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Officer escorts criminals, tracks evidence

SNOQUALMIE - Despite his charming personality and ready smile, no one ever wants to take a ride with Larry Warren.

The full-time police support officer for the Snoqualmie Police Department drives a Ford 5350 prisoner transport van with room for 13 passengers. Something of a police Renaissance Man, Warren also serves as evidence inspector, home detention manager, computer technician and all-around "bad guy" handler.

Warren, 45, has been with the Snoqualmie Police Department for five years. He joined the department after working as a security officer at Bellevue Community College, where he met other Snoqualmie officers working security at the college part time. Prior to that, Warren spent 10 years in the Navy as an electronics technician on a submarine before taking a police officer position on Whidbey Island. He worked there five years and loved it. "I said, this is what I want to do."

When Warren joined the Snoqualmie Police Department the police support officer position was brand new and in need of someone to fill it. Warren jumped at the chance.

The Seattle native now lives in Monroe with his wife Kathi and their two daughters, Bethany, 14, and Taylor, 11. Warren is responsible for getting detainees to court, picking them up from other police departments when they are through with them and driving them to be booked into jail, usually in Issaquah, after being arrested. He's driven as far east as Okanogan and as far south as Olympia. The Snoqualmie Police Department is responsible for picking up its citizens who reoffend, no matter where they happen to be around the state.

Warren said he and his passengers will sometimes chat back and forth, but usually they are only traveling short distances so conversations are short.

"I don't hear a lot of excuses of why they did it. Most of the time I hear regret. The other half of the time they regret that they got caught. Very few apologize, at least to me anyway," he said.

Once in a while Warren offers some life advice to those he comes into contact with.

"I dealt with this one guy four or five times in court. Every time he would be crying and saying, 'I'm not coming back, this is the last time, I learned my lesson.' Usually I don't lecture people because it's not my job, but with him I had to say, 'Remember last time when you said you weren't going to be back?'"

Warren has heard just about every story in the book as to why the people he transports are in trouble, why it's "the last time" and they'll "never do it again."

"There's a lot of sorrow," Warren said. "Many say, 'This is the best thing that's happened to me and I'm done with this and I'm moving on.'"

When he's not driving prisoners around, Warren is managing the home detention program.

"The city has had a huge jail bill. One way to reduce that is to keep nonviolent, not likely to reoffend people on home detention," Warren said.

Those in home detention, like Martha Stewart, are required to keep working if they have a job and are monitored regularly. Those in home detention for a DUI must submit to a random breathalyzer test each day.

When on home detention one can only leave to go to work, treatment or counseling, or to get groceries. Home detention can last anywhere from one week to 180 days.

"You have to be really picky about who you put on home detention," Warren said.

Does Warren enjoy working with offenders? Well, maybe "like" isn't the right word.

"I like the job. This is part of the job. I think it's rewarding making sure the justice system works with these people," Warren said.

Most of those he works with have substance-abuse problems and addiction to meth is one of the more common ones. You can always tell a meth addict, Warren said, because they have very bad teeth and sunken-in cheeks as meth deteriorates bone matter and is highly addictive.

One pattern he sees among the offenders he meets is that they often come from parents who were in and out of trouble with the law themselves.

"You see families where the parents were problems when they were younger and become poor role models and guess what? Their kids are now dealing with us," he said.

Warren also serves as the evidence technician. He said most departments have a dedicated person just for that job, which can be a handful. As evidence technician Warren has to go through all the evidence collected by other officers and make sure the paperwork has been filled out correctly for each piece and that it is sealed. He then boxes it up and sends it to the state patrol for drug testing or fingerprints. Warren is the only officer who can open the lockers containing evidence downstairs in the police department. A small room beside the lockers holds all the evidence that the department has to dispose of ... everything from cans of Bud and bongs to narcotics and guns.

"It's its own full-time job," said Warren, who must go through every piece of evidence and determine if the case has been closed, whether the court wants it and if the suspect in the case has been convicted. The weirdest piece of evidence to grace the room was an antique safe.

"There's a story with everything in here," Warren said.

Being in charge of "evidence, bad guys and computer stuff" is no small feat for one officer, but Warren seems to enjoy it - almost as much as riding his motorcycle to work through the winding scenery between Monroe and Snoqualmie whenever the weather is nice.

"I love the job," Warren said. "It's something new every day."

Staff writer Melissa Kruse can be contacted at (425) 888-2311 or by e-mail at melissa.kruse@ valleyrecord.com.

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