Deputy uses personal experience to make difference

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  • Lake County Sheriff Deputy Korren Fehrenbach joined the department after she graduated from college at the age of 20, making her one of the youngest officers the department had seen in recent years. (Jeremy Weber/Lake County Leader)

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    At 22, Deputy Korren Fehrenbach has applied personal experiences to how she handles calls. (Jeremy Weber/Lake County Leader)

  • Lake County Sheriff Deputy Korren Fehrenbach joined the department after she graduated from college at the age of 20, making her one of the youngest officers the department had seen in recent years. (Jeremy Weber/Lake County Leader)

  • 1

    At 22, Deputy Korren Fehrenbach has applied personal experiences to how she handles calls. (Jeremy Weber/Lake County Leader)

Long blonde hair pulled back into a ponytail and the sun glaring off her aviator sunglasses, Lake County Sheriff Deputy Korren Fehrenbach conducts herself as someone who has done the job for years.

“I have that edge,” she began.

“I don’t try to beat around the bush with people,” she said, her hazel eyes focused on the road, still shielded by the shades.

That edge, Fehrenbach explained, came after the untimely death of her older brother Trevor following a motorcycle accident in Arizona in 2013.

He was just 19, two weeks shy of his 20th birthday.

When hearing the news of her brother, she said she was given the information straight, which she now applies during calls.

The loss of her brother inspired her to keep up with her dream of having a career in law enforcement. “It drove me to help people,” she said.

Since she has lived through losing a loved one, Fehrenbach can help people at a traumatic scene or through a tough situation.

While sometimes she has to deliver tough news to loved ones at a scene of an incident, she delivers the news straightforward, but with a level of understanding and compassion, remembering when she received the news of Trevor.

Upon first glance in her brown and tan deputy uniform, Fehrenbach gives the impression she’s in her late 20s.

The hint of blended foundation makeup and mascara give her otherwise intimidating garb and Dodge Charger (equipped with weapons and electronics) a softer feel.

Looks are deceiving, though, as she is 22 years old.

Born in Kalispell, Fehrenbach’s family moved to Idaho then back to Montana when she was still a kid. She moved to Polson about two years ago when she accepted a position with the Lake County Sheriff’s Office at the Lake County Jail.

“I graduated from (Flathead Valley Community College) at about 20,” she said, with aspirations to be a deputy “on the road.”

During the first year with the department, Fehrenbach said she “fell in love” with the jail because of its unpredictability.

She was the “youngest in a long time” to be hired by the Sheriff’s office, and the first female in a while.

At first, she faced challenges many women do when they are first hired in a similar position.

“I have blonde hair, I’m a female,” she said, adding that she knew some inmates would hit on her.

Immediately she would “shut them down,” keeping it professional. Respect was earned on both sides, she said, because of her work ethic.

That work ethic includes treating people, whether at the jail or during an incident, with respect.

Her approach to dealing with situations is something that Lt. Fernando Venegas said got Fehrenbach hired.

While at the detention center, “she shined” due to her way of handling situations. Venegas called the young deputy a “go-getter.”

At the scene of situations, Venegas noted that she handles herself with composure.

“Oftentimes, (Fehrenbach) is the first responder on scene at an incident,” Venegas said, “and she handles herself great” when she has to respond solo, or until help arrives.

After about a year and a half at the jail, she applied for her dream job. She secured the position at the ripe old age of 21, making her the only female deputy on the road “for years” until another female deputy was recently hired.

Her immediate coworkers are mostly male and range in age from their mid-20s and up.

Praising those coworkers, she said she “loves them.”

“They call me ‘the Youngin’,” she said with a smile.

In fact, right before she began her 5 p.m. shift on July 25, Fehrenbach saw a fellow deputy and immediately wrapped her arms around him. The two, caught up in what was obviously an inside joke to the rest of the staff, began laughing, along with other deputies.

Venegas said that Fehrenbach is “very mature for her age.”

That maturity was instilled early in life for the Fehrenbach children.

Fehrenbach said she and her brother were about a year and a half apart in age. The siblings oftentimes only had each other to lean on as their parents struggled with alcohol abuse, Fehrenbach remembered.

They made a plan to help break the cycle, careful that they didn’t repeat what their parents did.

Trevor was going to be a motorcycle mechanic and she was going to be a cop, she said.

Taking up work in their early teens, she said she and Trevor worked steadily to help support the family.

Even after his passing, Fehrenbach said she carried on with her plans to enter law enforcement, determined to live for not only herself, but for Trevor as well.

“Each birthday I have, I think, Trevor didn’t make it to this age. I have to live life to the fullest,”, she said, smiling at the thought of her brother.

A COUPLE of hours into her July 25 shift, a 911 call came through as she finished a call on the southern end of Ronan. The urgent incident was between Polson and Pablo.

Peeling out to U.S. Highway 93, Fehrenbach turned on the car’s siren and lights.

Along the way, a silver pickup truck cruised on the highway. The driver was looking at the snowcapped mountains while motorists around him were pulling over to the sides, scrambling to get out of Fehrenbach’s path.

Fehrenbach was reaching triple-digit speeds to get to a house where an intoxicated adult was. The caller noted that a firearm was secured outside of the house.

