It's one thing to take 9-1-1 calls and send police out on a job, and quite another to be the police sent to respond. Part of the five-week training program was to participate in three police ride-alongs. Spending a full eight-hour shift in a squad car, partnered up with the county's finest.
This particular 9-1-1 call center is responsible for dispatching city police, sheriff's who cover the county and some surrounded suburban towns, town police departments, as well as state police. I've read articles and heard talk that sometimes relationships between police and dispatchers is sometimes strained. (Read an article about this: The "love/hate relationship between cops and their dispatchers). Tempers flare on both sides of the radio. One side worries not enough information is being provided, the other thinks too much is coming across. One side is hard to understand, the other is timid about asking to have information repeated. But lets face it, although different, high-stress clearly can exist on either/both sides of the radio.
The purpose of ride-alongs is two-fold. First, it allows us at 9-1-1 the opportunity to see how things work on the other end of the radio, and to see "our" information in action on the MDTs (Mobile Data Terminal--the mini computers affixed inside patrol cars). And second, to help establish, build and maintain a sense of unity between the two departments. After all we're one team, working together to make the communities safe, right? Of course right.
As a writer, I've developed relationships with police officers. When I write crime novels, even though they are fiction, I know my fiction needs to be factual. In addition, a close friend of mine is an officer with the city police. When I found out I was going on a ride-along, naturally, I contacted her. Although she had a foot patrol downtown, she assured me I could ride ... get this ... shotgun with her fiance.
On Friday we trainees were not to report to 9-1-1 for classroom training. Instead, we'd report to our prospective police departments. I choose to do an 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM shift. This is referred to as 2nd Platoon.
I met my officer, we'll call him Hank, at 7:30 AM. Roll call started at 7:45.
Just like Hill Street Blues, the city officers met in a large room. Tables and chairs filled quickly. I sat in back. Didn't want to be in the way. I listened to roll call with great interest. Sergants announced areas of the city that required special attention. Groups that needed looking in on. And on policies that had been revised.
Once assigned a squad car, and after Hank gathered up his gear, we started out on patrol. Sort of.
First stop, Dunkin Donuts. Like to say I'm kidding. I'm not. Hank swore it was not a sterotype since he wasn't getting a donut or coffee, but a bagel and juice. Suppose he's right. Thankfully, we were not alone. Four other officers joined us. One, newer to the force, had a lady from my class as his ride-along.
After breakfast, we hit the road. Hank explained the boundaries of his beat. We cruised the street. He pointed out prostitutes, and assured me every time we passed by the same ladies would be out, walking up and down the sidewalk. (And each time we passed by, the same ladies would be out, walking up and down the sidewalk -- for the full eight hour shift. Hmmm).
Hank, a young guy, had been a police officer for just over five years. He had nearly completed his MBA. He planned to leave the force soon in order to work a desk job. Being a cop was something he always wanted to do. Knew if he didn't try, he'd always wonder if he'd of had what it takes, all the while knowing his career was headed toward a shirt and tie future.
First call we get is a missing person call. We head to a residence. Woman meets us outside. Hank and I exit the car. Thing is, he's dressed in a uniform. I'm in dress pants, dress shirt. Who does the lady talk to? Me. I look like I'm Hank's supervisor or something. I keep my mouth shut. Nod appropriately. Basically, just listen. Hank's smiling, knows what's going on. He's getting down the info, and just about the time I'm about to act the role of captain and say something, he takes over. Back in the car, he laughs, tells me he knew that would happen, her thinking I'm the authority.
Funny thing is, happened on every call. And Hank allowed it. I just wish I had a pen and clipboard or something. Look more official, you know?
We went lights and sirens once. Drove at some top speeds. By the time we arrived where we were headed, the call had been handled. Didn't matter to me. I just appreciated the thrill of it all. It had been a suspected burglary in progress. Turns out the burglary already occurred. The home owner rented out a place. While vacant, someone had broken in and ripped out all the copper plumbing.
At the end of the shift, I had a better appreciation for what officers do. Always respected them, their work, their stress. Seeing it first hand made it more real, authentic.
I knew one thing for sure, I was already looking forward to the second ride-along, which was scheduled for two weeks later.
And I learned that officers appreciate as much information as possible from dispatch, as well as being given the opportunity to have back-up accompany them. They don't want it, they'll refuse. But the opportunity for it is important.
*****Be Sure To Stop Back Often, Or Click To Follow This Blog******
Author of The Molech Prophecy and 2010 release of Convicted