Friday, August 28, 2009

Taking My Ticket To Ride

As part of one of the committees that I sit on, I had the opportunity to participate in a ‘ride-along’ with the Hamilton Police Service. I did so on a Friday night 7pm to 7am shift recently. I hope you enjoy my synopsis of the evening.

My partner for the evening was P.C. Maddick, a fourth year constable with the Hamilton Police Services, one of 6 female officers on this particular shift, and also one of the senior officers that evening. One of the first observations that I noted was that for each of the calls we attended with other officers, there was a brief conversation beforehand to establish roles and responsibilities for each of the officers attending. They also ran background checks on all of the calls, to ensure their safety and to understand the possibilities of what could transpire during the call.
Our evening together started off slow, cruising the streets running license plates, walking about the area parks, and ensuring that we were visible to the community we were patrolling. This actually turned out to be a good thing, because it allowed for the two of us to get to know each other and establish a comfort level, which was vitally important, as Maddick was responsible for my safety. She not only had to watch out for her safety on the job, but now she had a civilian along for the ride, whom she was responsible to ensure that I returned in the same condition as I started the shift.

The first calls of the evening were of the lower priority type: custodial complaints, noise concerns, swimmers in a closed public pool…generally the type wherein warnings were issued after it was ascertained that no prior convictions or warrants were on record for the individuals in question. We dealt with punk-ass kids who felt they were above the law, and not required to respect those in authority. It will be very interesting to see where these folks will end up as they get older.
My first adrenaline rush came on a call that took us to the rural area of Hamilton. We were responding to a noise complaint, but there was a history between the complainant and the accused. Upon further investigation before attending the call, the accused had a prior history with the police. So here we are, myself and two other officers, attending a call at a rural location in the dead of the night…and there are barking dogs on site…we can’t see them clearly, but we know they’re present. Now, I am not a fan of dogs on farms, I’ve had one too many negative experiences with farm dogs, so my affliction to them is warranted. After the accused assured us that the dogs were secure, a heated conversation is had between the officers and the accused. I was amazed at the calmness of the officers, always in control, and demonstrating preparedness if the chat did not go as intended. As they finished the conversation and headed back to the cars, we were alerted that the dogs were no longer secure. I ran as fast as I could to the car, and dove in the passenger seat, closed the door and watched with great amazement as the officers attending quickly assessed their options without panicking (as I had just done!). The dogs were secured by their owners, and off we were to another call. I was quietly checking my pants to ensure that they were still clean!!

Our last call of the night involved a neighbourhood dispute which had turned into a bit of a fisticuff between some of the residents and guests. The call was attended by several officers, including the sergeant, who oversaw those attending to ensure that everyone had a role in obtaining information as to what had happened. There was clear frustration among the officers in attendance, as obtaining information as to what had happened was hampered by drunken witnesses, and feuding neighbours who were visibly upset and offered subjective accounts of what had happened, versus objective observations. Calls of this nature are time consuming, and can cause grief for others looking for quicker responses for their concerns, and grief for those at the call, as closure is a long ways off.

Overall, my experience of the night was enlightening, and I gained new found respect for those officers who work the beat. I was impressed with how they approached each call, regardless of the priority assigned to the call. And, on a personal note, because I was partnered with a female officer, I gained a new sense of some of the additional obstacles that they face, as well as an increased appreciation of their value on the Force. Given some of the obstinate individuals we had the pleasure of dealing with; their presence alone immediately defused some of the tensions, as their appeared to be a temperance on the male’s part to be overly aggressive. I could feel the aggression kick in when they wanted to know who I was…let’s just say, I made sure I stood in the background as much as possible!

I would like to thank the Hamilton Police Services, Superintendent Ken Bond, and Sergeant Dave Hennick for the opportunity to participate in the ‘ride-along’. And most of all, PC Mallory Maddick for putting up with this shadow on her Friday night shift.

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