"Off-duty" officers always "on-call" - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

"Off-duty" officers always "on-call"

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When Chad Shafer eats at a restaurant, he sits with his back to the wall.

"You are constantly watching people," said Cpl. Chad Shafer, with the Dunbar Police Department. "Reading them, reading their body language."

Shafer was off-duty Tuesday. But even in his sweatshirt and ripped jeans, he claimed he's always on-duty.

"I'll stand back," Shafer said. "But if it becomes a life or death situation, I'm going to intervene as any law enforcement officer would."

State Police First Sergeant Michael Baylous agrees.

"We have a duty to get involved," Sgt. Baylous said. "We're trained as officers to step in and protect the public."

An off-duty state trooper was shopping at the Goody's Department Store at the Saint Albans Mall Monday when he witnessed a woman trying to shoplift.

The suspect then hit the trooper with her car as she was fleeing the scene. He remains in ICU at CAMC General Hospital under critical condition, according to Sgt. Baylous.

State Police are trying to find Jennifer Garretson, of Saint Albans, the woman they believed struck the off-duty officer.

But police aren't the only people hardwired to help.

First responders jumped into action during the June 29 derecho, Superstorm Sandy in October, and the gas explosion in Sissonville on December 11.

Nurse paramedic Rita White said it doesn't matter whether she's wearing her uniform; if she sees an accident on the road, she'll stop to help.

"I would feel guilty if I drove by and I did not help," White said. "That could be your family, and you'd want somebody to help them. "

It's a switch in the brain that never shuts off.

"You tend to see the evil in everybody," Shafer said. "We deal with the 10 percent who aren't good, 99 percent of the time. "

But whatever the profession, first responders said the words "off-duty" mean nothing to them because their jobs are engrained in their lives.

"It's in your blood, or it's not," White said. "And once it is, it doesn't go away.

The Kanawha County Emergency Ambulance Authority doesn't legally require paramedics to respond to emergencies off-duty. But White said most medics would and do, regardless.

Sgt. Baylous said troopers are generally expected to respond off-duty, as long as they don't compromise their own safety, or the safety of the public.