Editor’s note: the following article is part of a series of articles The Ripple is doing entitled “The Day in the Life of.” The article is written in the first person from the reporter’s perspective.
For this month’s “Day in the Life” I spent an evening on the other side of the blue lights as I rode along with the Yadkinville Police Department night shift.
I met up with Officer Phillip Scott at the police department at 7 p.m. As I plopped into the passenger side of the police car I anxiously awaited what exciting task we would be assigned to first.
Would we be looking for a wanted criminal? Would we be heading to some unfortunate soul’s home to serve a warrant? Would we pull onto the road and immediately break into a high speed chase?
Instead Officer Scott looked over at me and asked “Have you eaten yet?”
It just so happened that I had not eaten, and so we were off for the first big event in our night of crime fighting … dinner. We met up with some of Scott’s fellow officers, the head magistrate and the chief of police at Yadkin Plaza Restaurant.
As we dined on piping hot baked spaghetti and salads the guys cuts jokes at each other’s expense.
Officer Scott insured me that if by chance bullets were to fly during the night they would jump in front of one to protect me; they just couldn’t guarantee that it wouldn’t pass through them and still hit me. I tell him that that would definitely make the most interesting day in the “Day in the Life” to date, and so I could live with those odds.
Once we were sufficiently full we headed back to the police cruiser to start patrolling. Officer Scott gave me a break down of the high tech vehicle we would be spending the evening in. A large control panel in the center houses the speed radar that allows officers to check speeds from in front of and behind their car.
Each car is equipped with a computer that allows officers to look up license plate numbers and driver identification. If a citation is needed the car is also equipped with a printer.
Officer Scott asks if this is my first ride along, to which I share that it is and the first time I’ve ever really spent time with an officer. I still don’t have a speeding ticket or any other infraction to my name … knock on wood.
Officer Scott tells me that most people are surprised to learn that most police officers were repeat speeding offenders before they swore to serve and protect.
We take off to drive the streets of Yadkinville. After a short time riding the streets we take up post in a parking lot alongside North Lee Avenue. Officer Scott says that people tend to come through a nearby curve going well over the speed limit, and he likes to sit there to remind people to maintain a safe speed.
While we wait for a speed demon, State Trooper Adams stops by to say hello and find out our plans for the rest of the evening. Officer Scott informs him that a traffic stop is planned as long as the weather holds out.
A short time later a truck goes speeding past running 50 in a 35 mile per hour zone. Officer Scott kicks the patrol car into drive and we speed after the car. The truck quickly pulls off on a side road, and Officer Scott goes to talk to the driver. He allows the driver to go with a warning after explaining the importance of the speed limit in that area.
“We’re not out here to ruin people’s days,” Scott said. “I think that’s what a lot of people think, but we’re just trying to make sure people stay safe. Most of us are pretty understanding and nice.”
We continue patrolling the streets, not seeing much action until Officer Scott catches a glimpse of a driver he’s been trying to catch up to for a couple of weeks. We speed up once again and make a quick turn into a parking lot to go after them.
Officer Scott catches up with the driver in the Bojangles parking lot and cites him for driving with a suspended license. Scott says that he has seen the man driving around town several times since his license was taken away, but he always managed to evade him before.
We make several other stops. We ride around a neighborhood looking for a vehicle that exhibited some suspicious activity near Scott’s barber’s home. There’s a stop near UNIFI that turns out to be a broken down car waiting for a ride. Another stop looks to be promising for more action but ends up being a young girl who’s just recently moved to North Carolina and driving a truck with unusual-looking Georgia tags.
We continue to patrol for a while until Chief Tim Parks calls Officer Scott, Sgt. Mark Dowell and State Trooper Adams together to conduct a traffic stop at the intersection of West Main Street and North Lee Avenue. The intersection turns out to be much busier than I expected. The officers check each driver’s license and tags to make sure everyone is driving legally.
Occasionally a car will cut a quick turn when the driver realizes what’s ahead, and Trooper Adams sprints to his car, fires up his siren and takes off after leaving us all in a trail of dust. Officer Scott tells me that those cars that turn around are usually driving without a license or intoxicated.
The majority of the stops produce no citations. A couple of drivers forgot their license, but since they had no priors on their record they are let go with a warning. The only citations issued throughout the night are for a backseat passenger with no seat belt, a child who wasn’t in a car seat and an expired tag.
We head away from the traffic stop to assist Chief Parks with a driver he’d pulled over. The driver was an immigrant who did not have a license. He was cited, and we continued on our way.
Around 2 a.m., after a long patrol confirming safe streets we headed back to the station to meet up with Sgt. Mark Dowell and a sheriff’s deputy. We headed down to the station’s garage to allow for the sheriff’s deputy to wash his car and for Dowell to give Nike, the station’s drug dog, a bath.
Nike is an energetic Labrador retriever and he anxiously waits while Sgt. Dowell scrubs him down. He shakes frequently making sure that Dowell suffers through the bath with him, but Dowell doesn’t seem fazed. Nike is not only his co-worker, but his family’s pet, and the two have a very close bond.
After Nike is adequately clean, Sgt. Dowell sets up a demonstration for me to see Nike at work. He hides the station’s supply of marijuana in a police car in the parking lot while Nike waits in his patrol car. Nike is what is referred to as a passive alert dog. Once he smells drugs he sits calmly at the location until officers release him.
Once the drugs are hid, Sargent Dowell brings Nike out and within seconds he’s on to the scent and sitting right in front of the location of the drugs. His reward is a tug of war session with a rope toy.
At about 3:30 a.m. my eyes are getting a little droopy and we head out on my last patrol around town. We ride around businesses insuring that all doors and windows are intact and we spend a few minutes observing the Highway 421 exit to make sure that everyone is driving through safely.
With next to no traffic on the roads I decide it’s time for me to make the long drive home and get some rest. We head back to the station and I bid my goodbyes to all of the officers who have shared their evening with me.
While it wasn’t a night full of crime like you might see on an episode of “Cops,” it was an eye opener to what an officer’s night consists of. The streets might not have been filled with exciting, high speed chases and arrests, but that’s because the Yadkinville Police Department is working hard to keep the people and streets safe.
Reach Lindsay Craven at 679-2341 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.