A Day with a Knight — Police Deputy

Orange County Sheriff’s Office Deputy First Class Autumn (Gill) Chouinard, ’11, poses with Oscar, one of the horses in OCSO’s Mounted Patrol, to which Autumn plans to transition from street patrol once a spot opens up.
Autumn (Gill) Chouinard, ’11 | Deputy First Class, Orange County Sheriff’s Office

By Angie Lewis, ’03

It was 3 p.m. on a Tuesday, just 10 days before Christmas, when Deputy First Class Autumn (Gill) Chouinard, ’11, pulled out of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office police substation on Lake Underhill Road in Orlando, with me riding shotgun. It was my first squad car ride-along, and it began just as I’d hoped — speeding through traffic, lights on and sirens blaring (aka “running code”), to get to our first call.

We were responding to a transient fight in a camp behind a local Winn-Dixie. However, when we arrived, the man who was injured had already left the scene, and, after speaking to a woman who explained the events that led up to the altercation, there was nothing Autumn or the other deputies could do, so everyone went on their way.

It wasn’t quite the outcome I’d expected after our rush to the scene (nobody was arrested?!), but, as the night went on, I would discover anticlimactic endings are pretty typical.

From the transient fight location, we made our way over behind a CVS, where Autumn called a young woman to start a report on her stolen iPad. Once she got all of the information, two other deputies met us at the alleged thief’s home, but no one answered the door. So, the case was put on hold until she could make contact.

We responded to a few more calls — a panhandler at a local Publix, a claim of parental sexual assault at an area middle school, and shoplifters at a nearby Walmart — before we found ourselves back on University Boulevard near campus. As we were chatting more about her job, a young man in a Mazda sedan ran a stop sign right in front of us, so Autumn “lit him up” and pulled him over.

Since the man admitted to his mistake, had all of his appropriate documents and didn’t have any outstanding issues on record, Autumn let him go with a warning, reminding him how many people ride bicycles down the sidewalk on that street, and told him to be more careful.

By then, it was about 8:30 p.m., so we took a break and met a couple of Autumn’s fellow deputies for dinner at a local Panera. We got to hear about some of their cases that evening, as well as stories from previous cases, and I learned how often the police have to “Baker Act” the people they’re responding to help. (The Baker Act allows for involuntary examination by law enforcement, or other authorities, of possible mental illness.)

The other deputies told us about a call they’d had earlier in the evening, during which a young woman refused to put her clothes on after neighbors reported her for public nudity. She even kicked one of the deputies, which prompted them to have her taken in for a mental health evaluation.

We barely finished our meals before a call came through about an 8-month-old boy who nearly lost a finger pulling a game console off an entertainment center. After running code to the house, we found firefighters already on the scene, wrapping the baby’s hand as he sobbed in pain on his crying mother’s lap. Then, paramedics showed up and put him inside the ambulance, where his distraught mom accompanied him for the ride to Arnold Palmer Hospital. Since the incident appeared to be an accident, and everything was under control, we left the scene.

We didn’t even make it out of the neighborhood when a possible burglary call yet again sent us running code through Orange County’s moonlit streets. A mother at home with her kids reported hearing noises that sounded like someone was in their house. When we arrived, Autumn joined several other deputies as they searched the area around the house, which turned out to be fully secured.

Taking advantage of a quiet period, Autumn started tackling the mountain of reports she would have to complete by her shift’s end at 2:30 a.m. So, we pulled into the median on University Boulevard, where she said she can keep a better eye out in case anyone should approach the car.

As she typed up the repetitious lists of stolen items from the Walmart shoplifters’ call earlier that night, I jokingly said, “So, this must be your favorite part of the job?” Her answer, of course, was a sarcastic “Oh, yeah.”

After what seemed like an eternity, watching her type up reports on her laptop, we received a call to respond to a house where a 26-year-old woman was arguing with her elderly parents. When we got there, we learned the parents were angry that the daughter kept turning down the air conditioning. Yep, the police were called to settle an argument about an electric bill.

