There is no way not to notice the current focus on our country’s police and policing methods, and it’s impossible not to see a shift in perception towards our police.
And while the climate is shifting, our need for the police is not. So how to you approach this? How does each of us get a better understanding of the law enforcement in our area?
I know being a cop can’t be easy, so I wanted to get a better understanding of how it is for them on any given day.
So I went on a ride along.
Full transparency: I get most of my law enforcement knowledge from TV (thanks Law & Order, The Wire, and Blue Bloods!). But is it all men like Tom Selleck and detectives with bad accents?
I wanted to find out for myself.
Lucky for me, I know a Seattle Police officer who was willing to take me out for the day.
I met with several officers, from all over the city, and was able to watch them working in several different scenarios.
I listened to a nonstop barrage of calls come over the radio.
I witnessed SWAT searching for a gunman (yikes)
And, I was able to watch my SPD officer training his partner (but more on that in a minute).
Starting the Day on Patrol
Upon arriving at the precinct, I filled out the necessary paperwork to ride along (then was given a tour of the holding tanks, an overview of equipment, etc.)
Every SPD employee I encountered was respectful and courteous. No one knew me – I was just a friend of J riding along in my Seahawks shirt and rain jacket.
The next stop was officer J’s patrol car. J explained the recording devices throughout the car (if you go over a certain speed limit you get recorded, same goes for being involved in a pursuit).
And if you are involved with the public, no matter how big or small, you write up a report. This could be breaking up a fight, helping someone cross the street, or making an arrest after a crime is committed – all of it gets reported.
The Ride Along
There seems to be a perception that the police get into their cars and are unaccounted for all day – basically, that they drive around willy-nilly, eating donuts and are not held accountable for their actions. (With all the documentation I saw, that’s clearly not the case.)
After some time patrolling the streets of Seattle, Officer J had to let his partner run around a bit. I think now is a good time to explain J’s partner…
Officer J works the K-9 unit. His partner is named Kosmo. Kosmo is a German Shepard, with a great sense of smell. If a suspect has fled the scene, J and Kosmo are called in to try to find him.
J showed me some of the dogs training techniques (which you’ll see in the photo gallery). Kosmo is training to apprehend “bad guys” and is unbelievably well-trained and disciplined. He’s also a good kisser, when you’re not a perp.
The three of us joined the SPD Community Outreach Division so a visiting youth program could meet Kosmo. It was incredible to watch their positive reaction to the dog, but also to the police in general.
Towards the end of the shift, I was witness to some real (and serious) action: there was a call about a man armed with a gun, waving it at people in South Lake Union. There were dozens of police at the scene, of all different rank and position. I watched SWAT searching for the perpetrator. They were methodical, careful, and – sadly – unsuccessful.
It was a stark reminder of the reality about violence in our city. As a news reporter for KZOK I am all too aware of how many shootings occur in Seattle.
Thankfully, on my ride along I did not see any crimes, or evil doings. But it was an eye-opening experience nevertheless: I observed people smiling at the police officers, and witnessed some cursing and shouting at them. What I didn’t see was the SPD doing anything but wanting to help people and fight crime.
I’m thankful for Officer J and Kosmo for letting me join them at work, and after my experience, I’m thankful for the peace of mind the Seattle police force gives.