and enjoy the experience,” he said. “If you want to know what is going on in the city and what the police department does, ride along.”
He said there are some basic requirements.
First those riding along must be a certain age, pass basic background checks and sign a waiver.
“The response from those who experience the ride-along is the same,” Pearson said. “Wow. I had no idea that stuff happens here.
“Everyone believes Satellite Beach is one of the safest communities around and that is true, but they equate that with crime-free and it just not the case,” he said. “We have the same crime as they have in Melbourne, Cocoa, Palm Bay and Titusville, but the difference is we do not have it as often.”
Up to now, Hoskins’ radio in the patrol car was relatively quiet as we drove through the South Patrick housing area as the sun was setting.
We continued on to South Patrick Drive and through a small shopping mall.
Hoskins activated her alley lights on top of her patrol car to illuminate the area and check the various businesses as some had already closed.
At about 8 p.m., we were notified by radio to return to police headquarters as Hoskins was needed there as part of an ongoing confidential investigation.
Back on Patrol
The ride-along resumed at approximately 10 p.m.
Within minutes there is report of concerned motorist calling to report a reckless driver.
The citizen reported a vehicle driving in and out of traffic on South Patrick Drive.
Officer Hoskins responds to the scene to back up another officer who has stopped the vehicle.
We arrive on the scene and remain there as the other officer conducts his investigation.
As a result of the investigation, the subject is placed in custody and transported to the police station for processing.
A tow vehicle is dispatched to the scene to impound the vehicle.
“When a vehicle is impounded, we conduct a thorough inventory of its contents,” Hoskins said. “Those contents are noted on the tow sheet.
“They may include a cellular phone or other items. The vehicle’s description and license plate information is included on the sheet,” she said. “It is important to have all this information on the tow sheet. It is an official record of its contents and prevents their loss.”
We remain at the scene until the tow vehicle arrives. Once the vehicle is secured and on its way to the impound location, we continue patrolling.
At about 10:50 p.m., Officer Hoskins observes a vehicle pass in the opposite direction.
With a quick glance she notices an equipment issue with the car.
In this case, it’s a possible defective license plate light.
“This is very common,” she said. “A lot of people don’t turn their vehicle lights on and check them before they get on the highway.
“For the most part, I just inform them,: Hoskins said. “Many are not aware it is out and I simply write a warning. However, it could be costly, sometimes as much as $119 for the violation.”
Shortly after midnight, Officer Hoskins receives a call of a possible home invasion.
We respond to the scene, accompanied by other officers and their supervisor, Sergeant Paul Sousa.
Upon arrival, we are met by the property owner. He points out various areas of damage on the inside.
Officers secure the perimeter and proceed with a meticulous, room by room search of the property, however no suspects are found.
Officer Hoskins informs the detective’s division of her investigation and two detectives are dispatched to process the scene.
Hoskins, along with Detective Sergeant Eric Bell and Detective Valerie Balloue, photograph the scene and conduct an interview with the homeowner.
Over the course of several hours, the detectives conclude their investigation and report their findings to the Officer Hoskins, who is assigned to the case.
After completing her preliminary report, she assists the property owner in securing the property.
The case reminded her of another event that she experienced several years before.
In November 2010 Police Officer Michelle Hoskins and K-9 Corporal Steve Owens responded to the report of a domestic dispute.
A caller informed the officers that a male offender was holding the family at gunpoint.
Prior to their arrival, the offender had shot and killed a female occupant and wounded two others.
As Officers Hoskins and Owens arrived, they found the front door was open and the sound of gun shots could be heard from inside.
The officers took immediate action and confronted the offender, who was struggling with another male trying to take the offender’s gun away.
The offender regained control of the weapon and fired several rounds at the male.
After repeated demands by Officers Owens and Hoskins, to drop the weapons and comply, Owens was forced to use deadly force.
During the course of the event more than 20 rounds were fired. Both wounded individuals recovered.
Police Officer Michelle Hoskins and K-9 Corporal Steve Owens were awarded the department’s medal of valor and were honored as Police Officers of the Year for 2010.
In describing my ride-along with Officer Hoskins, all I can say is “Wow.”
To this reporter, it was overwhelming and an extremely proud experience to share an evening and an early morning with a group of true professionals — the men and women of the Satellite Beach Police Department.