If you have an open weekend night on your calendar and are trying to dream up something 'different' to do, you should take a ride-along with one of our city's finest. Any citizen can drop in at the Kirkland Police Department and fill out a form requesting to tag along with an officer for a few hours. It's a really fun look into the 'behind the scenes' we don't usually get to see.
Of course, they run a background check first (I must have made the cut, whew!). Rumor has it Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings are the more exciting ones when you might get to see some bar fights that need breaking up or DUI stops. It's only a couple of hours, but wear warm comfortable clothes.
When I first arrived, I got the quick and dirty tour of the police department. Mostly offices and interview rooms-oh, and a garage where they keep the 3 new Honda motorcycles (bye bye to the Harleys). The call center is a room where we take 9-1-1 calls and the dispatchers sit. Pretty cool system we have that displays all of the calls in the 'que' and which officers are where at any given moment. Lots of screens with loaded with info, and the man operating it all with his headset on reminded me of the wizard in Oz b/c he could take calls, work on 3 computer screens and talk to me all at the same time. We had about 12 officers on duty Friday night of our approx 50 total (7 of them are women- go girl power!). I peaked in our crime lab which, we'll just say, is no CSI-Miami episode. We've got 2 holding cells and 4 jail cells, each with its own bunk. Not too crowded on my night- 4 bummed out guys in orange that didn't mind giving me a smile and hello.
Then we were off ---- on our way to protect and serve. This is the part I was waiting for, where's all the action going to be? I'm perked up in my seat only to learn that I have to stay in the car the entire time. The only advice he said I needed, was that if I happen to hear any gunfire (huh??!!), I should get out of the car and run the opposite way. No problem.
Each car is wirelessly connected at all times and data appears on the screen real-time as a situation gets updated. They can check plates, warrants and all that jazz right from their drivers seat. Our first call was a potential pipe bomb at a construction site. We're second on the scene, and I'm stuck in the car while my coppers go investigate. Doesn't look real, but we've got to call the bomb squad anyway. We use Bellevue PD for this service, which after a good 45 mins of waiting, a mac-daddy rig shows up. They agree, looks fake, but got to take care of it anyway. Should we send in the robot or put the man in the suit? I wouldn't want to be that guy, or his wife for that matter, but it just seemed like another day on the job for them. Turns out it was a fake- foiled again. By now I have a splitting headache from the big diesel Bellevue Police truck and I'm feeling a little deflated that my entire ride-along has been consumed by some teeny-boppers fake bomb ploy.
I plead to stay a little longer. Yay! My officer feels my pain so we go on the prowl for some prime-time weekend drunk drivers. As we're barely pulling away from our bomb stint, a young girl pulls out across traffic and cuts us off. Poor thing- you could see her trying to brake or change her maneuver as she realizes our car has blue lights on top of it. Bummer. That would be my luck, I was thinking. Turns out no DUI, just a space-cadet with an expired insurance card so we let her off with a warning on her driving and a citation for the insurance.
We tell dispatch we'll check on the alarm going off on Lake St next. False alarm. Then my officer shows me one of his secret hiding spots for plucking bad drivers. Bet you want to know where it is, hehe. I asked him about quotas for giving tickets and he chuckled at how sensitive this topic is with private citizens. But basically, the gist is this- each is expected to give 2 citations/shift on avg and they work about 14 shifts a month=28 tickets/per officer/per month. I asked what the best way is to get out of being given a ticket only to learn that a good officer already has his mind made up before he even approaches your window. Words to the wise: He says you can talk yourself INTO a ticket, but not out of one.
So, I've got to say, I get a feeling of goodness and empowerment driving around with the police. Each of the officers I came in contact with were of the highest integrity and were very prideful of their role in our little city. They don't complain for one minute about standing in the rain, inhaling diesel fuel, having piles of paperwork or having little gnats like me tagging along with them.
If you want to schedule a ride-along you have to pick up the application form at the Kirkland Police Dept, which is around the backside of the city building on 5th (123 5th Ave). It is not available on-line at this time.
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