Put up or shut up. That’s the order I gave to myself recently.
For years, I’d been threatening to go on a police ride-along. I’ll admit it: I’m addicted to watching "Cops" and "The First 48."
I emailed the Riverside Police Department (RPD) in my hometown, explained that I needed to get out on the mean streets as research for my writing. After a background check on me and a signed waiver protecting them if I was killed, they asked when I wanted to go.
I chose swing shift, wanting the opportunity to patrol during both day and night. I arrived early, along with a very nice young man who, as a sworn LAPD officer, was allowed to attend roll call, a privilege that I, as a humble mystery writer, was banned from experiencing.
Lucky me, I rode on Sergeant Rusty’s shift and we rolled Code Three — lights and sirens — to a man-beating-another-man-with-a-crowbar call.
Friends laughed when I told them that on my ride-along I wanted to be in the front car of the high speed chase so I could experience doing the pit maneuver in person. We didn’t have a high speed chase, but I bet Sgt. Rusty would have been the lead car — with me by his side, hanging on for dear life.
During my three-hour trip, we went to the crowbar call, left, and got called back — which led to my waiting in the car for 1 ¾ hours while Sgt. Rusty and his men arrested three parolees with guns and drugs in their possession. The crowbar guy got away.
Another call about a suspicious package came in next.
We drove to where a man said he found a suspicious device that seemed like a bomb on his porch. The street was dark so Rusty asked dispatch to call the man to meet him in his driveway.
Dispatch replied there was no answer at the house. Sgt. Rusty informed dispatch that we were leaving and would come back if the man made contact. We drove away.
I was perplexed.
In my job, I have to go above and beyond to help out my co-workers and clients. I can’t just leave.
But a policeman leads a different life. Rusty told dispatch he thought the call sounded like a “set-up.”
Wow. That never even occurred to me.
We finished my ride-along after scanning a mall parking lot that had been the target of car thieves and cruising bad neighborhoods slowly, staring at everyone with suspicious eyes and getting many nasty stares in return. While it made me nervous, Rusty seemed to enjoy it.
I asked a lot of questions, took a lot of notes and found myself wanting to schedule another ride real soon.
To be continued (tomorrow) ...
Loni Emmert is the co-author of Button Hollow Chronicles #1: The Leaf Peeper Murders and the author of Lights! Camera! Murder! A member of Sisters in Crime since 2006, she is currently working on her first thriller.