Most people only spend time with police officers in the event of a personal emergency. I tend to encounter them on a daily basis. Not because I am an outlaw, but because I am the breaking news reporter.
During the past six months working with the Advocate I've learned a lot about crime and the ins-and-outs of traffic safety. However, despite the number of wrecks, fires and emergency calls I've worked as a reporter, I've never swapped sides and looked at life through the eyes of a cop.
And then I went on a ride along.
Officer David Brogger, with the traffic safety division of the Victoria Police Department, took me along for three hours of his shift, where I learned about his job, his life and the stigma of being a cop.
Here are five things I took away from our drive:
Stalk-Eyed Fly - The Stalk-eyed fly is mostly found in the jungles of South East Asia and Africa and got their name from the "eyestalks" that extend from the side of their heads. After my ride along I've come to the conclusion that officers may be in the stalk-eye family: Their vision is amazing. Traveling at speeds ranging from 5-55 mph, officers are able to not only see if other drivers are wearing their seat belts, but also read the inspection and registration stickers on the vehicle's front window.
Office Space - An officers' car is his office. In the vehicle they handle everything from patrolling traffic to filling out reports. When you see an officer parked on the side or the road, or talking with another officer on the side of the road, chances are they're finishing a report, patrolling an area of town residents have concerns over or briefing another officer.
California Rolls - If there's a stop sign in your neighborhood that everyone rolls, officers will find out about it, stalk the area and start making citations rain. During my ride along, Officer Brogger revealed a location where stop-sign rolling was hot. Within a couple of minutes we pulled over an offender.
Tricks - No matter how swift you think you are when trying to divert attention to the fact that you're not wearing a seat belt or texting and driving, officers know all the diversions, including the fake yawn. Buckle up and put the phone down. It can save a life.
Gotcha - Just because an officer is driving doesn't mean they can't get a read on your speed. Police cars are equipped with detectors that can monitor the speed of any car on the road. My favorite part of the ride along was watching other drivers quickly reduce their speeds when they saw the cop car.
The most important lesson I learned during the ride along is that officers are people too; with real lives, real humor and real love for the job that they do. If you have the time, I suggest you call the police department and take your local officer for a spin.
Also, read this article my talented coworker wrote about Officer Brogger's daughter, who at the age of 8 underwent treatment for ovarian cancer.
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