On Patrol; a Citizen’s story…
Ok, so the title really makes it out to be more than it was, but the truth of the line still holds. As many of you know, last Saturday I had the opportunity to ride along on a shift with a Deputy from the Washington County Sheriff’s Office as part of the Citizen’s Academy classes.
I was able to schedule a swing shift on a weekend evening/night, in the hope that it would be a more active time and keep things interesting. The shift began at 5pm and lasted until 3am, so I figured I had a good chance at seeing at least on DUII and maybe some other interesting stop or call-out.
I was paired with Deputy Majors, whose wife is coincidentally taking the Citizen’s Academy with me. Deputy Majors was on transport detail for the night, which meant I would get a more interesting ride and see more since he needed to stay “open” for any transport calls. What this means is that he would be backup for any calls in the evening in order to more easily get away and run a transport from any of the local Police Departments to the Washington County Jail. If he were to be primary on any call, then we would be stuck for the duration of the call and would be unable to run the transport, which was his main assignment for the evening.
For the most part, our night was spent driving around and asking if anyone needed assistance on their calls. This tactic actually got me in to a few different types of calls and kept the night moving.
The evening started with a “stake out” of sorts. Really it was just one deputy waiting for a wanted felon to come to a friend’s house. It was a basic waiting game so the deputy could serve the warrant on the individual and move on. We showed up as back up, and waited a good hour to hour and a half, with no results. We did have a good chat between the three of us about hunting and some of their more interesting calls. So all was not lost.
From there, we headed out to Starbucks to meet up with the other transport deputy for some coffee and more conversation. Turns out this deputy is a Portland Police retiree and runs transport as a part time job. He had just returned from a month long motorcycle trip to Carmel by way of Vegas (he likes long rides) so we had a fun chat about his motorcycling and police experiences. He is one of those individuals whom I know has 5 times as many interesting stories as he lets on, even if the ones he does tell are good ones!
Filled with coffee, we hopped back in the cruiser and checked to see where we could help. It didn’t take long before we found ourselves in front of a “Plaid Pantry” convenience store assisting with a minor fender bender. Over the course of this call, the person who rear-ended an SUV with her compact was suspected to be intoxicated, so I was able to watch a full field sobriety test performed, and subsequently the subject be placed under arrest. Unlike what you see on COPS, this was a relatively uneventful stop that was about as textbook as a deputy could hope for. Nice an easy; no fighting; fairly cooperative, if not a tad mouthy; but in the end a very quiet arrest.
We left that call early since a domestic 911 call came over the radio and we ran to take backup. With the onset of this call, the deputy hit his lights and siren and we went screaming down the highway at full code 3 speeds.
As an aside to this, I have an immense appreciation for all law enforcement and emergency responders who have to drive through traffic running code. People are STUPID. Twice, on a relatively open freeway, a vehicle in front of us failed to yield to the right and actually hit the brakes and nearly stopped in the middle of the lane. I’ll tell you, when you are running up on the tail of another vehicle at upwards of 100 mph, brake lights are not what you want to see! It seriously amazed me at how many people failed to yield to us nearly causing some serious impediments to our progress….
Once we made our way through the opiated masses of blind sheep on the roadways, we rolled up to the neighborhood for the 911 call. Rather than driving to the front of the complainant’s house, we stopped a few down, without lights/siren, and walked up. I hung back at the property line, since domestic calls can be very volatile at the beginning. The deputy did a quick peek and see, and returned to my location as we waited for the primary responder to show up (apparently we had been closer to the call so we arrived first). Because it was a domestic violence call, we had to wait for the other deputy prior to making contact.
Just as the other deputy arrived and was walking towards us, the front door of the house flies open and a petite female comes screaming out, on the phone, crying, and then indicating that she sees us (presumably on the phone with the 911 operator). The deputies get some basic information, then ask her to stay outside while they make entrance to find out what is going on in the inside of the house. Yup, that means I was stuck outside with the originating complainant as she started to regain sanity and calm down. This, of course, means she now wants to vent her spleen about what is going on, and I am the only person around.
