Tag Archives: police

Taking a ride downtown

Let me preface this post by saying, if your community has a police ride-along program, you should RUN not walk to the police station and sign up.  It is must-see tv up close and personal.

I was worried that the officer would find my presence annoying, but he said that he enjoys the company, and by the way he acted, I believed him.  Once I thought about it, who wouldn’t want to spend a couple of hours impressing the average citizen with computers and lights and incredible acceleration?

Lucky for me nothing too exciting happened.  I’m somewhat of a chicken (which is why I signed up for a Sunday!  If you want action, obviously you’ll want to go for a Friday or Saturday night…) but I got just what I wanted — a backstage pass to hang out with a hero.

My first revelation came when the officer saw a suspicious character and immediately drove TOWARDS him.  My gut instinct is always to run AWAY from trouble screaming like a little girl, and I am seriously shocked and awed by people who are drawn in its direction.  Aren’t we lucky that I am not in law enforcement!!!

My second big eye-opener was to realize how much investigation is involved.  You know how sometimes a patrol car will come up on your tail really fast and you are painfully certain that they are going to pull you over?  Then they disappear?  Several times last night he followed someone and called in their tag, then let them go when he found out it wasn’t who he was looking for.  PHEW!

And this is just one example of the eagle eyes that the officer develops in the line of duty.  Many times throughout the night he would say, “Did you see that?” and I’m looking around wildly into the darkness and then I would finally spot what he saw.  They are constantly scanning for the slightest thing out of place, the smallest sign of suspicious activity, the cars belonging to the people who must have warrants served on them, the faces of wanted people, cars violating traffic laws… etc.  My eyes are only tuned to making sure that traffic is staying where it is supposed to so I can avoid an accident.  For a police officer that is only step one in a long line of visual sorting and decision-making.

I was able to observe how 911 operators are heroes as amazing as the law enforcement out on the street, and the officer gladly acknowledged this.  Within a second he could have the attention of a dispatcher, and his request for information would be responded to within a few more seconds.  They are an efficient and reliable team and I feel very secure knowing that these would be the people working to help me should I ever need it.

Some other random tidbits:

He said that, unlike an episode of “Cops”, police work is 90% boring (paperwork, checking on buildings, driving through neighborhoods, lying in wait for traffic infractions) and 10% exciting.  He says he is an adrenaline junkie so he lives for that 10%.  (I would be avoiding it like the plague!)

He pointed out how people slam on their brakes when they see his car, which actually makes the road more dangerous.  I saw this first hand when he had a difficult time maneuvering through traffic to get to a suspicious car because people began to assume unpredictable speeds as soon as he got close.  Just act cool, people!

He is collecting his evidence and composing his argument to the judge from the first moment he spots a subject or situation.  He has an eye and mind to make sure that a wrong-doer is successfully prosecuted so that the system has the chance to work the way lawmakers intended, and that he, as an officer of the law, does not mess up a single one of the jillion procedures he is supposed to follow, resulting in a criminal getting away with their crime.

And to dispel a final myth: He did not eat a single donut all night.

I cannot express strongly enough how impressed I was with this officer and the department he represents.  I learned a lot and highly recommend the experience to any concerned citizen.

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Driving impaired

A group of us “drove drunk” last night.

At our Citizens Police Academy last night, we got to put on “drunk” goggles, get behind the wheel of a converted golf cart (used as a “metermaid” vehicle in its other life) and attempt to drive through a course of cones set up in the police department parking lot.

We were told that each orange cone represented a child.  I responded that I didn’t want to play that game, so I was going to pretend they were garden gnomes.  The horror of even pretending to run over a child was too much for me to handle.

I chose the easiest goggles, representing your vision if you had a blood alcohol content between .07 and .10 (.08 is the minimum BAC to be guaranteed conviction of DWI in North Carolina) and I could hardly see through them.  Things were blurry and seemed slightly shifted.  I maneuvered the course and grazed three cones.

