Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Ride-Along Part 2

The rest of the ride along. I won’t be organized about it. I’m too pissed about the election.

The scariest part of the evening came after we went to the house where the “violent mental consumer” was supposed to be. I was expecting someone screaming throwing things. We pulled up after meeting briefly around the corner (I wrote about that before). There were 6 police officers (and me) in 4 cars. The house looked dark. I was very nervous. In the car, I asked if I should come in with her. She said that was the only way I could see a CIT call. I was scared, but I decided to do it (a real act of bravery for me). I got out of the car and suddenly became very aware of my chest and back being exposed (police officers wear bulletproof vests). We walked up to the dark house. I positioned myself between two officers, not wanting to be the last person to walk up, nor the first person. They always go to CIT calls with backup, so this was typical. The officers had flashlights aimed at the door and their hands on their weapons. They knocked loudly on the front door. A 28 year-old African-American woman (I’ll call her Miss X) answered the door. She had clearly been sleeping, not at all what I was expecting. The lead CIT officer was in charge of the call.

This woman was talking a lot about details of her life and her day. She was coherent, but she wasn’t giving us enough background for us to understand what she was saying. The officer asked many organizing questions. It’s hard to explain, but basically here’s what we finally gleaned from talking to her and from making a few calls to the hospital emergency room. Miss X lives with her mother, her mother’s common law husband, and another woman who moved in recently. Miss X clearly didn’t like this new woman who had moved in. The mother of Miss X is not healthy and has to take several types of medication. Her daughter is the one who gives her medication. She doesn’t like anyone else to do that. Well, Miss X is also on medication. TennCare (Tennessee’s version of Medicare) will only prescribe medication for 30 days at a time, but sometimes the appointments they make are further apart than 30 days. Turns out this woman had run out of her meds about two weeks ago. On the day of the night we were there, she had overdosed her mother, and her mother ended up in the emergency room.

What was interesting about this call was how the lead officer spoke to this woman. He kept her thoughts organized by asking simple questions. And when he arrested her, it was so casual that I didn’t even know that was what had happened. He asked, “Sweetheart, you got some shoes you can put on?” And when she panicked saying she couldn’t possibly leave the house because there weren’t keys and she couldn’t get back in, he told her he’d call her mother and get more keys and take care of everything. They cuffed her, and she went into our car.

We drove her south to the triage assessment center at the big hospital downtown, not before missing our exit and ending up in Arkansas. The triage assessment center was a grim and horrible place. It was cramped and dirty and small. There was a woman there playing with her Treo and debating through the glass with one of the patients in a way I found appalling. I’d get her fired if I could. It was not a pretty place, and I hate that people who are psychotic, scared, out of their heads have to go some place like that.

After that lovely experience, we still hadn’t eaten. It was 11pm. We got to the Rendezvous at 11:05pm, and a cop watching the door let us in anyway. They didn’t want to feed us until the old guy working there saw that she was a cop. His son is also a cop and works in her precinct. We asked for anything they wanted to give us. We each got a full rack of ribs plus sides. They didn’t charge us either. We tipped though.

We drove through some pretty scary neighborhoods to get to a Police substation in a really sketchy part of town. A friend of hers was there after her shift. She’d been hanging out in the substation with an on-duty, plainclothes officer who she likes. The male officer left, then we ate our ribs and the two of them talked about this boy who’d been there. It was like high school or something very bizarre. After that, my officer gave me a ride home.

I learned a lot about police culture. I’m so glad I did it, but I don’t think I’ll be doing it again. It was a hard thing to do. It isn’t in my blood. I’m so glad I saw a CIT call and that it wasn’t a dangerous situation (even though going in, it TOTALLY felt dangerous). I’m even gladder I didn’t see horrible violence or anything too inerasable. What a relief. More training this Friday, but luckily, the ride-along is now behind me, and I survived.

Two more election-related posts below. Don't forget to read those, too.