As day turned into night, the fluorescent words jumped off the computer screen while their fingers moved quickly across the keyboard. The radio was as busy as the activity on the streets. Some people love to hate them, but most welcome their presence. I am speaking of our men and women in blue, the Minneapolis police.
I have always felt that I was very sharp in observation and multi-tasking, but on this ride my skills where put to shame. Calls coming in one right after another– bike stolen, burglary in progress, shots fired, domestic argument, males with guns, male with box cutter, drugs being sold, possible DOA — the calls go on, and on. In a moment’s notice the scenarios change from minor to major.
One call we responded to was “male with gun seen around church.” As we approached the scene, I noticed the area was not well lit. I was asked to stay in the car, as the officers exited with their guns pulled. As I watched them maneuver carefully around the church, I heard glass break. I found myself looking all around. Everything was silent, not a soul to be seen. I realized at that moment, and many more times that evening, that these officers are always walking into the unknown, never knowing what may be around that corner. I know that sounds clichéd—until you feel what I felt that night. I felt like we could be anyone’s target. Nothing is out there shielding them from harm. They are the protectors, but who protects them?
Another call took us to a bar, where a man claimed to have been robbed. After the police listened patiently to the intoxicated man’s story, it became clear pretty fast that he was hustled out of his money. What should have been an easy call quickly turned into another situation. The officers noticed a non-handicap vehicle parked in the handicap spot and asked the owner to remove it, as it was parked illegally. The owner was on his cell phone, and said he would. The officer waited, and asked him a second time to move it. The guy, still on his cell, acknowledged the officer but still kept talking. The officer asked him a third time, and the guy finally went to the truck, and just sat in it, still on his phone. At this point the officer said, “Let me see your license,” and started writing out a ticket. Now the guy started flipping out, screaming harassment. The officer stated that he had asked him three times to move the vehicle, and the guy stated he was being harassed because he did not move fast enough, which I can tell you is absolute crap. The guy seemed to be riding the edge with his emotions, and was making a big scene out of something he created.
As we continued to cruise the streets, the officers would acknowledge all that they encountered, as they constantly observed the area. When I heard the sirens, I knew it was time to sit back for the ride. I was impressed at how smoothly they navigated the streets considering the speed they were traveling. They worked together, communicating from one intersection to the next until they reached their destination.
On one such stop there was a woman lying on the sidewalk at a corner with people surrounding her. She didn’t seem to be breathing, and was unresponsive, her eyes rolled up into her head. The officers administered help until the fire department’s medical team and an ambulance arrived. I have always witnessed police in action from a distance or in a stiff business-type atmosphere and have never noticed before the compassion that they do deliver.
Now I know that some might say they were on their best behavior for my benefit, but I can honestly say that was absolutely not the case. They did their job. They did it fast. They did it with precision. I was impressed with their ability to handle what could have easily escalated into violence, but instead resulted in successfully pacifying the scene.
Am I saying the police have no problems? No, I am not. Like everyone’s workplace, there is always room for improvement, but under the pressure, and circumstances they work under I witnessed nothing but professionalism. I wonder if any of the police critics have ever done a ride-along. The saying, “walked in another man’s shoes” comes to mind, and unless you’ve experienced the environment that a Minneapolis cop must endure, I might think twice about being so critical. Watching the action from your three-season porch earns you nothing. It’s like watching the game from the nose bleed section; you miss what’s actually happening on the field.
We need to remember our police force provides one of the most important and essential functions of a civil democracy. They provide security, to the best of their ability, on a daily basis and put their lives at risk doing it. We should never forget that.