Meet The Signcutters
Ken Laidlaw Awarded JHPTS “Sign Cutter” Certification – 2005
Some of you may know Ken Laidlaw from other than our tracking program. Ken is a recognized wilderness and SAR specialist in several disciplines. He regularly is a presenter at various SAR conferences and expositions. Ken was also a cop. He was a seasonal police officer with the East Bay Regional Park District, across the bay from San Francisco, for 25 years.
He became very familiar with the back country in several of their parks. He also retired as an administrator for the Berkeley Unified School District.
I first met Ken in an Ab Taylor tracking class in the early 1980’s. He sat quietly in a back row, said nearly nothing and held the same facial expression for the two days of the course. I couldn’t tell if he was interested, bored, pouting, or what. He took part in the field training and studied each track in detail. Obviously Ken was a solitary individual that spent nearly all waking moments engaged in one occupation or another and/or studying one or more of the wilderness and SAR disciplines that he was interested in.
In later years, much after I had left the southern border and was responding with Border Patrol permission to requests to provide tracking training in various areas I met Ken in another course. We talked some, though talking to Ken is mostly a one-sided affair with lots of silence unless you have something to say. Ken would talk endlessly about one or another of the disciplines that he was either working on or had mastered. But, just making conversation wasn’t his bag. Ken studied tracking, and with his diverse background and interests he full well appreciated how, when, and where tracking was important.
Ken was unusual even among the police officers with whom he worked. However a good part of that, being unusual, was that he knew how to do things the other officers most often only thought about. They called him frequently to find people in the parks. Some that needed to be found weren’t lost, just using the park lands for growing marijuana. Or, living in one of the canyons or forests, and littering, panhandling, or outright assaulting park patrons. Ken became a specialist in locating and arresting these persons and many other violators through the use of tracking.
Ken traveled to courses throughout the country and would show up at a course in some of the most unusual locations, from Pennsylvania to Montana, Vancouver Island to San Diego. He studied, learned, and became a good trainer to those interested in actually learning and developing tracking skills. His tracking reports are well done. Ken is well versed in SAR, law enforcement, and fire management systems and has mastered the organization and documentation for the Incident Command System. Ken has a national reputation in cave rescue and technical rope rescue. He has been an active member of the Alameda County Sheriff’s SAR group for twenty-five years and is a frequent responder.
Ken has been a loyal and trusted supporter of this program for almost thirty years and was awarded the Sign Cutter designation and certification in 2005.