As part of my Leadership Twin Cities class we are required to do a ride-along with a police officer. I did mine this past Friday, but having never been in a squad car I wasn’t sure what to expect.
By the end of the night I had seen bar fights, street fights, and drug arrests; experienced a high speed police car response; saw police with shotguns; and was present when the officer I was with drew his pistol, and when he used mace. I also donned a police jacket as I accompanied the officers on foot at bar closing time.
For the sake of propriety I’ll call the two Minneapolis Police Department officers I rode with, Officer A and Officer B.
1. A report of two men exchanging drugs outside Block E. A description from a surveillance camera was given and off we went. “We are going to pull up and get out really quick,” said Officer A. Arriving at the scene, both officers jumped out of the car and were soon searching the individuals concerned. I stood nearby, watching. So too did everyone outside Block E. Both were then put in the back of the car as I sat in the front. Unable to find drugs they could not be charged and were released.
2. We were flagged down by a disheveled-looking man close to the Salvation Army homeless shelter. “I have a gift from the chief,” he said, and began to dig around in a large canvas bag he was carrying. It was dark, we were in an area full of crack dealers, and he was inches away from the front passenger window. I was nervous. Bizarrely, he then pulled out a letter he claimed was from the Chief of Police, before telling us that “someone” in the area was dealing crack to minors. Not enough to go on said Officer A. As we drove away, Officer B told me, “Sitting in the back you wouldn’t have seen, but I pulled my gun out. It was pointing at his chest.”
3. On the radio came a call “Officer needs help!” It was in North Minneapolis. The officers looked at each other and the decision was made: they would respond. Within seconds the siren was sounding and we were speeding north on Washington Avenue at 80, perhaps 90 mph, streaking through one red light after another in pursuit of another squad car. Although nervous, I had an adrenaline rush. This was exciting!
Arriving at a house we were met by 12 squad cars, all with their lights flashing. The disturbance—whatever it was--had just been resolved but dozens of police officers were standing around, some wielding shotguns. The smell of burning rubber from screeching tires still hung in the air as we got out to investigate. Officer A told me that some cops were carrying M16s, because “even though a shotgun is more intimidating, it won’t penetrate a wall.”
4. At bar closing time the officers asked whether I wanted to go on foot patrol with them along 1st Avenue. I agreed and was given a police jacket to wear so that other officers might know who I am “should things get out of control.” I saw numerous disturbances, including someone who had been beaten, his face covered in blood. On each occasion I stood nearby observing.
1. Report of domestic assault. Accompanied 5 officers to apartment building near Grant Park. A woman came out to speak with female officer but wouldn’t talk.
2. Woman passed out drunk near the Salvation Army shelter was carried off by paramedics.
3. Woman stopped for changing lanes without signaling. Screamed abuse at Officer A when questioned. Drugs found in car. Handcuffed and taken to jail. She had multiple violations.
4. Nicollet & 5th. Fight involving about 10 people. Eight squad cars arrived. Arrests made.
5. Report of a gang of 30 people and gunshots on Cedar Riverside. We took off at high speed, siren blaring and lights flashing but were told it was a non situation by the time we approached Seven Corners.
6. Officer B used mace to disburse a gang at parking ramp who refused to move.
What I learned:
1. CCTV cameras are everywhere Downtown
2. The number of times police punch license plate numbers into the computer would surprise you
3. If you wear a police jacket people will treat you like a cop, some with respect; others with contempt
4. Abusing an officer will only serve to annoy them
5. Most squad cars carry serious firepower
6. When another officer needs help cops respond in force
7. Apart from the 90 mph chase (occurred early on), although often apprehensive, I felt little fear; perhaps the adrenaline masked it.
8. People make dumb decisions when drunk
9. There is a side of life out there that is a daily reality for many; but out of sight and ignored by others.
At 3 am they took me to my car. We shook hands. Officer A said, “It has been a little quiet. Sorry we couldn’t get you a shooting or nothing.”
"That’s alright,” I said, smiling, “I think we did ok.”
Footnote: My friend Maureen (from Leadership Twin Cities) did her ride-along a couple of weeks ago. Check out her experience at Mad About New.