Hey Crime Stoppers! In this blog post, I thought I would write about something a little different. As the Crime Stoppers’ summer intern, I was fortunate enough to go on a ride along with an Atlanta City Police officer. The following is my experience and some observations from a lay person’s point of view. I do not claim to be an expert on APD procedures or the area in which I did my ride along. These are purely my perceptions. In addition, I am withholding names and specific locations. This is in order to protect the Atlanta Police Department and the community members I came into contact with.
I did my ride along in the 3rd of the six zones which the Atlanta Police cover. These neighborhoods include: Capitol View, Capitol View Manor, Joyland, Lakewood Heights, Mechanicsville, Peoplestown, Pittsburgh, Summer Hill, Villages at Carver, Moreland Avenue. The officer I was riding with, who I will refer to as “Officer #1”, has been an APD officer for about a year. He told me that he did his training in Zone 3 and was glad that he was eventually placed there. After we exchanged in some pleasantries, he showed me a map of his “beat” or the area he patrols and highlighted the “problem” areas on his beat. Officer #1 had his beat and the area of Zone 3 completely memorized. He knew street names and locations of establishments. His in-depth knowledge of the area he works was incredible.
With my bulletproof vest on, Officer #1 led me to his police cruiser. He explained the preliminary procedures he has to do before he begins his shift. Check the lights, mileage, the back seat, and several other things. He started the car and we were on our way.
The first thing I noticed about Zone 3 was the level of living. Officer #1’s beat is not entirely run down, but most of the area is sadly of the lower socioeconomic status. It is mostly residential neighborhoods. There were many houses, apartments, gas stations, local food markets (small convenience store types), and some very nice parks.
Inside the car, I was able to hear the dispatch and look at the laptop screen and read what the dispatch wrote. When dispatch sends on officer to the location, he or she notifies the officer through the radio and through information on the computer. The information includes essentials such as where the officer is going, the type of situation, a description of the victims/suspects, and other helpful information. Listening to the radio provides more immediate information from dispatch and other officers. It also allows for officers to drive and listen – rather than listen and reading and driving.
I had a very short to get familiar with the technology inside the car before dispatch sent us to our first call. The call was a woman who had called about a burglary at her apartment. When officer #1 and I arrived at her apartment, she explained that she believed her ex boyfriend had copied one of her keys and used it to steal her money from her apartment. Officer #1 asked her the victim’s information and said that he would write a report of the incident. We returned to the car and drove a short distance to a gas station to do the report. Officer #1 explained to me that the gas station has occasional problems with security and we were doing the report to “make our presence known” and “be seen”. This was something that I really respected about Officer #1. His policing was methodical and was purely in the interest of the community. He understood the importance of being seen by community members so they know the police are there to help, assist, and protect. So, as we were making our presence at this gas station known, Officer #1 was also showing me how to fill out an incident report. The information includes the victim’s information, the suspect’s information (if given), the type of crime, and a narrative of the situation.
After he sent the report in, we drove to a lot across the street from a convenience store that had requested police presence because their security cameras were down. Officer #1 was able to park in a location that allowed for him to survey the store while also seeing a stop light which often has traffic issues. We were at this location for a few minutes and then a call came in on the radio. In seconds, Officer #1 put the car in drive, turned on the sirens, and sped out of the lot. I was surprised but intrigued to see what call we were going to. About thirty seconds after the call came through, though, Officer #1 slowed down. He explained that another officer has asked for all units to assist her at her location, but later withdrew all units to just one. Another officer, who was closer than us, was going to help her. Policing can move that fast. One moment you are doing a minor patrol and suddenly you are in an emergency situation. It is exciting but it requires police to always be on their toes. They always have to be listening and aware.
Officer #1 and I went to 1-2 minor calls and then something truly interesting happened. Officer #1 and another Officer (I will call him Officer #2) were called to an interesting scene. A man had called the police because he claimed a group men began hitting his car when he was parked in a parking lot. After about an hour and a half after the call, Officer #1 and #2 had the real story. This man, who was drunk on gin and redbull, had solicited a prostitute. While she was in the car with the caller, her pimps came by the car. The caller said he fled the car and went to call the police. While he was calling the police, the prostitute and her pimps robbed the caller’s car. This call taught me that people lie to police. This sounds like an obvious statement, but I did not realize the extent. Officer #1 and #2 spent over an hour trying to understand the caller’s story. He told the police that the prostitute was his friend and “all of a sudden” these men, for no reason, started beating on his car. It did not make sense and it was even more suspicious because the caller could not get his story straight. The irony was not lost on us; he was the one to call the police for others and almost got arrested himself.
Although this is a very brief description of my ride along, I believe I have shared enough to make my point. Not only did a learn more about policing on my ride along, but I now have a even greater respect for police. Policing is exciting and fast paced sometimes, but police also have to do logistical work. Policemen and women have to be street smart – Knowing the people of their beats, who they are and what they do. Police need to identify the problem areas and value the importance of making their presence known in the community they are protecting. They also have to be quick on their feet and be aware of their surroundings constantly. At the same time, though, they have to be book smart. They must know the laws which are constantly changing and have a firm grasp on complex police procedures. It takes a very intelligent and well-rounded person to be an excellent police officer. I was given the opportunity to see officers who exhibit this behavior in big and small ways. It was a chance to see justice in action rather than just reading or hearing about it. My challenge to you, Crime Stoppers, is to do a ride along in your city or county. Take the opportunity to learn how policing works and what the issues in your community are!
To do a ride along in your city or county, call the non emergency line to the headquarters or visit their website!