After the daughter took her kids and left the house for the night, we were pulling away when Autumn got a call to respond to an attempted home invasion and car theft. So, once again, it was lights and sirens all the way! Before pulling up to the location, Autumn turned off her lights to avoid possibly scaring the suspect away, and told me to stay in the car. She was the first deputy on the scene, and quickly jumped out of the patrol car, flashlight in hand, and began searching the area. Within seconds, another deputy joined in the search. After a few minutes, they knocked on the door of the house from which the call came.

It wasn’t long before Autumn came back to the car and told me I could get out. By that time, several other deputies had arrived, and a police helicopter was circling the sky above.

As I observed the situation, it was obvious that the “victim” who called 911 was inebriated. She first claimed a black man had kicked in her door, grabbed her car keys out of her hand, and tried to steal the Mustang that was in the driveway. She said her boyfriend was able to stop him (the boyfriend said that didn’t happen), and explained how she got into a physical altercation with the man, showing some scrapes on her arm.

Paramedics arrived shortly after and tended to the woman’s arm with some peroxide and Band-Aids (you would’ve thought they were cutting off her arm with her over-reactive screaming!). In the meantime, a K9 unit had arrived on scene to help look for the suspect.

However, as the deputies continued to try to get more details about what happened, the woman’s story kept changing — from a black man to a Hispanic man, from the man kicking in the door after she got home to her hearing someone at the door and going to check it out with her car keys in her hand. The whole thing was fishy, and the deputies knew it. So, after a little more questioning by deputies, the woman ended up finding her car keys in her purse. She’d made up the whole scenario and, apparently, gotten into a fight with herself.

So, all of those resources — the deputies on scene, the county’s helicopter in the air, the arrival of the K9 unit and the paramedics showing up to treat some scrapes — were wasted on a drunk woman who’d imagined the whole thing. I asked one of the other deputies if they could arrest her for making the false claim, which cost the county several thousand dollars — but, he told me it really wouldn’t do much good, because they’d never recoup the money anyway.

As Autumn’s shift neared its end, we made a quick stop at the Knights Library on University Boulevard. It was about 1 a.m. on the last day of finals before winter break, so we thought things might be getting a little rowdy. After we pulled up and got out of the car, we walked toward the entrance of the bar, where Autumn spotted one of the bouncers she knows. The two chatted for a few minutes, as he told her there hadn’t had any major issues that evening, then was excited to show her a news clip of one of the bar’s former bouncers who’s now a police deputy in Brevard County. Apparently, his recent chase and arrest had made headlines.

Since all else was calm, we headed back to the substation, where she had to finish the rest of her paperwork — a stark contrast to the way her shift began!

More Info

Did you know that anyone (as long as you pass the background check) can request to go on a ride-along? Contact your local sheriff’s office or police department for more information.

I went through:
Orange County Sheriff’s Office
Sector II Substation – East Orange County
11000 Lake Underhill Road
Orlando, FL 32825

UCF PD Brings New Pup to K-9 Unit

The newest UCF PD K-9, Justice, plays keep-away with Scott during a break in training. (PHOTO: Deanna Ferrante, Central Florida Future)

By Deanna Ferrante
Senior Staff Writer, Central Florida Future

The newest member of the UCF Police Department can’t use handcuffs or fire a gun, but he can chase his tail.

Justice is the newest pup on patrol with UCF PD’s K-9 unit. On his first night of active duty, Justice and his partner, Officer Matt Scott, were called in to handle a narcotics case.

On Aug. 5, Scott and Justice were called to the scene of a traffic stop when another UCF PD officer pulled over a woman who had recently been arrested for possession of cocaine, according to the arrest affidavit.

When Scott and Justice arrived, the dog indicated a positive alert on the suspect’s car. Inside, officers found a purple Crown Royal drawstring bag filled with used syringes, a green USB cord used as a tourniquet, and an Altoids tin containing 28 plastic bags filled with white and brown powder residue.

A sample from one of the bags was field tested for heroin and yielded a positive result, and the woman was arrested on charges of heroin possession.

Justice and the other K-9s are imperative in making arrests like these.

“That’s the call we want the dogs to be at their highest capacity for,” Scott said.

It was a big night for Justice, who has only been with the department for a few months. After Scott’s previous dog Buster was forced to retire due to medical reasons, Justice was purchased in replacement.

