Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Public safety

On Patrol: Colleen Schiro is a former schoolteacher who holds her own as a sheriff's deputy

The afternoon began with a child abuse call.

A 7-year-old boy arrived at a Riverview day camp with a bruise on his leg. He told counselors that his father had slapped him on the thigh the night before. Camp staffers contacted the authorities.

Hillsborough County sheriff's Deputy Colleen Schiro responded.

It's the start of another shift for Schiro. As a patrol deputy covering the diverse area of southern Hillsborough County, her job is often unpredictable.

District 4, which stretches from Manatee County to Causeway Boulevard and Lithia Pinecrest Road in the north, encapsulates a broad population. Calls for service reflect that.

There's not much crime in Sun City Center but lots of death investigations, Schiro said. In Ruskin and Riverview, calls are mainly for burglaries and drugs. Apollo Beach tends to be quiet.

The most popular call deputies respond to is 911 hangups, Schiro said. Each one is a priority.

"You never know what's going on," she said. "It could be that someone dialed 911 on accident or that someone is being attacked and they only had time to dial 911 before they had to hang up. We treat all of them as if some kind of serious situation is taking place."

Other calls involve drug overdoses — mostly for prescription pills and synthetic marijuana — suspicious people in neighborhoods and juvenile issues.

Traffic stops are done as time and duty permits, Schiro said.

And then there are the domestic violence calls like the one Schiro responded to at the Riverview day camp.

When Schiro, 27, arrived, she met with the boy and a Hillsborough County Child Protective Services investigator.

Both asked him multiple questions to discern whether he knew the difference between a lie and the truth, then asked him about what happened. They would each follow up with the father.

For Schiro, a former elementary school teacher, working with children seems to come easily.

She traded in her schoolbooks for a patrol car three years ago. As much as she enjoyed teaching, a career in law enforcement had always been on her mind, she said.

Most of her family is in the field, including her father, Tom Feeney, who is the major at the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office Special Investigation Division.

"I always wanted to be a cop," she said. "There's something new every day."

Entering the field as a woman, though, means becoming a part of a minority.

There are not many female deputies, Schiro said, and being one of them has its positives and negatives.

"It can be beneficial to be a woman and at the same time a little challenging," she said. "Some people still have manners and won't disrespect a woman. Then some people take a look at me and size me up and think it's on."

At 5 feet 6 and 125 pounds, Schiro may not look as intimidating as some of her male counterparts, but in some cases she would go to a weapon sooner than someone bigger who may be able to use his body.

After the child abuse call, Schiro responded to a 911 call by an adult daughter concerned about her mother. The mother had been frightened by her son, who she said was on drugs.

When Schiro arrived, the son was gone. With the woman safe, Schiro went into a role she often has to take on as a deputy: counselor.

"We give out a lot of advice to people," she said.

Advice can range from detox services to marital and parenting tips.

"Even if you're not a parent yourself," she said, "you give it."

Shelley Rossetter can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 661-2442.

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