Taking an inside look at public safety
- Ramona McCallister
- Central Oregonian - News
Several City of Prineville officials and staff members had the opportunity to see Prineville from the seat of a police patrol car this summer
Sitting in the passenger seat of a police car gives an entirely different perspective on public safety.
It was this experience that City of Prineville Manager Steve Forrester, Mayor Betty Roppe, and City Council members Gail Merritt, and Jack Seley shared with patrol officers of the Prineville Police Department this summer during a night shift of their choice.
Prineville Police chief Eric Bush was the catalyst that got the ball rolling, and initiated the idea.
“To my knowledge, that I am aware of, I have never seen a mayor or council person ride along with a Prineville police officer,” commented Bush.
Until this summer, he said this hasn’t taken place in the 22 years he has been at the Prineville Police Department.
“One of the things that we thought would be helpful for the Council and helpful for senior management in the City, would be to ride along with officers and actually see what we do,” added Bush. “It makes it real for them if they can go out and touch and see it for themselves.”
Bush also said that the experience helps them to have more context to refer to when making decisions on resources in the future.
Roppe chose a night shift on a Friday night and spent eight hours with patrol officer Jimmy O’Daniel.
“I learned a lot. I learned how hard they work,” exclaimed Roppe.
She said that she saw parts of Prineville she never knew existed. Although it was not a busy night, Roppe had a chance to watch Officer O’Daniel respond to several different incidents throughout the evening.
“We had two dogs at large, which we ended up taking to the Humane Society — so we were up on the hill and covered the territory up on top of the hill that they cover periodically in the business section.”
Roppe said that they also responded to a domestic call, as well as a sobriety test.
She had the opportunity to see how they track down a disconnected 911 call, since they had one come in while she was there.
“We never did find anybody that admitted to making the 911 call, but we were definitely in the area.”
She stressed that she was amazed about the amount of paperwork that the officer conducted throughout his shift.
“It certainly made me appreciate what they do, that is for sure. I think the general public does not always know all the things that they have to accomplish in their shift,” noted Roppe. “I think it was very beneficial for me. I would recommend it to anybody who has the opportunity to do it.”
Gail Merritt said that she rode along with Officer Joann Bauer. She remarked that she also saw a lot of places in Prineville she had never seen before.
“I didn’t really know what their routine was, and they were trying to show me the different areas in Prineville,” said Merritt.
Merritt spent some time observing a couple of traffic stops, spent some time in the 911 dispatch center, as well as patrolling various neighborhoods.
“She was very caring with all the people that she talked to,” Merritt said of Bauer. “There are all kinds of things that you have to take into consideration. It was an interesting evening.”
City Manager Steve Forrester said that his perception of public safety officers and their duties changed dramatically after his ride-long experience.
“It was very enlightening for me, as a person who spent most of his working life in the private sector, and the perception that I had about what public safety folks do on a day to day basis,” remarked Forrester.
He said that he knew that they wrote tickets, looked for drivers who are drinking and driving, and set up stings at crosswalks.
“That is just a small percentage of what they do,” added Forrester, “ and what I got out of my ride-along was the public safety work that they do on a daily basis is more about working with the community, and helping folks get through their daily lives. It’s about resolving conflicts between neighbors and conflicts between family members. They do a lot of coaching and mentoring with folks who are struggling for one reason or another.”
He noted that the amount of time, effort, and hard work that the officers put into helping people to get along and move forward in life was enlightening for him.
“My perceptions about public safety were really lacking, and that ride-along gave me a good feel for what they do on a daily basis, and heightened my respect for the role they play in keeping our community safe and keeping our community moving forward.”