The Richmond Register

Local News

January 28, 2013

Even routine traffic stops can hold hazards for police

Reporter gets new perspective from ride-along



Patrol work is not just arrests and traffic tickets

Just an hour into his shift, Lay took a call from a woman who wanted to talk to an on-duty officer. She said she was worried about some rumors that were being spread around town about her. Lay handled the call professionally and courteously, although there obviously is nothing a police officer can do about the Richmond rumor mill.

Later on that evening, Lay was asked to return to the police station to meet with a man who had arrived to pick up his kids for the weekend. The children’s mother had not shown up. Lay said sometimes people who are involved in contentious custody suits will meet at the police station to exchange their children because it is a safe, neutral location.

The man told Lay he had been showing up to get his kids every other weekend since November, but their mother was refusing to allow the court-ordered visits. While custody orders are enforced by family court officials, not by police officers, Lay agreed that he would be a witness to the fact the father had been present to pick up his children.

Finally, Lay received a call that some children on Ballard Drive had found a syringe on the ground. None of the kids had been stuck by the syringe, thankfully, and it turned out to be unused. Lay took it back to the police department to for disposal.

Observation and instinct are the basis of good police work.

As a journalist, a big part of my job is being a good observer. It takes a lot of time to hone that skill, and I often wonder if I’ll ever truly master it.

I learned on my ride-along that police officers also heavily depend on that skill but with the added element of gut instinct. Learning to trust that instinct, which is developed through experience and training, is a critical part of being a good police officer.

Around 8:30 p.m., Lay and I both spotted a man walking along Turpin Drive. I commented on how the man kept staring at the cruiser as we drove by. The man appeared to be holding an aluminum can in his hand.

Lay said he suspected the item might be a beer can, so he pulled over and asked the man to come talk to him.

“This is a consensual encounter,” Lay immediately told the man, explaining he did not have to talk to the RPD if he didn’t want to.

The man told Lay he had nothing to hide. But, it turned out he was wanted on a charge of second-degree robbery. After the man was cuffed, Lay asked him if he had anything sharp in his pockets.

The man admitted had three needles filled with meth.

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