By John Paul Valdez
This column has dedicated itself to pocketbook issues, and largely to the explanation of how movements in the economy affect our monthly or daily budgets at home where we really live. I came away from an afternoon with a police officer on duty with a new sense of the extraordinary value added to our homes and community by those who serve and protect others.
I had always thought that before I write a column about the police that I should probably see how they work in real life instead of taking my experience from TV or the internet, and Friday I was finally granted a ride along with Officer Gonzales. He started out the shift with five or six different radio calls of varying gravity and distance and had to decide how best to serve the community without delay of any kind. Choose. Go. Unfortunately, no one wrote him a nicely written script about what would happen next, and we proceeded through the next four hours in a constant state of alertness and calm professionalism in a very fast, unpredictably dangerous, immediately changing city.
He continuously ran into situations that were extremely volatile and remained focused and centered and calm and cool, de-escalating the entire situation into the least likely to hurt anyone around him at all times. At one point, we had to go to the county jail with some persons who had warrants and he was able to spot every person on an entire floor without handcuffs on in a room of 40 people moving about. That’s observant beyond most people’s capacity for certain. They work as a team and try to meet one another on the more dangerous calls, but often simply don’t have the manpower. In the big cities we see two officers in a car, not here. Canine services? Nope. SWAT teams have to be contracted out.
I heard gravel crunching underfoot just behind me as they sought out a person with a warrant at one house. Scary stuff. You’ll appreciate a professional there I can assure you.
Running into burglarized homes without knowing who might be inside is an experience unlike anything I’ve ever seen live. It’s very unsettling. A neighbor was contacted and the house was secured before we left. A stolen car was used in a crime, but the car had been auctioned off from its last owner allowing the officer to inform the last owner that the issue had disappeared in his regard anyhow. This built trust in the neighborhood as the officer was able to ask about the car without antagonizing the former owner in any way. It’s amazing to watch people skills at work, combined with savvy use of inside information.
In a domestic dispute, a child was seriously hurt, and this is very difficult to even hear, heart breaking. Our officers are there. I left the evening during only one third of one shift as an experience and I was overwhelmed and quite exhausted. Scared even. I also felt humbled about certain views we can harbor from having had some completely unimportant experience in the much larger scheme of things. Let’s be careful not to judge. At one point the officer was trying to help a small child cross a street and the child ran away abandoning his little play car. Sad. The police are there to help.
Today, when I read that two officers had just been shot in Las Vegas at point blank range while they ate lunch, I felt sick. We must remember that these individuals serve and protect others in a job with no script, and a job that may have them not coming home after that 12 hour shift. Our specific police officers know our city like no other. How much is that worth, city council? We’ll know soon.
Questions and comments to: JohnPaulValdez@gmail.com