So there I stand biting my tongue, trying to remain professional, supportive, but distant and without providing any suggestions which may be problematic for me later (which all of you know is difficult for me to just keep my mouth shut when presented with a problem… damn opinions…). In my defense, I think I handled myself very well given that I had not expected to be left alone with a domestic violence complainant, let alone without any training for that type of situation.
Within moments she had calmed down and we waited for the deputies to return outside to take her statements. We probably only waited outside for 10 minutes, but it seemed like an eternity in the cold, with a shaken woman who was starting to dump the adrenaline rush and still venting her spleen. Luckily, the stories inside all matched up, with a few exceptions form the outside, and everything clamed down very quickly. The deputies pieced it all together and the complainant ended up being driven back to her apartment by her mom (she was at her parents’ house when she called 911 because dad was supposedly hitting her). All in all a good end to the call, as there were no injuries and no charges were pressed.
From there Deputy Majors and I headed out to lunch, where we continued our ongoing conversation of the evening, which was comprised of me asking whatever asinine questions I could muster. I gotta say, the deputy was very easy to talk to and very open about his job, including explaining what he was doing and why he was doing it at every juncture without interfering with his performance of duties.
We got a transport call just after dinner, so we headed over to Beaverton PD to pickup the prisoner. Apparently she (the prisoner) had just been picked up on a violation and was found to have a number of outstanding warrants, so off to jail she goes. This was by far the easiest call of the night since it was simple transport from a police holding cell to a county jail for processing.
By now it was around midnight/midnight thirty, so back into the night we went. As we drove down the highway, checking on other calls etc., we noted a vehicle enter the freeway and then cut over to the far left lane and hug the line for a while. Upon noticing the Sheriff’s cruiser behind him (a speculation on my part) he changed lanes back to the far right, and continued on. When running his plates, we found that he had a suspended license, at which point we called it in and lit him up.
We exited the cruiser and approached the vehicle. At this point my adrenaline was going a little, just from the knowledge that traffic stops are one of the two most volatile calls you can take as an officer (the other being domestic violence). Once the deputy was able to determine the driver was not intoxicated, we also found that the driver, while not the registered owner on file, was also driving on a suspended license. What are the odds? The driver was very cooperative and polite and as such got a break and was only cited fro driving on a suspended license. After all was said and done, the driver found a friend to pick him up while we towed his car, which he had just purchased that day from the registered owner who had returned as suspended when we ran the plate information.
As we finished up with the tow, another call came in for backup at a strip club, where a brawl had just been called in. So, code 3 we go again… racing down the highway once more, we made it to the club in under a minute. When we arrive, there are 4 other deputies on site and the brawl has been broken up. While the other deputies were outside with the patrons and participants in the fight, we enter and get a statement from the bouncer and manager who called in the issue. Again, this is one of those calls that was nearly over before it started.
At this point, we were pretty much done for the night, as we were coming up on 3am. We spoke with the Sergeant on duty who had made an appearance at the club, and then headed back to the east precinct where I had parked my car. I thanked Deputy Majors for the kindness he had shown me all evening and for the privilege of being allowed to ride along side him and get that first hand experience of law enforcement which I had not seen to this point. As I was thanking the deputy, he said something that has stuck with me, and most likely will stick with me a while longer. He said: “I think you’d do well as a deputy, and the reserves are a good place to start”. While I can’t credit him with planting the seed, I will say that he watered it a bit on Saturday night/ Sunday morning…
I thanked him again, and we went our separate ways. When I got home, Jean woke up and we talked for a while as I decompressed from the evening. I am very thankful for that opportunity as well, since I couldn’t have gotten to sleep immediately if I had tried; eventually we drifted off and slept in late Sunday morning.
Looking back, I found the ride along experience to be very enlightening. While you can watch all the TV shows and hear about all the experiences, nothing takes the place of first hand encounters like I had. And I really enjoyed it. I would love to have the opportunity to ride-along again, since I don’t think once was enough to get a good sense of it all, but was just a good taste to whet my appetite.