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Saturday, September 15, 2007

From inside a black and white

I did a ride-along with a police officer at my internship. We started around 3:30, just when Evanston Township High School was letting out. LG, the field training officer I was riding with has a regular shift at the school, so we parked on the south end of school. A block down, she said there was another car posted; a paddy wagon cruised in front of the main entrance, and one or two undercover detectives circled campus. I couldn't believe it. It seemed excessive, but LG said there were fights there nearly every day. We sat there for 45 minutes, but the kids all filed peaceably past.

About halfway through our watch, a white car filled with boys and booming music pulled up to the light next to us. Immediately LG said, "that car's on a special watch," and punched the license into her computer to verify. I guess someone a few streets over called in to complain that this car was speeding on the street, and the boys in it were smoking weed. I got momentarily excited, because I thought LG might go after them, but she said she couldn't move during school duty, and we'd catch them later. (We didn't.) She said if she came across them again, she'd find a reason to pull them over.

That instigated a really interesting conversation about drugs and the law. Evidently if an officer pulls a driver over and has suspicion of illegal activity (like smells it or something), they can say, "Would you step out of the car, please?" and when the driver and/or passengers do, that action gives the police the legal right to search the car. And if the driver refuses to get out of the car, officers can do whatever they need to in order to remove the person from the car.

LG also told me the difference in smells between burnt and unburnt cannabis. I kept my mouth shut. It's a good thing if a cop thinks you're too naive to know about that.

Then we cruised Evanston, and I got to see all the bad parts. (I had no idea Evanston had an underbelly!) Once there was a bank hold-up call, and LG decided to race to it, despite being all the way on the opposite end of the city. She said it's usually a false alarm, but in case it wasn't . . . By the time we got there, the call had been cancelled, but it was pretty exciting to be in the car with the sirens going, speeding through rush hour.

After that, she pulled over a woman who illegally turned right on red--right in front of us! LG said that if she pulls someone over, she's going to give them a ticket, no passes. LG wants to be a traffic cop. I thought that sounded pretty boring, just going after driving offenses, but she said that it included doing accident reconstructions.

That was about the highlight of the afternoon. It was pretty slow. None of the calls were for us, though we did check on two other incidents (two boys fighting, and a drunk, injured man) to see if the officers there needed help. We cruised past all the parks where kids usually hang out and get into mischief, though no one was that day. LG took me to one of the parks where the Latino gangs usually are, and pointed out, "That's so-and-so. He's a Latin King. And that's so-and-so. he's in Los Locos." She told me a lot about gangs, which was super interesting. I guess when a Latin King murders someone, he gets to tattoo 5 dots on his hand, like on a dice. Those who specialize in thievery get to tattoo 3 dots.

Towards the end of the ride, we came across two drug officers who LG is friends with, and we parked in a community center lot and talked for a while.

LG said I should do a ride along on a Saturday night. It would definitely be more action-packed than this afternoon was, but it was really nice to see more of Evanston, and get familiar with some of the areas where my future kids (clients) hang out.



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