Saturday, October 30, 2004

Ride Along Debriefing Part One

The Littlest Officer

So how was the ride-along, Abby?

I got to the North Precinct a little before 5pm. At the beginning of the shift is role call. There is a literal role call in a room with school desks. All the officers are chatting and laughing and telling stories. The lieutenant and another guy (a sergeant?) came in and did a literal role call like in a school room. After that, he made a few announcements, then there was a prayer for safety or all the officers on that shift.

Next, there was a presentation about gangs in Memphis. This wasn’t general. It was really specific. The guy who did the presentation knew a LOT about gangs in Memphis. He told us about the origins of each gang and showed us pictures of what each gang member’s symbols were, how to tell one from the other. He showed us mug shots of the leaders of the local gangs and told us where they lived (“Leader X lives in such and such apartments at such and such intersection with his mother.”) What was really interesting was how he knew what each gang considered a “dis.” I don’t remember the specific words, but if you were in doubt about a certain person, you could accuse them of being a “Lilly Mae” or whatever. If they got really riled up, you’d know you had the right gang.

After dismissal, all of the officers wandered around checking out shotguns and cars (they aren’t in the same car every time). The car keys were on hooks on the wall like at a valet. We went out to the parking lot, talking to others as we went. I was with a African-American female officer. She was 41 and really pretty, with full makeup, and on the short side. She and I spend a really long time setting up the car, getting things out of her car, getting all the right paperwork together, putting Skin So Soft all over us to protect ourselves from mosquitos, then she loaded the shotgun and put it in the locked holder inside the car. The car was really dirty, and she had wet wipes that she had us use to clean it up. It wasn’t as tricked out inside as I would have thought. The windows weren’t bullet-proof, and when you got in and out of the car, the doors didn’t lock in any special way. There was a radio but no special computer on board, no GPS devises, nothing like that.

We rode with the windows down so we could hear outside the car more easily. She drove without a seatbelt because she said that it was too hard to get out quickly on a moment’s notice. In the car, the car radio was on, the police radio was on, her individual radio was on, and her phone kept ringing (it had this funny Jamaican steel drum song on it… she’d been to Jamaica a few weeks ago on vacation). It went off all night. Sometimes it was her son, sometimes it was her boyfriend, sometimes friends, sometimes other police officers.

The officers were all very social with one another. Because I was with one of only two women from the precinct on the shift, and because she was so pretty, lots of officers liked talking to her. There was low-level flirting going on all night. That was kind of funny to me. We were supposed to meet several other officers on duty for dinner, but that never happened. We were too busy to get there. Instead of dinner at 7pm, we got dinner at 11pm!

The first call we got was to a “hit and run with no injuries.” When we got there, it was a little different than we’d first thought. A woman in a small car hit the side of an 18-wheeler. It seems either one or the other of them had run the red light, but it was unclear exactly who was at fault. The 18-wheeler had not noticed that he’d been hit because he had a full load and didn’t feel the impact because it was so far at the back of his loaded trailer. A car waved him down a block or two down the road to tell him what had happened, so he pulled over and walked back to the scene. When we got there, his wife and child had met him there. The woman in the car said she was injured. We called an ambulance. No one reported clearly what had happened. Both parties were concerned about being blamed. Both parties got a citation and were going to have to fight it out in traffic court. The woman in the car had a license that had been expired for 6 years and no insurance. We had to go to the emergency room and give her the citation for everything which sucked. The officer I was with was really angry at the woman because she felt the woman had lied to her. It was stressful being there in the emergency room giving this woman the ticket when she really did seem to be injured. I mean, she hit a semi with the front of her car, and the front end was all smashed up. I’m sure she’s going to have back issues as a result.

The other call we went on (there were only two since both took so long) was supposed to be a CIT (Crisis Intervention Team) call. We were told that there was a “violent mental consumer” at a certain address. They don’t call people perpetrators. They call them consumers, which I found bizarre. “Mental patients” or “mental consumers” require that a CIT-trained officer be there, and they usually show up with three cars. We ended up at this call with 6 officers and me. Before we went to the house, we all met in a nearby parking lot. I so wanted to take a picture of this (goofy me). The cars were all pulled up, some facing one way, some facing another. The windows were all lined up, and everyone’s windows were open, so all the officers could talk to each other and figure out how to approach this situation. There was one other CIT-trained officer there besides the one I was riding with. My officer said she was there “for training purposes” (i.e., for me) and was pissed when they expected her to be the lead car because she didn’t have much information about the situation. The other CIT officer kept saying, “I’m not really here,” which didn’t make sense to me or to my officer. So the point is that it wasn’t the most clear call, and no one knew that much. My officer was really annoyed about that. I’ll write more later on. This is plenty to sink your teeth into for now.