While UCF PD put in 480 hours to train Buster, Justice was purchased already trained from Germany.

It’s not uncommon for police dogs to be trained in Europe, Scott said. In fact, he said, for the most part, almost every K-9 in the country is brought in from overseas.

Because of the way he was originally trained, Scott uses German commands to give Justice orders.

The K-9 unit is made up of four teams: Scott and Justice; Officer Chris Holt and his dog, Jogy; Officer Mica Wenner and her dog, Samson; and Cpl. Chuck Reising and his dog, Max. Two of the dogs, including Justice, have been trained to handle narcotics cases, while the other two handle explosives detection.

Twice per month, the four teams meet behind the police department for an extensive day of training.

The dogs learn how to do bite work, narcotics detection, tracking, and building searches. The officers also train the dogs to be comfortable in many different situations and environments.

“Some of these dogs have never been on tile,” Scott said. “You don’t want a dog freezing up because he’s never been on marble before.”

Reising, the K-9 unit’s leader, said they put the dogs in a variety of different situations to get them used to any scenario that could happen while on patrol.

They take the dogs into the Reflecting Pond to get them used to water, make them climb over fences and take them to the gun range to get them used to the sound of shooting.

The dogs must follow their partners’ commands immediately, or they risk the chance of accidentally hurting someone besides their intended targets.

The dogs are trained to run after a suspect and, then, after a command from their partner, to instantly stop the chase and return.

“If another cop or someone else gets close, the dog might key on them,” Reising explained. “We don’t want the dog to bite an innocent person.”

When they aren’t training, the teams alternate shifts to patrol. Their schedules vary, but they usually work 12-hour shifts for half of the month on alternating days during the week.

Because of the long hours, Scott said he makes sure he keeps a close eye on his partner. He must make sure he stops to give Justice water or a bathroom break so the dog is always ready to jump into action.

“That way, when the time to deploy him comes, he’s doing what he needs to do,” he said.

For Scott and the rest of the K-9 unit, preparing the dogs also includes a lot of petting and praising; they want the dogs to be happy when they come to work.

“You want the dog to be excited,” Scott said. “You want the dog to want to be here.”

This story was published in an Aug. 20, 2015, edition of the Central Florida Future online. It has been slightly edited in accordance with AP and alumni association style guidelines. See original article, which includes more photos.

SVU Agent and K9 Partner Combat Child Abuse

Jessie Holton, '10, and his therapy dog, Primus (PHOTO: Amy Floyd, UCF College of Education and Human Performance)
Therapy dog Primus with his owner/handler, Jessie Holton, ’10
(PHOTO: Amy Floyd, UCF College of Education and Human Performance)

By Sandra Carr
UCF College of Education and Human Performance

Earning his doctorate in education with a concentration in organizational sociology from the UCF College of Education and Human Performance is one of Brevard County Sheriff’s Office Special Victims Unit Agent Jessie Holton’s most rewarding accomplishments.

Before enrolling in college, Holton conducted research within his department and found that law enforcement agents with college degrees are on the rise.

“I noticed a college degree was becoming more accepted when I got into law enforcement, so I decided to attend college,” Holton explains. “The next generation of policing is becoming a lot smarter with a higher education. Getting my education from UCF refined everything and made me a much better person and police officer.”

He also received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in criminal justice from UCF and has been assisting child-abuse victims with his 4-year-old pooch, Primus, a Puggle (pug-beagle mix), in his law enforcement agency’s therapy dog program, The Qualter Project, for the past two years.

Holton is a Marine Corps veteran and suffers from PTSD after serving two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. Besides being his crime-fighting partner, Primus is also Holton’s personal therapy dog. He wakes him up and provides comfort whenever he’s experiencing a nightmare in the middle of the night.

He realized that therapy dogs like Primus could also make a difference with child abuse victims, so he started conducting research about Florida child abuse statutes and wrote a grant proposal targeted at fighting child abuse for UCF Professor Elizabeth Mustaine’s child abuse and society master’s course.

Holton found legislation permitting therapy dogs during child abuse victim interviews, but wasn’t aware of any law enforcement agency actually putting the law into action. Mustaine supported Holton, and had the entire class focus on drafting a grant proposal for the therapy dog project.

