When many see a police officer, they may see some tough guy who risks their lives for the safety of the their community; some may even see officers as villains who are just simply out to make arrests.
During two police ride-a-longs this week, however, I witnessed a different angle of officers that many do not see or even consider.
Fortunately and unfortunately I did not witness any arrests during the two hours that was spent with each officer, but instead, I witnessed devotion, leadership and passion from this officers as they helped and aided citizens in the community.
Tuesday afternoon, I sat in the passenger seat of Officer Marcus Horne’s patrol car as we headed to his zone near the Hamilton Road area. His first dispatch was to Central Baptist Church for a funeral escort, leading the mourners to the cemetery just a mile down the street.
As we waited for the funeral to end, I inquired about the various codes that could be heard on the police radio-delta, bravo, charlie, alpha- indicating the type of reports being made by officers, as Horne gave a “tour” of police reporting system on the computer inside the patrol car.
The 911 dispatcher could be heard over the radio dispatching an officer to assist a deputy in serving civil papers on a subject who had run from him.
Once we lead the funeral attendees to the burial site, we patrolled the nearby streets as we awaited a dispatch call.
“Whenever I’m not on a call, I patrol and check for anything unusual,” said Horne. “I will drive down several of the streets throughout the day just to have police presence known in the area.”
As we rode down Fendig Street a group of about 15 males were standing outside, and after passing the group, I could see from the rear-view mirror of the patrol car that the crowd had begun to disperse. Only about five of the males were now in the group.
“That happens a lot,” said Horne as he began to check warrants on a male he recognized from the group. “A lot of times it (patrolling) will have the tendency to keep down “riff raffs” because a lot of times when we show up people disappear.”
Though it appeared that no criminal activity was taking place, Horne said he could have done a “Tier 1” encounter, in which an officer can approach a citizen and engage in conversation without suspicion.
Horne then headed to patrol Lucy Morgan Homes and surrounding areas as he scoped out areas along the way. As the ride was finishing up, we met with another officer who was on his way to serve a warrant on a female at a nearby location. Horne assisted the officer and when we arrived at the location, Horne covered back of the residence as the warrant officer knocked on the front door. After a minute of knocking, Horne had indicated to the officer that he could hear a TV on inside the residence. Another minute passed before a female finally answered the door, informing the officer that the woman who was issued a warrant was not at the location.
The ride-along concluded with Horne directing cars in traffic in 80 degree weather as Troup County High School was being let out for the day. About 15 minutes passed until the area was safe and cleared from congestion and traffic.
That day showed me the leadership and passion that officers have in guiding and moving their community forward.
Thursday night’s ride along with Officer Jason Duncan was a bit more exciting and showed that the police can be “our friends” and help and teach in a time of need.
Sadly, the day had begun with transporting a battered woman to the domestic violence shelter from the police station.
“I never thought I would have to have this,” said the woman referencing the shelter. “I got rescued all the way from Villa Rica.”
The woman was sitting with another woman, who apparently had rescued the woman. As I was sitting with the woman at the station, I noticed she was wearing a hospital bracelet, as if she had just come from the hospital. As she was walking to Duncan’s patrol car, it was obvious that the woman had been injured as she was limping as she walked. Duncan escorted the woman to the shelter and told her that if she needed transportation tomorrow to pick up her mail, as the woman had earlier indicated, that she could contact police.
“It’s good to see them get away from the situation,” said Horne before he was dispatched to a call nearby for thefts of two dogs from a residence. “A lot of people get the battered mentality of ‘I have to stay with the person.”’
Horne arrived to see that an officer was speaking with a party involved and Horne took out his pad and began talking to others, whom all happened to be nine and 10-year-old children. After learning that three children had hopped a fence to steal the puppies from a yard and tried to give them to another neighbor, the officers made the children return the dogs to the victim and apologize to the owners.
“You don’t always have to charge something,” said Horne. “Sometimes a good lesson learned serves just as good. Taking someone to jail is not always the best action.”
He learned that one of the three dogs was a stray, since none of the neighbors knew who the dog belonged to. The owner of the other two dogs decided to adopt the stray, so “It ended as a win-win situation,” he said.
During the course of ride-along we drove through parking lots of businesses to make sure they were secure and sound, while also driving through neighborhoods and apartment complexes on the north side of town.
Throughout the night patrol, we talked about various police trainings and procedures in the case of various traffic stops. As Horne was driving, he noticed a dark colored Toyota Camry driving with no headlights, and quickly turned around to inform the driver of the dangerous condition.
He activated his blue lights when he was behind the vehicle and the vehicle pulled into the O’Reily’s parking lot on New Franklin Road.
When he spoke to the elder woman, she was unaware of her lights being off and told him that she was having a hard time focusing because her deceased son’s birthday was approaching next month.
Horne came back to his patrol car and entered the woman’s information through the computer; After finding her with no warrants and a valid license and registration he wrote her a warning citation, and told her to stay focused and drive carefully.
Though no arrests happened during my time with the officers, both officers informed me that arrests happen occasionally throughout their shifts, typically for drugs or warrants, with much of the action happening at night and on weekends.
Despite what one may think of a police officer, the ride-along has allowed me to witness the caring and nurturing officers who are very passionate about their jobs protecting their citizens. There is a very different view from the inside.