My husband, thrill seeker that he is, chose the highest BAC, which I think was somewhere around .25.  He actually dragged three cones beneath the cart.  Later I tried those goggles on and tried to walk about three feet to him while he held out his hands for me to grab. It was like looking through a kaleidoscope.  I thought I was grabbing his right hand but when I actually touched his skin, my vision shifted and corrected itself and I was actually grabbing his left.  It was bizarre.

The police department takes these goggles and this obstacle course to the high schools and gets the students to experience what it is like to lose control and “kill” innocent bystanders.  Will it make a difference?  Will it prevent anyone from getting into a vehicle while intoxicated and destroying someone’s child, someone’s mother, someone’s grandfather?

It was a hands-on eye-opener, that is for sure.  I am convinced that we need to go even further to stiffen penalties and implement whatever measures necessary to discourage people from putting their community at risk by driving a loaded weapon while their judgment, vision and reaction time are even slightly impaired. 

This may be an unpopular statement, but I’d like to see the law extended to seriously punish cellphone drivers, make-up putting on drivers, anyone who decides to multitask when their attention needs to be focussed on the serious job at hand.  I decided this when I saw the list of warning signs that police look for when scanning for drunk drivers, which includes: weaving, crossing the center line, turning wide, vacant stare.  I have personally witnessed many of these signs in drivers wielding a cell phone while barreling down the road.  I think you are impaired when your attention is divided, and if it is by something avoidable (you don’t HAVE to answer your phone!) then you are inviting disaster.

We need to take driving much more seriously and we need to somehow force people to give a crap about the people they are endangering when they drive recklessly, whether that is being intoxicated or voluntarily distracted or even just being in too big of a hurry.  

This isn’t cancer or hurricanes, people, where we don’t entirely know how to make it stop.  We as a society have the power to make sure that no one ever again is killed by an impaired driver, simply by choosing, each and every one of us, never again to drive unless we have our wits about us.

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Police brutality?

There is an article in the paper about a recent Taser incident that ended with the suspect in intensive care.  Some claim it is the result of racism, and while I acknowledge that there are unfortunately still problems such as profiling, I cannot help but feel for the law enforcement officers.  When they are faced with situations of non-compliance day after day, and when these situations are often dangerous to the officers as well as the general public, I have a hard time feeling terribly sympathetic for the non-compliant suspects, though I do hope that the young man in this case recovers from his injuries.

The only weak part of the story as regards the police officer was the fact that one of the Taser leads was in the back of the suspect’s head, and when he didn’t comply with the cop’s direct order not to stand up, perhaps the man was disoriented due to the jolt of electricity he had just received so close to his brain.  I can understand those who speculate that the cop might have done better to jump on the guy during the first Taser shock (a person cannot receive a shock by touching someone being Tasered) and put cuffs on him at that point.  

It is also true that his original charges were somewhat trivial, two misdemeanors for open container and possession of marijuana, but why not just show up for court?  Once you miss your court appearance, you must know that there will be a warrant out for your arrest.  So if the police find you and attempt to fulfill their duties by arresting you on that warrant, why run?  You must know that the police will chase you, that is the job we have assigned them, and that your situation will just become worse.  

At the same time, I know that we have to keep those with power in check.  We have to make sure that the police do not abuse their authority, that they are behaving in a fair manner toward the public.  It is possible to have a camera mounted on the end of the Taser so that the whole scenario can be replayed and investigated carefully, but the police budget won’t allow for it.  

It seems to come down to the fact that we the public expect the police to keep us perfectly safe using perfectly safe and fair methods, whether we comply or not, and to do it all with a minimum of funding.

Since Tasers are being more widely used, we hear more often about the dangers associated with them, but the truth is that any chase and any method of subduing a suspect is going to be dangerous.  Shouldn’t a lot of the responsibility for the consequences of these situations be with the runner?

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