After the grant proposal was created, BCSO Sheriff Wayne Ivey assisted Holton with implementing The Qualter Project therapy dog program into the Special Victims Unit department in 2013, which is named in honor of Lieutenant Mike Qualter, who was an advocate for child victims. The therapy dog program, a first in the U.S., puts children at ease and has seen the disclosure rate of child abuse victims increase from 36 percent to 82 percent.

Holton has taken his mission further by initiating the Paws & Stripes College. The educational program provides women inmates with an opportunity to train shelter dogs in becoming child abuse victim therapy dogs.

The Qualter Project is expanding and will be assisting law enforcement agencies throughout the U.S. with its free training center, which is slated to open in September 2015. The BCSO facility will feature kennels, 40 dogs from the Paws & Stripes College, a classroom, Eastern Florida State College’s vet-tech school, and a homey area with a kitchen, bedroom and viewing room.

Holton wanted to take his career to the next level by working toward his doctorate in education with a concentration in organizational sociology. The program provided a customized, practitioner’s degree, which helped him develop the Law Enforcement, Academic and Direct Engagement Research System (LEADERS) Initiative through his dissertation in practice. The program analyzed a problem and worked with the law enforcement agency and others to figure out which solutions are plausible. Holton wants his project to grow beyond BCSO.

“I want to develop a full-time research and development unit,” Holton says. “I also wish to create a liaison between academia and law enforcement and then spread an idea. I would like to have multiple LEADERS Initiative sites in different cities throughout the entire country with the same work-group concept.”

UCF has made a difference with Holton’s therapy dog program and other projects.

“The Qualter Project and other programs wouldn’t be a reality if it wasn’t for UCF,” he says. “Students seeking a college degree from UCF should go for it. The Marine Corps laid the foundation for my work ethic and me striving to succeed, and UCF provided the higher education tools and plan. I love UCF and it will always be a big part of my life.”

This story was posted Aug. 5, 2015, on UCF Today. It has been slightly edited in accordance with AP and alumni association style guidelines. See original article. 

Scene of the Crime

Forensic science alumnus’ work helps Oregon police catch the bad guys


Corbett “Cory” Winar, ’97 | Forensic Lab Manager, Oregon State Police

By Angie Lewis, ’03

Shows like “CSI,” “Bones” and “NCIS” make the field of forensic science look exciting, and full of drama and intrigue. However, to the disappointment of crime show lovers everywhere, things don’t quite happen like they do on the small screen. Just ask Cory Winar, ’97, forensic lab manager for the Oregon State Police.

“We wear a lot more clothes, we work with the lights on, we don’t have people working in the lab 24 hours a day — and we stop to go to the bathroom,” Winar explains. “Also, there isn’t one person who stays in the basement with an 80-ounce Slurpee who knows how to do everything.”

But, there is some reality in the fictional plotlines. Forensic scientists can help to solve crimes by analyzing even the smallest pieces of evidence. And, those scenes that show a ballistic expert firing a gun into an object to see how the bullet expands actually happens in real life, too.

For the most part, though, Winar says the cases aren’t all that exciting. As a manager who has to supervise others, he often finds himself caught up in paperwork and politics. However, he does occasionally get to respond to crime scenes and perform tests in the lab, which are the parts he really enjoys.

It was a conversation with his mom that first piqued his interest in forensic science. During his third year at a college in Northern Virginia, Winar decided he wanted a change. Since he had a friend who was going to UCF at the time, he checked out the school and discovered its forensic science program.

“I looked at the curriculum, and I was thinking to myself, ‘I don’t know if I’m going to be able to do this,’” he says. “It was all this chemistry — physical chemistry, organic chemistry I and II, and calculus. But, I had some good instructors who got me interested in the material, and I was able to do well.”

About six months after graduating, Winar was offered a job in Norfolk, Va. Two years later, he had an opportunity to work in Richmond, Va., where he stayed for nearly three years before a position opened up in Eugene, Ore., and he decided to move west.

“The first time I saw Eugene was in a moving truck,” he says. He worked his way up from a forensic scientist, performing drug analysis, processing trace evidence and working crime scenes, to managing the city’s lab, where he’s been for more than 10 years.

