Back when I was working full-time, and attending college full time, my life was pretty much work and school. I got to go shooting every once and a while, partied with friends, and went on rare dates. Really rare. (sigh)
Being an Administration of Justice major, I ate, slept and breathed everything law enforcement. Watched all the ‘good’ cop shows (like Police Story) and read Joseph Wambaugh books.
And one day it suddenly occurred to me, Hey, my town’s PD had a ride-along program! How cool would that be to go on patrol!
So I signed up.
I wasn’t long before I was riding shotgun in a patrol car, with a veteran officer, graveyard shift. When better to get into the action, then on the prowl at night?
Apparently, in a small college town after midnight, there must be better times. We spent the first couple of hours parked in a grocery store parking lot, across the street from a convenience store. Sitting surveillance on
young punks juvenile delinquents misguided yutes who were loitering around the outside of the store, occasionally entering to buy a soda or harass the clerk. Officer Krupke (not his real name) was peering through a pair of binoculars at them, muttering under his breath, “They’re squirrels! I KNOW they’re squirrels”. I decided from his lack of colorful language he must be Southern Baptist, Mormon or something…
And nothing happened. Eventually, we went on patrol in the nearby middle-class residential neighborhoods. It was about 0300 by then, and it was dead out. But the officer knew what to look for and had excellent vision in the dark.
Suddenly, he threw the car into park and bolted from the driver’s seat! In some shadows next to a house, he spotted a subject lurking. He grabbed him, cuffed him and brought him back to the car for interrogation. Turned out he was a drunken college kid looking for a place to relieve himself. High crime in Collegeville!
After processing the kid, we resumed patrol. Another home nearby had apparently been burgled. We responded, and were the fourth car to arrive. Obviously, a hot night of crime in our little town! I walked the crime scene with the officers, listened to questioned posed to the homeowner, and was all-in-all pretty bored. But I noticed the reported point-of-entry, the bathroom window glass, was on the outside of the house! I mentioned this to the officers, who quickly had me bundled away ‘for my safety’. I guess they wanted to make certain the homeowner committed himself fully in his lying false police report before arresting him. And this wise-ass college kid could have spoiled their fun.
We resumed patrol and finished out the shift. No felonies, no high-speed chases, no fights to the death. No doughnuts! Officer Krupke did take a quick spin on the freeway to show me how fast he could go. THAT was pretty cool.
Now that I’m back in that small town, I found myself wondering if they still had a Ride-Along Program? But, it would take me 5 minutes to get out of the car, and I wouldn’t go unless I could carry, so it probably won’t happen!