By Katy Rogers
With a crime scene unfolding in the heart of Everett Square just a week prior, I had the opportunity to experience the perspective of a police officer’s daily responsibilities firsthand during a police ride along the following Wednesday afternoon, May 4.
Being a photojournalist, I sometimes find myself in the midst of action whenever I hear of an incident occurring within the city, maneuvering through the crowd to capture a moment on camera for print.
This time, I got to be behind the scenes.
I knew going into this that the word “typical” should be used loosely, since officers are required to be prepared for anything while on duty, as proven the week before in Everett Square when a made allegedly lunged at an officer with a knife – causing the officer to shoot and kill the man.
Upon arriving for roll call at the Everett Police Department on May 4, I met with Lt. Frank Hoenig, who gave me a tour behind the scenes. Most notably, he showed me the holding cells, which are separated into men’s, women’s, and juvenile’s – each having unique characteristics and guidelines appropriate to whom would be occupying them. None of them appeared too cozy. After touring behind the scenes, we proceeded to roll call where I was assigned to accompany Officer Raoul Goncalves for the remainder of the afternoon. I recognized Officer Goncalves from photographing him at various events throughout the community, as he is the President and Founder of MassBadge, a remarkable organization of officers who give back to the less fortunate while establishing positive relationships with members of the community.
At this point, I was provided with a bulletproof vest, which was required for me to wear in order to participate in the ride along.
It was a reminder to me about just what kinds of dangers officers face each day when they leave the Station and begin patrolling the streets of Everett.
On our way outside, officer Goncalves grabbed a backpack that was filled with NARCAN to place in the vehicle. NARCAN is used to subside opiate overdoses, and is part of a relatively new program to help save the lives of those who may be in danger of dying after taking drugs. Luckily, we did not encounter any drug related issues on our journey that day, but I did note that there were plain clothed officers present behind the scenes at the station, working vigorously to keep drugs off the streets in Everett.
From here, we entered the police vehicle and almost immediately we received a request to address a domestic dispute between a young girl and her family. Right away, we had the opportunity to use the sirens, which was something I was personally hoping to experience. It was quite surreal being in the passenger’s seat of a police car and watching other cars disperse to avoid us as we rushed through the streets to the scene.
Upon arriving at the scene, the issue was a minor argument that Officer Goncalves was able to mediate. I did not expect this to be a police officer’s responsibility, but Officer Goncalves explained that it is not uncommon to have to play the role of a mediator. By the end of the conversation with them, I thought Officer Goncalves listened to both sides of the story and gave fair input.
Being mid afternoon, things were quiet for a while after this.
As we patrolled through Everett, we had the vehicle washed, refueled, and of course, grabbed a cup of coffee to bring with us. Officer Goncalves explained that there’s a stereotype when people see cops stopping for coffee.
“Things can go from 0-60 in a matter of seconds,” he explained, and even though it may appear to be calm that moment, they need to be prepared to answer a call at any second, and working with all kinds of people in the public, there’s no way to predict how each day will unfold.
While driving around, we would run license plates on cars, mainly so that I could see how it was done, not so much to catch people doing something wrong. In order to run plates, we had to call emergency dispatch on the radio to access the license on a stationary computer and then relay it back to us.
I gave it a try, and it was more overwhelming than it seemed, since so many officers are reporting and communicating via radio at the same time. I was under the impression that all police vehicles were equipped with computers that allow policemen to type a number in, but that’s not the case.
The radio communication seemed like an inefficient way to simply find out information about a vehicle.
Officer Goncalves expressed it is frustrating not to have computers in vehicles, and experiencing it firsthand, I can certainly see why. The City of Everett and the Police Department anticipates computers soon will be incorporated into 12 new cruisers in order to be more efficient. We did end up pulling a vehicle over when a woman ran a red light on Lower Broadway. While I remained in the vehicle, Officer Goncalves addressed the woman behind the wheel, and she admitted her mistake.
The woman was issued a warning, and Officer Goncalves explained that he uses his discretion to determine whether to write a ticket, but he believes that respect goes a long way and appreciates when people are cooperative with him.
“I always try to be nice to people [when pulling them over]; it will put her mind at ease to know that she is just getting a warning,” he said. “She made a mistake and she admitted it.”
However he does have his limits, with little tolerance for when children are unbuckled and bouncing around a vehicle, and of course, drivers under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
In fact, our last stop of the day involved a drunk driving incident. We were called to address an accident, and did not know the circumstances until we got there. At the scene, it was evident the man who caused the collision could hardly walk. Almost immediately failing a sobriety test, Officer Goncalves cuffed the man, and we waited for the prisoner transport vehicle to arrive. Although people driving under the influence are often heard about on the news, I’ve fortunately never encountered a drunk driver firsthand. I think it is something that is so ingrained in us from a young age, not to drink an drive, that it surprised me to see someone who was so heavily intoxicated that early in the afternoon on a weekday driving next to a children’s play area.
It was a relief to see that nobody involved was physically injured, but I can only imagine how dangerous this situation could have been.
We returned to the station before dusk, where I handed my vest back in and left to return to civilian life.
From my experience I learned how police officers really need to be on their toes, and be prepared to report to an incident on the other side of the city in a matter of minutes.
There is truly no way to predict who or what you will encounter.
Seeing police officers, dressed in uniforms, I think it is easy for some to forget that they are human, trying to do their job by keeping our city safe. The events that occur in the community affect the policemen and policewomen in the same way they affect any other man, woman and child. Many people come to their own conclusions about law enforcement, but if there is anything to be taken from this ride-along, there really is no such thing as a typical day on duty, and there are many officers like Goncalves who are passionate about keeping their community safe.