Eugene’s forensic lab is one of five in the state and covers nine counties, for which Winar and his team processed more than 5,500 cases last year.

The most challenging case he’s had to process? A hit and run, where he had to try to match paint found on the victim to the suspect’s car. Although the arresting officers were sure they had the right guy, the evidence showed otherwise.

While Winar’s cases are always mentally challenging, some are also emotionally difficult to process — like one crime scene in which a young mother had been stabbed and her 5 ½-month-old baby had also been stabbed and had its throat slit.

“Having to try to focus on the scene and having two kids, it’s even more difficult to see that,” he explains. “That was probably the hardest one I’ll ever have to do, because I still remember faces with it.”

He does his best to keep his work life separate from his home life with his wife and two kids. Since moving to Oregon, he’s taken up running, which he says is a good release because it gives him a chance to process things in his mind. He enjoys running so much that he’s even run several marathons and ultramarathons [a longer distance than a traditional marathon’s 26.2 miles].

Although he lives more than 3,000 miles from his alma mater, Winar hasn’t forgotten the school that helped him get where he is today. He says UCF’s forensic science program really prepared him for the field, and that most of the people who call him for career advice are going to schools that have a forensic science program in criminal justice, which, he says, won’t teach them what a forensic scientist actually does.

“UCF and the program Dr. [William] McGee put together really prepares you to go into a forensic lab, because it has classes in the disciplines in which you can work, as opposed to a theory-based criminalistics class where you just sit and talk about theories,” he explains. “You actually get your hands in there.”

He advises current forensic science students to appreciate the amount of information and knowledge they’re going to get at UCF, because he says the other programs out there are not as good. Confidence is also very important, he adds.

“In this field, we’re looking for someone who has a knowledge base, but also good personal skills, because you’re going to have to communicate on the stand, in front of a jury, as well as with other scientists. Work on those interpersonal skills and how you want to present yourself, and don’t be afraid to be yourself.”

Under the Microscope Q&A

Q. Favorite UCF memory?
A. Graduating — the feeling of remembering back to that first semester, going there with the pessimism of “we’ll see what happens,” and graduating. Along the way, the biggest challenge that came was my second semester on spring break, when my dad died. Finishing up that semester and getting back on track was difficult. Getting through it at that point and finishing was a big thing. So, I remember standing outside of the old arena and thinking, “Wow, I’m done! I did it!”

Q. Favorite UCF professor?
A. Dr. Barry Fookes [who taught microscopy and trace evidence classes]. I thought he was a wealth of knowledge, and he shared it in a way that I was able to understand.

Q. Were you involved in any extracurricular activities at UCF?
A. I coached co-ed soccer, and refereed for co-ed volleyball and soccer.

Q. Favorite TV show based on forensic science?
A. “Dexter”

Q. Favorite piece of lab equipment to work with?
A. I’m kind of old school. I like the good old microscope. It’s amazing how much information you can get from one.

Q. Have you made any mistakes on the job that you can now look back at and laugh?
A. I went to a crime scene where the room smelled like decomposition because the deceased had been there for over a week. I got home about 3 or 4 a.m. and was so tired that I just changed my clothes and crashed on the bed. I woke up to an upset wife because I still stunk like a dead body. I did not make that mistake again.

Q. What’s the grossest thing you’ve ever had to process in the lab?
A. Bloody clothing with maggots and other bugs still moving around. I felt like bugs were on me for the next few days.

Q. Any hidden talents?
A. I’m a pretty good cook.

Q. Best thing about living in Eugene, Ore.?
A. The slower pace of life and being able to spend time with my family instead of commuting to and from work. Everything is outdoorsy, even in the rainy and gray winter. There are several great wineries and microbreweries here in the Eugene area, not to mention across the rest of the state.

Q. Tell us about your family.
A. I’ve been married for four years to Tina Tague, who is an editor for scientific papers and journals. I met her when she was in graduate school and I was one of the instructors (dating started after she was in my class, of course). We have two rockin’ kids, a 2-year-old son, Brooks, and an 8-month-old daughter, Cullen. My mom is a Realtor, and my father passed away during my second semester at UCF. I have a brother, Curtis, and a sister, Dina. I’m the only UCF alumnus in the Winar clan. We have two dogs, Sasha and Daisy, and two cats, Casper and Maggie.

