Two Cents Worth – Oct 21, 2015

As many of you may know I’ve been participating in the O’Fallon Citizen Police Academy since the beginning of September. While I’ll have a big recap about the program once its completed at the end of the month, I wanted to talk about one aspect of it in this week’s column.  My ride along with a patrol officer.

I was given the option of when I wanted to schedule my ride along.  I chose a Saturday evening shift (6 p.m. to 2 a.m.) with the hope that I would have a higher than average probability of seeing something interesting. My wife and mom didn’t really want that, but I was hoping for more than just a dull evening where nothing happens.

But what I learned this past Saturday is that the officers who patrol the streets have no clue what the evening will bring them. It could be a calm night where you may only pull over a few people, or you could have an extremely busy night.

During my ride along we responded to a few car break ins, pulled over a man who had a burnt out headlight, pulled over a person the officer suspected of DUI (he wasn’t), pulled over a man who ran a red light, and assisted another officer who had a car pulled over that he ended up searching.  Throughout all of these stops, we only wrote warnings with no fines.

That was the real part of the evening that stuck with me.  The officer I rode with opted to give warnings first, rather than issue the ticket and cost the other driver money. He explained to me how he feels its his job to keep the streets safe and not to create ill will between the residents and the police by running around town ticketing everyone. He took a very pragmatic approach to it all and I really appreciate it.

Now that’s not to say he wouldn’t have issued any tickets if the circumstances were different.  He told me that attitude is everything because the officer has the discretion to issue a ticket or a warning.  So the next time you get pulled over, remember, if you’re polite and accommodating, you might be lucky enough to get a pass.  No guarantees, but you know you will get a ticket if you’re rude.

Honestly, it seems like it could get pretty boring out there for the patrol officers, driving around town all by themselves at night.  I don’t envy much about their jobs…

When it all ended, we hadn’t arrested anyone. It seemed like a fairly calm evening, which I’m sure is how the police like it.

Now, according to the officer I rode with, every resident of O’Fallon can ask to go on one ride along. However, the time has to be scheduled in advance to see if there are any officers interested in taking you around. I’d highly encourage everyone to do so if they haven’t already.  It’s a blast and its good to see a night on the streets from the cop’s perspective.

I’d like to personally thank Officer Gottschall for taking me around for eight hours. He was welcoming and easy to talk to. He answered all of my questions, no matter how elementary they may have been.  He’s a great member of the O’Fallon Police Department.