Last Friday night from 4pm-12am I rode in a squad car. I was up front, so breathe a sigh of relief. I’m too old and “responsible” to be in the back. I did it for research but I ended up with something more than fodder for my novel.
It was a classic Portland night, rain with a little extra cold and ice on the side — or on top if that suits you. Ice storms are a real treat, but thankfully we were on the tail end of it.
It was a slow night. Vice was doing a “mission” — they were undercover busting drug dealers in Old Town, so we had to stay away lest we scare the miscreants off with a black and white patrolling the streets. The first call was a complaint after the fact. A man had crashed into a shrub, most likely due to the mix of ice and a very steep hill. The call was made because the suspect fled the scene. This usually means no insurance, a warrant or something else nefarious. All the officer could do was take down the plate and report the incident. The next call was a DUII (Driving Under the Influence of Intoxicants). It was tough to watch a person in his mid-thirties on his way home from work after tying one on with his buddies fail the FST, field sobriety test, then see him cry because he knew his life just took a hard left. Like I said, slow night. Portland is not that exciting and I like it that way.
By the end of shift I learned a few things. My favorite: if you get in trouble and don’t want to sit in jail, say you swallowed drugs and keep your mouth shut. The jail won’t take you because of the possibility you might die from the drugs you swallowed and the officer has better things to do than sit with you and wait for you to crap out the drugs. You’ll be let go, unless you did something really bad, then you’re screwed. I also learned that people tell more to an officer than is necessary. It’s as if they are compelled to ensure their innocence even when they aren’t a suspect. This generally leads to self-incrimination. But all you have to do is watch The First 48 to know that.
Officer London Westerlund, who I rode with, along with all the officers I met, were kind, thoughtful and very funny. They didn’t want to hurt people, blast them with tasers and itch their trigger fingers. They were proud civil servants who were excited that I was along for the ride to see what they do on a daily basis.
I would suggest going on a ride along. It’s fun, informative and you might get to see something exciting. Either way, it will get you out of your routine and give you a glimpse into the part of society you might not know much about.
The only true villain that night was the ice.