Finally getting around the silver truck safely, Fehrenbach turned onto a dirt road, where another vehicle immediately moved out of the way, leading to a pickup truck swerving in front of Fehrenbach.

Not losing her cool, she clenched her jaw with an urgency to answer the call.

She said it’s common for motorists to not move for emergency personnel, even with sirens and lights a-blazing.

“That’s every time we run code, I have to slam on my brakes” because motorists will try making way for first responders, but then another motorist will think that the move is to let them pass. They end up swerving in front of the officer or ambulance, she said.

“Then they notice, finally, and get over.” Fehrenbach said that most of the time, people don’t pull over to be nice, but rather to make room for emergency personnel.

She advises motorists to be aware of surroundings at all times to avoid creating an accident on the way to a call.

“Look in your mirrors; make sure there’s no ambulance, fire truck or police car behind you.” If there isn’t anyone coming up from behind in traffic, then it is okay to pass.

Another caution she has for motorists is to use caution when a car is pulled over on the side of the road by law enforcement.

“Just get over slowly” then pick up speed once the scene is passed, she said.

“I just had a guy… on the bottom of Polson Hill. This car comes whipping by (in the right lane)” and he didn’t move to the left lane nor did he slow down, she said.

The driver could have killed the responding officers, she said.

“There’s a law that if there’s a cop car pulled over, you need to get into the left lane if possible,” she said.

If changing lanes is not an option, she said motorists should slow down and pass with caution.

Just as with most other fields, although her profession comes with challenges, Fehrenbach takes her off-days to relax.

In her “off time,” Fehrenbach said she enjoys unwinding by working out, fishing and sunbathing (she has family that live on Flathead Lake).

To escape the intensity of her life patrolling the road, she said she takes hikes. “We have gorgeous mountains,” she said.

HER FAVORITE excuse she’s received since being on the road was when she pulled a driver over on U.S. 93.

The man was clocked at 70 mph in a 45 zone in Pablo, Fehrenbach recalled.

It was a Montana plate and the driver was from California. He was speeding in his girlfriend’s car to drive up to Whitefish, Fehrenbach said.

“I give him a warning… I told him (the speed limit) is 65, because it’s at night.”

Starting to laugh at the memory, Fehrenbach said the man’s excuse for speeding was he didn’t know the area.

She told him to make sure he was staying at 65 mph and the man asked, “(The speed limit) is 65?” Fehrenbach said she reiterated the information to the young man again and explained the speed limit is 70 during the day, but decreases at night.

“He goes, ‘Oh, it’s because of the bears, isn’t it?’” Fehrenbach said normally she can keep a straight face during a funny moment, but at that time she “cracked up.”

She told the man that Montana does have a lot of bears, but the speed limit is reduced at night because reaction time is slowed in the dark as well as “wildlife altogether.”

Fehrenbach said that the man was afraid to get out of the vehicle “because of the bears at night.”

ONE OF Fehrenbach’s more memorable arrests was was an intoxicated man who kept her, and dispatch, busy one night.

Hitchhiking on highways is illegal in Montana, she began.

“You can solicit a ride inside a store,” but walking along a highway “with your thumb out” is illegal in the state, Fehrenbach said.

Dispatch got a call about a man on Highway 35 toward Woods Bay. He was drunk and stumbling in the road.

“We go out there, he’s in the middle of the small highway… We picked him up and drove him to Polson.”

The man was given the option to take a taxi to his desired destination or check into a hotel.

Halfway through the ride to a hotel, the man said he would grab a taxi and stay at a friend’s house. Dropping him off at a hotel, Fehrenbach said that after she called the man a taxi she had to answer another call.

The taxi was scheduled to pick the man up in less than 15 minutes.

“Of course… 15 minutes was like an hour to him,” she said.

After answering that other call, Fehrenbach said that dispatch relayed another call involving the same intoxicated man.

This time, the man was hitchhiking on Polson Hill.

“I instantly knew” it was the same guy, Fehrenbach said.

When she arrived, she asked the man what happened. He said he waited for a taxi for an hour, and she responded that the taxi service called in less than the 15 minutes, saying that he wasn’t there.

The man was arrested for public intoxication and hitchhiking.

He was booked and then released to a taxi in the same night.

He was driven to a hotel in Ronan. A clerk was not available at that moment, so the man tried breaking into the hotel.

That’s when a clerk heard the man making noise, so she called 911.

“We all go there and, of course, it was my guy.” Fehrenbach said.

He was arrested and stayed in jail.

For his safety, Fehrenbach said that making sure the jail kept him was key, so that he could “sober up.”

The man was arrested the night before for DUI and his car was towed, she added at the end.

“I WAS ON (U.S. Highway 93) between Pablo and Ronan, and my radar still picks up (the opposite direction).”

It was twilight, Fehrenbach said, so the speed limit was not yet reduced to 65.

There comes a car, she said, passing everyone else.

She clocked him at 110 mph in a truck.

“I whipped around to try to catch him,” but by the time she got going in the same direction, the truck was already gone.

“He definitely got away with it and I was definitely mad. I looked for his truck for the rest of the night,” she said.

It was wreckless driving, she said.

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