As part of the Citizens Police Academy course that my son and are taking, we were given the option to participate in a ride along with one of the officers during his or her patrol shift.
Well last night was my turn to do the ride along, and it was quite the learning experience.
My four-hour shift started with roll call at 7:00 pm, and a few minutes later we were out patrolling the streets of Radnor Township.
It seemed to be a relatively quiet night.
Our first incident (notice how quickly I’ve included myself as part of the police unit) involved issuing a speeding ticket. The driver turned out to be a 17-year old teenager, and I had the sense the young man was quite nervous (who wouldn’t be?). It took him a while to find the necessary documents (license, insurance, registration). I’ve written before about how I think the vast majority of people drive way too fast, and I have little sympathy for those who are caught. In fact, I wish there was a way to use electronic equipment to automatically send tickets to drivers who exceed the speed limit. Despite my opinion, I still felt bad for the young driver. However, as my police officer pointed out, it could be a valuable lesson that the youngster has learned at an early age.
Another incident involved a homeowner’s security system sending out an alarm since it detected motion. We drove to the house, checked the doors and windows and walked around the property, but found nothing unusual. A while later, when driving past the house again, the officer noted that it appeared the homeowners were now home, and so he stopped to just let them know that he had checked everything and found nothing amiss. I don’t think there was any requirement to visit the homeowner like that, but I think doing so was a nice way to help build community relations, and to add the personal touch.
Later on in the evening a resident called 911 and reported hearing gun shots. My officer noted that there could be multiple explanations, but nonetheless we sped towards the location to investigate. Another police car had already arrived and was talking with the person who filed the complaint. A few minutes later a third officer came to the scene. No one or nothing was found after searching the area and so the incident was cleared. My officer explained that it could have been fireworks, or perhaps a hunter out in the nearby woods.
Among the other calls for the night was a minor parking lot car accident, and a report of a noisy party by a neighbor. The party turned out to be for group of Cub Scouts, and by the time we got to the site, another officer had already assessed the situation and found it to be under control.
The officer and I had many good discussions on a wide variety of topics, such as gun control, racial profiling, the growing number of mental health and drug problems, the importance of education, and the value of youth sports. Some of the issues we agreed on, others we did not, but it was nice to have a civilized debate with someone who is on the front line, and sees many of these issues up close and personal.
I came away from the ride along with an even greater amount of respect for our local police force, as well as policemen and women everywhere. All of the officers I have met through the Citizens Police Academy have been professional, well trained, and committed to protecting our community 24/7/365.
So thank you to the police of Radnor Township for the positive difference you make in our community, and the key role you play in making it such a great place to live.
Be safe out there.