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CK Faces: On patrol for safety

Enforcing the speed limit on Randall Way Northwest this week, Sgt. Mike Merrill, supervisor of the Kitsap County Sheriff’s traffic division, continues to find time to patrol traffic while balancing a variety of other responsibilities. As traffic supervisor, he oversees 11 deputies including seven collision investigators. - Photo by Kassie Korich
Enforcing the speed limit on Randall Way Northwest this week, Sgt. Mike Merrill, supervisor of the Kitsap County Sheriff’s traffic division, continues to find time to patrol traffic while balancing a variety of other responsibilities. As traffic supervisor, he oversees 11 deputies including seven collision investigators.
— image credit: Photo by Kassie Korich

Sgt. Mike Merrill has worn many hats throughout his tenure at the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office.

Supervisor of the traffic division since 2003, it is one of the many roles he has taken on since beginning his KCSO career in 1991. Working as a patrol deputy for the first four years, Merrill found his true calling in the traffic unit.

Promoting the traffic unit’s “three Es” — education, enforcement and engineering — Merrill’s objective is to educate the public and enforce the laws. At the same time, however, a large emphasis is placed on school zones. Merrill’s recent endeavors include applying for and obtaining a $23,000 state grant in 2004 through the Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC) for the bright fluorescent student crossing signs that surround school zones throughout the county. Just last year, Merrill stepped up once again, working with WTSC to obtain a second state grant for another $23,000 for the three flashing school zone lights on Central Valley Road.

“He was instrumental in getting the school zone lights, he was the catalyst in getting that done,” said motorcycle officer Deputy Dave Green.

Knowing that safety has been increased in school zones, is what makes it worthwhile for Merrill.

“It’s made the (Central Valley) school zone that much safer,” he said. “It makes me feel great ... It’s about keeping it safe for the kids and other pedestrians.”

The ultimate goal, he added, is to have all school zones equipped with the flashing lights.

“We want to keep trying to update the school zones,” he said.

Participating in mock crashes at local schools (typically hosted during the week of prom to remind students of the dangers and consequences of drinking and driving) is a career highlight which Merrill looks fondly upon. Having previously narrated several of them, it’s an event he continues to be a part of.

“It’s important, even if you only get through to one person and save that one person’s life, it’s worth all the effort and time,” he said.

Transferring to the traffic unit in 1994, Merrill initially took an interest in collision reconstruction and found a unique niche in “taking a (collision) scene and putting it back together.”

Required for collisions that could result in felony charges — such as vehicular assault and vehicular homicide — Merrill has done a number of collision reconstructions since 1994. Although he no longer puts whole case files together now that he is supervisor (they can often take months) he still contributes when he can.

“There’s a lot of math involved,” he said. “It’s taking an event, not knowing what happened and putting it together again.”

Merrill also has experience in the SWAT field, having recently resigned as SWAT commander.

“There wasn’t enough time to dedicate to the team,” he said of his resignation.

When he first joined the team, he was assigned a shield position and did entries for the first few years. Moving up to a supervisory role, he later participated in planning and oversight.

For the past 10 years, Merrill also has been a member of the bicycle patrol and as if his plate isn’t full enough, he has coordinated the department’s emergency vehicle operations course (EVOC) training twice a year for the past four years.

“We’re in our cars on a daily basis, we’ve got to keep our skills up,” Merrill said. “We’ve been very fortunate, our agency is very supportive of the program. We train twice a year. We have some agencies that have started to train with us that haven’t trained in five to 10 years.”

When Merrill isn’t heading up the traffic division, he can often be found coaching his son Ben’s baseball team and helping his daughter Amanda in soccer.

“He does more than traffic safety, he’s involved in the community as a soccer and baseball coach,” said Deputy Jim Rye.

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