Getting firsthand look at police duties

Published 10:17 am Friday, October 13, 2017

Just about every day, someone in our newsroom contacts the LaGrange Police Department about a story. Whether that’s about a crime, looking into a rumor or writing about an upcoming event, there’s just about constant contact between our newspaper and the LPD.

The same is true of the Troup County Sheriff’s Office and the other law enforcement agencies within our county.

Because of that, I felt like I had a good idea of all the roles the police department deals with, but over the last week, I’ve had a chance to expand on that and learn a lot more about what our officers — and others around the country — are tasked with each day.

On Tuesday night, I got behind the wheel of a police car for the first time. All I did was back up and pull forward, but to be honest, it was overwhelming with all of the equipment around. I called out on the radio about a vehicle I had pulled over, which contained police officers Eric Lohr and Jim Davison, and then started a mock traffic stop.

It was dark outside, so trying to see in the vehicle was a challenge. I used a flashlight, but was cautioned not to get too close to the occupants because it’s hard to know how they’d react.

In this instance, Lohr and Davison were imitating how people might act when pulled over by the police, so there was obviously no real danger.

But in a real-life situation, when an officer pulls over someone in the middle of the night in a random location, the scenario could be much different.

On Wednesday, I also had the chance to do a ride along with an officer of the LPD. He made several traffic stops, talked a family through a domestic situation and helped arrest a man who was unwanted on a property.

Two of the traffic stops were for people not wearing their seat belt, and if he wasn’t working another call, (at least) another dozen people could’ve been pulled over. Wear your seat belts people.

There’s a lot of controversy surrounding police officers in this country right now, and I’m not here to debate whether that’s right or wrong. Police officers are human like the rest of us, and they do make mistakes.

However, I’m not sure the general public comprehends how many variables these men and women deal with on a normal, everyday basis. Usually when you’re dealing with a police officer, you’re having a really bad day — whether it’s a wreck, getting a speeding ticket or discussing a crime that occurred.

To the officer, it’s the next call in a long day of calls. Personally, I think there’s a disconnect between most police departments and the public they serve because most people do not interact regularly with the police. How many times a year do most law-abiding citizens get pulled over? Not many.

From my perspective, which is only a snapshot of the last four months, our local law enforcement agencies are very community centered. They want to get to know the community they serve and try to do so through events like National Night Out, which was last week.

That’s why those events are so important.

When you do get pulled over, try to put yourself in the officer’s shoes for a minute. Try to think about all of the variables running through their head.

The point of a traffic stop is to ensure that people drive safely, not to pick on people who make a bad decision. But the officer doesn’t know who you are or how you’re going to react.

At the same time, the officer is also watching other drivers — both for their safety and for the person pulled over — and the surrounding area. There’s a lot happening and a lot to consider. Next time you get pulled over, I hope you’ll keep that in mind.