by Page Austin, Harvest Lifestyle Manager
I recently participated in the Ride Along Program with the Town of Northlake Police Department. As a ride along participant, I spent the day with an officer as a passenger to observe and learn about the challenges, risks, and rewards of the police officer’s role in the community.
When I arrived at the police department, I met Officer Kyle Schwanz. He walked me through the rules of conduct for riders and gave me an overview of the ride along program. At Northlake Police Department there are two divisions: traffic and patrol. Traffic officers are specialized officers responsible for traffic-related incidents. These officers are focused on roads and the people on those roads. Patrol officers are assigned to an area to enforce laws and ordinances, regulate traffic, control crowds, prevent crime, arrest violators, patrol neighborhoods and be involved in the community. They respond to emergencies, protect people and property, enforce motor vehicle and criminal laws, and investigate suspicious persons and situations, among other things.
My ride along was with Officer Schwanz, a patrol officer for the Town of Northlake. Before we got on the road, I presented my officer with a glazed donut! The cliché is true…officers LOVE donuts! As we got on the road, Officer Schwanz provided a great overview of the police vehicle, the functions of the equipment, and the types of things we would be doing that day.
First up, let’s run some plates. As you may know, each police vehicle is equipped with a laptop. This allows the officers to run license plates to see if registration is expired, check for outstanding warrants, confirm vehicle insurance. The laptop will also provide information regarding missing persons and BOLO’s (Be On the Look Out). We positioned the police vehicle that would give us a good line of sight of passing vehicles and began running plates. Within the first 5 minutes, we had a hit! Officer Schwanz flips the switch that turns on the lights and we were off! The vehicle pulls over and Officer Schwanz goes into action. Before Officer Schwanz gets out of the vehicle, he calls it in to dispatch. Officers call it in every time…for their safety and for the safety of the driver.
Something I learned, there is a monitor in the police vehicle that records the incident. Also, every officer has a microphone on their uniform that records audio of an incident. So, when Officer Schwanz approached the driver, I was able to watch and listen to the conversation. Within moments, Officer Schwanz returns to the vehicle with the driver’s license and insurance. There is a machine in the police vehicle that looks like a credit card swiper…it’s actually to swipe a driver’s license. Once he swiped the driver’s license, information begins to populate on the computer screen. The officer is able to see the driving record, if the driver has any warrants, insurance information, etc. This particular incident, the driver’s registration was expired (back in early 2015). Officer Schwanz issues a ticket through his laptop and prints it right in the vehicle. It’s pretty interesting…not getting a ticket of course but the process and how it’s all done.
Next up, the radar gun! I couldn’t wait to get my hands on that! Officer Schwanz took me to a place that has a great view of the road and we positioned up. The radar gun is pretty heavy actually. It works best when the vehicle is still and the window is down (or clean, haha). So, we looked through the scope and pointed the red laser on the license plate until the speed appeared on the screen. You can shoot the laser pretty far. We did this on a few cars, but it wasn’t until we clocked a car going 80mph (10 miles over the limit) that we flipped the lights and took off. For those of you who use radar detectors, unfortunately you can’t detect the radar (laser) gun! Note to self, the best way to avoid a ticket is to drive the speed limit.
In addition to running plates and looking for speeders, Officer Schwanz responded to calls from dispatch and we patrolled his assigned areas. One of the areas that Officer Schwanz patrols is Harvest. Everyone in Harvest loves the Northlake police officers because they patrol often, are responsive, and engage with residents. For example, there have been incidents of bullying at the bus stop. One morning, Officer Schwanz decided to stop and spend time with Harvest kids at the bus stop. He talked to them about bullying and how to interact with others well. He also went over and beyond by spending time with a particular child one Saturday morning. He threw the ball with him to build a relationship and was able to talk to him one-on-one about bullying.
The Northlake Police Department is filled with officers who are not only dedicated to their jobs, but are also caring and compassionate. Harvest is lucky to have them apart of their community!
If you are interested in doing a ride along, contact the Northlake Police Department (940-648-4804) for details!
DID YOU KNOW: The belts officers wear with their uniform weigh around 30 pounds!