Friday, December 9, 2011

Ride-a-Long with the Albany Police Department

I arrived at the Albany Police Department a few minutes early for my ride-a-long. Officer Jason Camillo introduced himself. We exited through the back door to go to his patrol car. The temperature outside was around twenty-nine degrees. The car wasn't much warmer. I suddenly felt very glad I'd opted for warm clothes including my knee high brown boots, calf length tan wool coat, and striped scarf! Oh, boy, I began to second guess doing a ride-a-long in winter!
Officer Camillo got his gear settled. He stashed his duffel bag and some other things in the trunk, positioned his shotgun and assault rifle in their holders between the seats. I thought "I really hope we don't need those tonight, but it sure would be exciting." (Oops! There went my naughty side tempting my nice side.) I said with a little smile "I think I won't touch those."

He showed me the electronic ticketing machine (I forgot if it has an actual name) and explained how much better it is when it's raining since pens and paper are both affected by water. This machine is perfect for the Oregon weather. I'm sure those getting unsmudged tickets might disagree... Those nice, clean copies have to be harder to fight in court.

Our first activity of the evening was to arrest a woman on a warrant. She needed to finishing serving her jail time. It was only a few days on a misdemeanor charge. We went to the address on file for her. Another officer joined Officer Camillo to attempt the arrest. Officer Camillo asked me to stay in the car for my safety. I didn't argue. I had no desire to stand out in the cold. He returned to the car without the woman. She no longer lived there. He entered a quick report.

Then he learned it was possible she was living somewhere else, so we went to that address. He and the other officer approached the house. I sat in the car watching people's reaction to the police car and the officers. It's amazing how many people look the other direction or cover their faces or make some other concealing gesture when they see a police officer or a police car. I wondered if I do the same thing without even realizing it. A little while later he returned. The people at that house said that she was living there but wasn't home.

I kind of hoped she would come walking up the sidewalk while we sat there, so I could witness the arrest. She didn't, so we went on our way. They would try again another night.

We were driving along chatting about "what if" scenarios when we passed a bicyclist who seemed to be trying to avoid being seen. Officer Camillo gave a U-turn that reminded me of the EVOC driving we did during the Albany Citizen's Police Academy. Cool! We pulled over the bicyclist. He had a record, but his only violation for the night was not having a light on his bicycle, so Officer Camillo issued a warning.

Shortly thereafter, we stopped another bicyclist who also received a no light warning. He looked like a teenager but turned out to be in his late twenties.

We drove around for a bit checking out areas where people are known to do drugs, but no one was out. I guess even drug addicts have enough sense to stay indoors when it's that cold.

Officer Camillo was called to help search for a juvenile who'd stolen enough jewelry for a felony classification, but she was long gone.

A domestic dispute call came in. This got my heart pumping. A couple was fighting in a driveway while a child sat in the car. By the time we arrived, the parents were gone. The child was with his grandparents. Any argument was denied. The child was safe.

We drove around again looking at other spots where criminal activity was known to take place.

A call came out for an apartment complex we'd just passed. Someone was sleeping outside in the common area and might have been looking for drugs earlier. Officer Camillo and another officer went to talk to him. After hearing his story, they were able to ascertain he'd done nothing illegal and found him shelter for the night.

We searched for another criminal who'd pulled a knife in a lobby somewhere, but we didn't find him.

We followed a couple of suspicious cars and Officer Camillo pulled license plates to make sure there were no warrants, stolen car alerts, or other criminal activity related to the car or the car's owner. One car showed up as having formerly been listed as stolen but no longer was; however, the female owner had a restraining order out against a male and a male was driving, so Officer Camillo confirmed via photo the driver wasn't the male with the restraining order. We went on our way.

We chatted about family, life, and police work as we drove around Albany. There were many times when I had no idea where I was and then would suddenly recognize something and feel anchored again.

It was an interesting experience. Officer Camillo kept apologizing that there wasn't more action for me to see, but that's not such a bad thing. As much as I would've liked to see more of the police at work, crime not taking place is a good thing. Besides, it was a reminder that law enforcement really isn't anything like what we see on television or read in books. A lot of it is finding the details to make the puzzle pieces fit and that can be quite mundane.

He encouraged me to sign up for another ride-a-long and suggested August, since apparently that's when you get some really busy nights. I just might have to see if I can make that work...

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