On the Job: No dull moments during police shiftWritten by Brian Malkowski | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Editor’s Note: Reporter Brian Malkowski will spend shifts at various Toledo workplaces to offer insight into the people who work some of the area’s most interesting jobs.
In August 2010, more than 1,000 people took the civil service exam to join the Toledo Police Department. With that many people interested in one of the most dangerous and stressful jobs Toledo has to offer, it made me wonder if these individuals really know what they’re getting into. What is it like to be a police officer?
At 6 a.m., a mother is packing lunches, getting kids dressed and waiting for the school bus. At 8 a.m. she’s off to the gym for a spin class. She heads back home to do some work around the house and hit the shower because her day hasn’t even started yet. That’s because Officer Michelle Sterling, a 19-year veteran, is due in Downtown Toledo at The Safety Building.
At 2:30 p.m., officers are in roll call getting briefed and having their weapons inspected. After roll call, Officer Sterling and her partner Officer Greg Szymanski head to their cruiser to put in their “hard eight.” They call in for service and check the computer for calls in their area. The two officers work the North End and are part of Weed and Seed, a community-based, comprehensive, multi-agency approach to combating violent crime, drug use and gang activity in high-crime neighborhoods.
During my ridealong, I learned there’s never a dull moment in the North End. Petty theft, burglary, solicitation, disorderly conduct, domestic disputes and traffic violations are just some of the crimes that keep this crew busy. I saw how the use of information technology makes it faster and easier to perform police work. The computer they use has a few extra features that other cruisers don’t have, such as a GPS, an online mug shot database, and the ability to text message the dispatcher. This allows the dispatcher to talk with several crews at the same time and keeps information off police scanners.
They responded to a call about a 49-year-old male shoplifting at a grocery store. The store had him on camera stealing food two days in a row. The man was arrested for petty theft and told never to return to the store. On the ride to Lucas County Jail, the officers ran his ID and pulled his mug shot and history up on the computer. The crime he committed joined a long record.
Hell on wheels
The strangest call of the night was for a disorderly man at the Greyhound bus station. We walked in to see a man in a motorized wheelchair who appeared to be intoxicated. He had been denied entry to the bus for yelling obscenities to the others in the station and would have to wait two days for another bus.
Once the officers arrived, they tried to calm the man down as he continued with disorderly behavior. This was the first call of its kind for Officer Szymanski, who remained cool for 15 minutes as the man threatened him. The officers tried to find him a place to stay for the night, however, the man continued to be disorderly and was placed under arrest.
Four officers picked him up still in his scooter and placed him in the back of the police van.
At night, the old Polish neighborhood is better known as the Red Light District. We had just turned onto Lagrange Street and noticed a female leaning inside a car. Once she saw the cruiser she began to walk away. The officers pulled up and called her over to the car. They ran her ID and discovered she had priors for solicitation. Officer Sterling performed a pat down and a crack pipe was found. She was cuffed, arrested and taken to jail. On the way to the jail I was amazed that the female didn’t care that she was being arrested but was only concerned that her picture was going to be displayed in one of the local crime rags found in carryouts.
Speed and surprise
This ridealong was a great experience and I saw firsthand what it’s like and what it takes to be a police officer. One of the general duties listed in the civil service commission for a police officer is maintaining a balanced perspective in the face of constant exposure to the worst side of human nature. Dangerous situations in unknown environments are an everyday occurrence. If you have ever seen a cruiser in hot pursuit and wondered how fast they can get from point A to point B, trust me — it’s fast. When a unit hits the lights and sirens, city streets turn into an expressway.
The officers I rode with attend neighborhood meetings where residents’ concerns are heard. Because of these meetings, the officers know the residents and the area’s criminals by name. Later in the night during my ridealong, the officers were looking for a gentleman with numerous warrants. They questioned a resident if they had seen the gentleman and five minutes later they had him in custody. The officers were surprised how fast they found him.
I was very impressed with Officers Sterling and Szymanski and all the other officers I met. If you see police officers, shake their hands and thank them for their hard work.