Q. A giant meteor is hurling through the atmosphere toward Earth, and life as we know it will cease to exist by this time tomorrow. How will you spend your last 24 hours?
A. Building my spaceship to get my family and friends to space for a galactic party.

Q. If someone made a movie about you, what would the title be?
A. “Why Not?”

Q. Best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
A. Don’t underestimate yourself. You can do anything you want.

Q. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
A. Brewmaster

Q. What profession would you not like to do?
A. Middle school teacher

Mouse Down, Hands Up!

Alumnus stops crime one computer at a time


Christopher Cecil, ’12 | Sergeant/Computer Forensic Examiner, Indiana State Police

By Angie Lewis, ’03

Christopher Cecil, ’12, has been fascinated with computers since he was a child. He even remembers his very first computer — a Texas Instrument TI994A. But, that interest never transpired into a career — at least, not right away. But, in 2003, while working at the Men’s Warehouse in Evansville, Ind., a chance encounter with a retired Indiana State Police officer finally set his destiny in motion.

“He worked undercover for years as a criminal intelligence officer,” Christopher explains. “As he recanted stories of crimes he’d investigated and solved, I realized I wanted to be a trooper and serve my state. In the end, I sold him a suit, and he sold me the Indiana State Police. I wonder who got the better bargain.”

Christopher joined the Indiana State Police Academy in May 2004, and, after 22 weeks of training, he was appointed as an Indiana State Trooper and assigned to patrol duty in the Jasper District of southwestern Indiana.

After three years, he was promoted to detective and reassigned to the Criminal Investigations Division, where he worked a wide variety of cases involving murder, theft, robbery, sex crimes and everything in between.

While working as a detective, Christopher became interested in crimes involving computers and the Internet. Lucky for him at the time, the state police was recruiting for training in on-scene computer forensic triage exam, for which he was selected.

In August 2007, he was once again promoted and reassigned, this time to the Internet Crimes Against Children Unit. During his tenure, he investigated people who sexually exploited children. Much of his investigative work consisted of working undercover online, locating people who were sharing child pornography.

While working in the unit, Christopher continued his education by attending various law enforcement classes. During that time, he also began the online computer forensics graduate program UCF.

In October 2013, he was promoted to his current position, as sergeant/computer forensic examiner, and reassigned to the Cyber Crime Unit in Indianapolis.

There’s no typical day at work for Christopher. Because his unit is the busiest of all five offices in Indiana, he says he and his team are constantly taking in new evidence, performing exams or being called to assist with search warrants. They also provide forensic support to many other agencies, including the FBI, Secret Service and Indianapolis Metropolitan Police, among others.

Behind everything he does is one major motivation: Christopher likes helping people. In fact, if he wasn’t working in his current field, he says he’d probably attempt being a doctor. But, for now, he’s helping to heal people’s emotional wounds, and that’s satisfying work.

“There’s no better feeling than seeing a person smile or express a sigh of relief when you recover a stolen item or arrest the person who harmed them.”

Lights and Sirens Q&A

Q. What movie can you quote word for word?
A. “Die Hard”

Q. Happiest moment?
A. There have been so many. Let’s see… The day I graduated Marine Corps boot camp, the day I graduated from undergraduate school (University of Evansville), the day I was appointed an Indiana State Trooper, the day I graduated from UCF, and, most recently, the day I was promoted to sergeant and reassigned to the Cyber Crime Unit as a computer forensic examiner.

Q. What makes you laugh out loud?
A. Watching reruns of “Seinfeld.”

Q. What did you want to be when you grew up?
A. G.I. Joe

Q. What do you do for fun?
A. I run and cycle. I usually participate in two or three half marathons a year, and several shorter races throughout the year. My fastest half marathon time is 1:40:46. It’s my goal this year to beat that time.

Q. What’s something most people don’t know about you?
A. At one time, I contemplated becoming an Episcopalian priest.

Q. If you could learn to do anything, what would it be?
A. I hope to learn how to fence.