On any given night in Glenwood Springs, police officer Levi Blount could deal with meth addicts or stop-sign-runners, and there’s a decent chance both will ask where’s he from.
I recently accompanied Blount during one of his shifts to find out what it’s like to be a British cop in small-town America.
If someone was robbing the Volkswagen dealership in Glenwood Springs, I would soon find out. Officer Blount told me I needed to stay behind him, and a little to the right, once we were out of the car, in case he needed to pull out his gun.
We arrived at the dealership, but didn’t park in front because, as Blount reasoned, “If there is somebody in there, the last thing you want them to know is, ‘Hi, we’re here!’”
Another officer was already on the scene. After the two checked-in, they confirmed all was clear.
Officer Blount is 32 and has been on the job a couple of years now. He’s a very tall man with a very wide smile, and he was holding a very large gun when he came into the station, when I’d arrived to say he’d be right with me. The gun was his patrol rifle: An AR-15.
Before each shift, he loads his personalized weaponry into the patrol car. Herein lies one of the biggest differences between policing in Glenwood and in Manchester, England, where he last worked. Most English cops walk around with a baton and mace. In Glenwood Springs, Blount has a shotgun, a rifle, a pistol, mace and bear spray.
Of course, Manchester is much bigger than Glenwood, with its 2 million people. Blount said he could tell the day of the week by the type of crime coming through the door.
“So Sunday night, Monday night, is murder...homicide night. Your Friday, Saturday are your drunken fights. Oh, Sunday’s also domestics. Your Wednesday was like a theft day,” he said.
In Glenwood, he said, you never know what’s going to happen. On a Thursday night in November, he and the other officers on duty took seven people to jail.
“It was just boom, boom, boom, with illegal campers, with drunks, fighting, everything like that,” he said. A week later, over the course of a 12-hour shift, only two people called 911 to ask for help and one of those was a prank.
Guns and population aside, there are other, systemic differences that have taken some getting used to for Blount. The Roaring Fork Valley doesn’t have a detox center; officers take drunks and drug addicts either to the hospital or to jail. In general, mental health resources are lacking, which is quite different from England.
It’s not that Blount thinks England is better; certain things over here make more sense to him. For example, he can’t just walk into someone’s home because he thinks it’s suspicious; he has to have a warrant, which is not the case in England.
Of course, by the time he left England, he was tired of living there.
“I kind of woke up a couple of years back and went, ‘right, I’ve had enough of England; the weather sucks, I’m going to go do something different.’”
Two weeks later, he moved in with his aunt and uncle in Glenwood. The police department was hiring, and sponsored him to attend the academy at Colorado Mountain College.
After Blount and I left the Volkswagen dealership, we went to watch for cars not stopping at stop signs. After about 15 minutes of waiting, Blount pulled a truck over. As he recited the driver’s information over the radio, he got a little taste of home. The dispatcher is from Liverpool, and Blount turned up the volume to teach me more about the accent.
“It sounds like he has like marshmallows in his mouth because he’s like, ‘ICH. EH,’” he said. “I can understand him fine, but most Americans are like, ‘WHAT?’”
After a quick conversation with the man driving the truck, Blount gave him a warning, handed him a business card, and sent him on his way.
At traffic stops like these, people constantly ask Blount what part of Australia he’s from. His accent does make him stand out.
I got an example of this when the dispatcher asked Blount to call a young man who claimed he was having trouble getting his stuff from his newly ex-girlfriend’s apartment.
A few minutes into the call, the young man chimed in, “You sound really familiar, do you come into Thor’s all the time? I’m the blonde-haired kid that works there.”
Blount was reassuring and helpful on the phone, which might go back to his time in Manchester, when, as an officer, he walked around with his baton and mace. Without a gun -- and not being in a car -- he said he was forced to work on his communication skills.
He’s also someone who likes his job and likes interacting with people. “You’re a counselor, you’re a best friend, you’re a problem-solver. You have to be able to fix things,” he said.
Obviously not everyone sees him this way. Plenty of people he arrests get in the back of the car and pick on his accent.
“They’re sat in the back and think, ‘well I’m going to get my two pence in,’” he said.
It’s doubtful they actually say that, but you get the drift. At the end of the day, Levi Blount’s job really is to listen and, like any good Englishman, he does so politely.