When I started my advocacy work in my neighborhood, the police captain at the time suggested I go on a few police ride alongs (RALs). So this past February, I had the opportunity to go on my first one.

I was allowed to choose the officer I wanted to ride with; I chose a sergeant who was in our district and did some incredible work for the drug investigation in my area. As I’ve gotten to know him over the past several months, I learned what a dedicated, passionate and hard-working officer he is, not to mention just a great person.

I chose a Saturday shift from 2-10 PM so I could see the most action.

When I got to the station, he gave me a tour and introduced to me several officers. The station is huge and there are several empty cubicles that are waiting for officers to be hired. The amount of gear an officer takes with them in their car fills up the entire back. I was shown how to read calls and what to do in the event the officer was down.This sergeant is in charge of ten officers, so most of what he does is monitor and manage calls from his car and go to the scenes where he’s needed.

Call #1
We were first on scene to a transient who was in the middle of a busy intersection, blocking traffic in front of a Starbucks. He was completely out of his mind and the sergeant got him out of the street. He noticed he was profusely sweating so he wanted to take his pulse, which was extremely high. He called for backup and medical.

The man would not comply with the officer’s instructions or getting medical help, which he clearly needed. He pulled a knife and it took six officers to restrain and shackle him. He was frothing from his mouth and showing other signs of drug use. He was in his 50s, a drug addict and sex offender with multiple arrests. He’s was a resident of Louisiana.

What was so interesting about this call was how it went from a calm conversation with one officer to six officers having to put him to the ground. Although he drew a weapon, none of the officers drew theirs.

Call #2
A transient called to report a dead body near the green bridge in Discovery Park. The caller was new to the camp and had talked to the deceased a few times. When he arrived at the camp today, he noticed the man wasn’t breathing. He checked his pulse and called 911 from his cell phone.

It was dark when we arrived and we had to hike down into the park and then hike up to the dead body, which was up underneath the freeway. The officers checked for a pulse and any trauma, which they did not see; he appeared to die from natural causes. Officers are not allowed to pronounce death, so they wait for the coroner to arrive.

The man had been dead for almost a day. Rigor has set in and the smell was pretty bad. He was 67, had multiple arrests and was from out of state.

Call #3
A transient was scaring customers at a McDonald’s next to the police station. He had large sticks he was using to threaten people. The security guard was unable to get him to leave. When we arrived, the other officers were dealing with him.

I don’t know his background.

Dinner
We really didn’t take much of a dinner break even though it was a slow night. This sergeant brings his lunch and eats in his car. I brought us some fun road snacks which we ate throughout the shift.

Call #4
An off-duty sergeant whom I met earlier in the day called 911 because a transient was trying to break into his home. He was putting in a new door knob in his front door. He and his six year-old son were working on it from the inside when a man approached the door and tried to push his way in. The officer’s son was terrified and started screaming and crying while the officer pushed back against the door and told the man to leave. The man kept trying to come in saying he wanted to “help with the door.” The officer became more forceful in telling him to leave and he did.

When we arrived, another officer had detained the man who was yelling he was going to sue Sac PD. He was in his 40s, had 15 arrests for meth and battery and was a Nevada resident.

They could only charge him with prowling because he didn’t show intent to rob the homeowners. Despite his multiple arrests, he would only get six hours in jail for this. But when it was discovered he had multiple warrants amounting in over $10,000, he was going to go to jail for longer.

County Jail
I was then taken to the county jail for a tour. The person arrested sits in a chair while the officer enters the information in the computer. All detainees have to get a medical check by nurses and a doctor who are on staff 24 hours a day. While there, I saw a man in his 30s, barely awake, covered in vomit.

Call #5
During the shift, the sergeant said “just wait for nine o’clock, they’ll be a shooting.” I know enough about this guy to know he’s usually right. But as the shift was winding down I didn’t believe him. At 9:08 PM dispatch calls for all available units to Round Table on Freeport for an armed robbery and an employee who had been shot. Ironically, this was in my neighborhood.

As our sirens were blazing and we were going to the scene, I listened to the dispatcher tell the officers where the gunshot victim was, what he looked like, etc. as they were entering Round Table. And I also heard another officer giving chase on foot trying to find the suspects. It was one of the eeriest things I’ve heard.

When we got on scene, people were still running from Round Table, the street had already been blocked off, officers were interviewing witnesses, the helicopter was looking for the suspects, other officers had their rifles while looking on foot and medical was inside with the gunshot victim, whom I saw taken to the ambulance. He was a young man, shot in the arm and awake.

The suspects have not been arrested. They were also thought to have robbed Mountain Mike’s Pizza in a nearby neighborhood just before this.

Back to the Station
On our way back to the station, the sergeant saw someone driving a bit erratic and pulled him over. We were north of downtown where the soccer stadium is going; we were the only two cars in sight. As the sergeant walked to the car, I wondered what I would do if he was shot (aside from pressing the red button and getting on the radio). It was the only time I was a bit nervous. The driver turned out to be a security guard who we think had been on his phone. The sergeant let him go. (FYI: pulling people over is the one of the most dangerous thing an officer does.)

As we drove back to the station, we saw the transient tent city that was lining the streets (it was huge). Current laws prevent officers from clearing the camps after dark because the transients are trying to rest.

Between calls, the sergeant was going through calls and managing and monitoring them and doing paperwork. We were also running plates of suspicious vehicles.

80% of all calls were transient-related. Mostly disturbing people in public places or at their homes, all of them drug addicts with violent histories and not residents of California.

I was able to get out at every call, once things were determined safe (except for the pull over). All the officers I met were extremely nice and calm during all incidents, which was impressive for all the newbies. I also saw four female officers during my shift (awesome).

Because of the homeless epidemic and fallout from Prop. 47, Prop. 57 and AB 109, police no longer have the time or resources to do proactive policing—it’s all reactive. They just deal in the swamp of the city and I don’t know how they do it day after day.

This was an incredible experience and I highly recommend it so you have a true understanding of what goes on in your city and how your legislators have tied the hands of law enforcement. And I emphatically believe every person who runs for political office should have to do a police and fire ride along.

If you have done a ride along, I would love to hear about it. If you would like to do one and are not sure how to go about it, let me know and I’ll see how I can help.

Photo by Fancycrave on Unsplash