8/19/2011

The Ride Along Part One

Today I went on a ride along with the Portland Police Department. I was scheduled with Officer D. Oliver, who has served the fine city of PDX for 24 years. Now I may be the only candidate actually taking time out of the days and nights to get a “real” feel of how the city works. I want to know what the employees and workers do for the city and how big of an asset they are. Without the police bureau, our streets would be filled with fights, rowdy drunks, hit and runs, the list goes on and on. I want to get a feel for the real issues Portland's workers are facing and ways they think that the system can improve . So back to the ride along... Officer Oliver and I were to patrol SW Portland. Our night started out with some computer glitches and something I've noticed from every city worker is that our systems are sluggishly slow. They do a great job and have all the bells and whistles, but they take forever. Once our computer logged on, we were off! In the early hours (10pm to 1am-ish), we patrolled SW Portland looking for anything. No calls were coming in except for a hip hop concert at the Roseland Theater . A ton of cops were in demand to maintain peace in the heart of downtown. If you looked at the GPS map downtown, it looked like a cluster of white car-shaped icons. And there we were, a single icon separated from the downtown.


We continued on with a simple patrol, all around SW hills. But just as we thought that tonight was going to be a slower night, we were wrong. Around 1:30am we got several calls coming in. It ranged from a hit and run in which the suspect left behind his license plate, to people standing in the middle of I-84, then we were called in on a B&E (Breaking & Entering) gone wrong, and then a few assaults went on during the night. It was crazy and awesome! From playing baseball, I know all about game faces. Turning that mental switch on is what I did! But watching when the officers are dispatched to a call, I can very well say that the Portland Police know what they are doing, know what they are looking for, and maintain the peace in any way they can.


When I rode with the fire department last month, I learned that the police have a different kind of battle. They all may be serving PDX, but the police have to deal with all the stress and hostile working environment. Some of you may have seen this, or feel a negativity towards these amazing guys in blue. But after riding along, I have become more aware of what they have to deal with and why they do what they do. When I asked the firefighters would they want to trade jobs they told me no. That it is one of the most stressful, dangerous, jobs in PDX. They would rather run into a burning building then trade places with the police force. It takes a lot to even think that way! I knew the police were a different breed, but I don't think I ever really grasped how tough they have to be. They are ready at every turn. And they have to be, or it could be their last. They deal with people, which is very unpredictable. And they take all the negativity with it. Earlier in the shift we passed a bar and Officer Oliver and I heard women say bluntly to her friend "it’s the fucking cops! I better be careful what I say now”. But public view is critical in a city. If you don't have good PR, then that’s a change that needs improvement.


If a zombie attack happens, I think PDX would be in good hands. And I would know where to go. The police and firefighters of Portland seem really prepared for one of these. Even if they don't know it, we are.


Now I'm writing this at about 7am after being up for almost more than 24 hours. But that’s politics ain't it?