Sitting Shotgun…LITERALLY

I don’t like the term “bucket list” because it’s not a pleasing visual and because it sounds way too much like “kick the bucket” but I haven’t figured out anything that sounds more Princess-y.

Let me think…

Dream list? No.

Hurry-up-and-do-things-before-you-die list? Truth, but nope.

Fantasy fulfillment? MAYBE.

Enchanted experiences? YES! I like that a lot. Enchanted experiences it is.

Whatever you call it, I’ve always been interested in what I am not.

Like when I thought I had what it took to be a movie star, I was cast as a streetwalker in a Marty Feldman film (I won’t tell you which one haha.)  I had a vague idea of the job skills of your average streetwalker, but I still did my research and hung around the Gaslamp District downtown to study the behavior of the local streetwalker in her natural habitat.

Apparently, I was a good student, because on the day of the shoot, after my scenes were wrapped, I was walking back to my car still dressed in my costume, and was REALLY AND TRULY propositioned by a man who thought I was a for realz working girl. I was so happy a security guard came to my rescue. Job well done! (Well, not really, but you know what I mean.)

And then there was that brief moment in time right after college and before I did my fifth year to become a teacher, where I thought I wanted to be a TV journalist, so I interned \at a local TV station, an NBC affiliate.

I covered a few crimes, did several live remotes, and learned how to write sharp and succinct copy, a talent I think I’ve totally forgotten, by the way.

Once again, I didn’t stick with that career path either, but I had a lot of fun, until it got boring.

Apparently, I have a short attention span.

My city offers something called the Citizen’s Academy. It’s a free, seven-week program designed to help us learn about our city government to become better informed and involved citizens.

During the police and fire safety class, I asked if it would be possible to schedule a ride along with a police officer. That’s another career I’ve always been fascinated with. I would never have been able to go into police work because of the whole uniform thing. I mean, seriously, not to be able to choose what I want to wear? The same thing EVERY SINGLE DAY? No way. That would be TORTURE. SERIOUSLY.

A couple of weeks later, I got a phone call to arrange a time where I could join an officer during his shift. I chose Friday night because I wanted to see what happens during a DUI stop.

Here’s my public service announcement: DO NOT DRINK AND DRIVE! There’s absolutely no excuse when there’s Lyft or taxis. It’s not worth it.

So that’s what I did last night. I met the officer at the police station after he had a shift briefing. My first question was regarding where I would sit,  front or back. I’m so glad it was the front, which is much more pleasant.

The officer wore body armor; I did not.

I had spent quite a few days coordinating an appropriate outfit…seriously, what does one wear to sit in a police car as an observer for a few hours?

This is what I chose: skinny jeans, white long sleeved jersey top, a sweater with vegan suede, studded boots, and a animal print silk scarf. FullSizeRender (3).jpg

Don’t laugh; this kind of thing is very important to me.

I’ll keep the officer’s name private, because I don’t think it’s necessary to share.

He was a great host. A modern day police car is really a fully functional office with computers and license plate readers and GUNS! I’ve never been around a gun, never shot a gun, I’ve never even held a gun. EVER. He had an AR15 and another kind of shotgun or rifle, as well as the gun he wears in a holster, a Sig Sauer–and they are ALL LOADED. LOADED WITH BULLETS. 

We got our first call, a welfare check of a mom and her children. I had to sit in the car because domestic calls can often become volatile, so I sat with the engine running (they leave the motor running all the time by the way) and wondered for a split second what would happen if I drove away. (I found out later that there’s a kill switch just in case that happens.) Another police car showed up and they both went in and returned in about fifteen minutes. There was nothing wrong; an ex-girlfriend of the mother’s boyfriend made a fake call because she was being vindictive. Just babymamadrama, but good to know the children were OK.

We drove back to the beach looking for some action. We got another call about a stolen vehicle and drove to the vicinity but didn’t locate it.

It was such a strange experience to sit in a police car. It was still light out and people were staring at me. I’m sure they couldn’t figure out what I was doing there, so I waved and smiled at everyone. Super cool!

Back on the road, we were called to assist another officer with a non-emergency, when we got re-dispatched to a possible burglary. This time, it was lights and sirens and about 100 mph running red lights and OH EM GEE, it was SO EXCITING!

Again, I had to sit in the car, but I could see what was going on. It wasn’t exactly a burglary, but it was somehow drug related, and the guy had to be handcuffed because he was being slightly combative and not following directions. At this point, five other police cars showed up and I was starting to rethink my decision to try on a more adventurous life. I mean, should I get out and run away? I didn’t want to see too much reality. I can only take tiny bites of real life at any given time.

While I was sitting there, I could hear all the other calls on the radio. There were a few accidents, mostly DUI-related, a group of kids were on the roof of the high school, and the saddest one was a possibly suicidal young adult who was being transported to the hospital on a 5150, a section of the California Welfare and Institutions Code (WIC) which authorizes a qualified officer or clinician to involuntarily confine a person suspected to have a mental disorder that makes them a danger to themselves, a danger to others, and/or gravely disabled.

It was getting late. I was tired, and REALLY needed a glass of wine, that’s for sure.

My officer/host was a twenty-five year veteran and had kind and patient answers to all of my  questions about crime in the area and high profile cases he’s been involved in.

My takeaway from this experience is that our community is relatively safe; there are stolen cars and home burglaries,  an occasional murder and sexual assault, but the overwhelming realtime danger is the POTENTIAL threat of a terrorist attack. That seems to be the main focus of law enforcement training. “Active shooter” scenarios, “dirty bombs” in crowded locations–these are things that this naive and very sheltered girl never really thought about.

Do I feel like it was a valuable experience? Absolutely. I would encourage everyone to contact their local law enforcement and invite themselves along to see how we are all kept safe by these hardworking and dedicated men and women, including the dispatch team.

And really, don’t drink and drive. Or text and drive. PLEASE.

 

 

 

 

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