Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Have you ever ...

ridden "shotgun" in a police cruiser? Until tonight, I had not. Now, thanks to Leadership Eau Claire (LEC) ,I have.

Part of Leadership Eau Claire was an opportunity for a two hour "ride along" with an Eau Claire Police Officer. I got to sit in the seat at the right, for what turned out to be a three hour experience with Officer Greg Webber. Greg was a great guide, and was (I think) disappointed that there was no chase, no arrest, and no official reason to turn on the lights. [He did turn them on once, in the City Garage parking lot just so we could see what they looked like from inside the car.] Greg was candid and an excellent guide.

I got there early, and got the "shotgun" seat. Our first call was to take a complaint of harassment from what was a domestic dispute between two people who had been divorced for two years. We heard her side first, and then went back to HQ to pick up my LEC colleague. From the parking lot, Officer Webber called him for a long, rambling conversation. He followed up with a quick call back to her as we cruised.

The next call was to serve as back up for a complaint about underaged drinking. Since juveniles were involved, my colleague and I spent considerable time standing and waiting. The result of the call was for Officer Webber to write a citation (not the first for the party cited), as well as notify the City/County Health Department of possible violations over the state of the apartment.
We sat for some paperwork, and to "look for a violation." While cruising, we got a third call of a possible suicide threat. In a neighborhood not far from where I live, a man was "breaking up with his wife" who then threatened suicide. It turned out to be more of a domestic dispute than anything else, and did not take nearly as much time as first thought.

Then it was time to gas up, and return the car to HQ for the next shift.

So what did I learn? Well, first that there is a whole lot more paperwork to policing than you might think. Second that cops often have interesting backgrounds. Officer Webber has a bachelor's degree in biology with a minor in chemistry (I think). He was a warden for the Department of Natural Resources and an officer in the County Jail before joining the police force. Third, that cops are often as much social worker as they are enforcement officers. It was an eye-opening experience. And I am glad I did not have to ride in the back of the car!!!

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