Are you curious about what it’s like to be the person driving the police cruiser?
I recently joined Norwalk police officers during one of their shifts in hopes of better understanding their jobs.
According to the department’s position description, officers need to be able to “communicate effectively, exercise sound judgement, develop and maintain working relationships with associates, collect, analyze and interpret data, prepare and maintain accurate documentation and work independently.”
I saw first-hand how important all of these skills are for a police officer.
The officers demonstrated very good communication and definitely seemed to have each others’ backs.
The radios issued to each police officer are used throughout most of the shift. Officers keep each other, along with dispatch, updated on each situation, including suspicious activity in passing.
Each police cruiser is equipped with a screen, which is useful for finding locations and looking up information. While driving around, we could scan the license plate of the car in front of us and see if the tags were valid.
One call we received involved helping someone who was locked out of a vehicle. We used tools from the back to unlock the vehicle without damage. The person was not issued a ticket or warning, just helped. This is a part of an officer’s job that happens often but is sometimes overlooked.
Norwalk is a small town and there is not criminal activity every minute. So, when we were not going to a certain destination, we parked in a few different spots to check for speeders.
I gave away a few of my speeding spots — not that I still speed, for the record — and sure enough, motorists were exceeding the speed limit in those places. I was allowed to scan a license plate for a speed, but since I am not certified, it didn’t count.
The officer I was working with pulled over a couple vehicles in different spots. Each time, the speeding was not severe and the driver received a written warning.
Whenever he got out to speak with the driver, the officer had a smile on his face and engaged the driver in a conversation. Although I stayed in the cruiser and could not hear what was going on, I could see how one might feel bad having to approach speeders, especially if the drivers are angry or crying. Either way, this is part of the job and helps keep the community safe.
On one stop, officers knew a driver who had just been pulled over and were cautious, so back-up came to assist with the traffic stop. Nothing crazy happened, but it was nice to see the teamwork in action.
After being pulled over, civilians are scanned through LEADS (Law Enforcement Automated Data System) by dispatch, so before approaching the vehicle, officers know if someone has any warrants or a violent history. This is very important for the officer’s safety and helps the officer know what to expect.
I was impressed by how much public relations is involved with being a police officer.
Officer Paul Gardner said waving is one of the biggest parts of his job. Whenever we passed someone on the street, we made sure to smile and wave, which I thought was admirable.
Gardner also mentioned how he follows the golden rule of “treating others how you want to be treated” when doing his job.
Officers work in at least eight-hour shifts, ensuring the police station is manned 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Even on days when most people have off work, at least some police station employees need to be on duty.
As we drove through the community, we checked parks and areas with a lot of people to make sure there was no suspicious activity.
It was a neat experience to see the behind-the-scenes aspects of law enforcement.
I also spent a bit of time with detectives. This was super cool. There is a lot of research, planning and patience involved in their job and I now have a better appreciation for the work they do.
At the moment, Norwalk has 35 full-time officers, three reserve officers and six dispatchers.
Our community has a well-organized, efficient police department. After seeing how friendly officers are with the community, the uneasy situations they have to enter, the unhappy civilians they stay calm around and other aspects of their job, I have a lot more respect for Norwalk’s finest.
I understand that many people become angry when they are caught doing something they shouldn’t. I know I wasn’t overjoyed when I received a speeding ticket. However, the truth is there is a lot of work that goes into law enforcement and there are reasons those laws are set in the first place.
Instead of making a hard job more difficult, we can appreciate the work of police officers and others in this field and be cooperative. In the meantime, don’t forget to wave at your neighborhood policemen.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The “Mad about…” series involves day-in-the-life stories about local workers. Reflector Correspondent Madeline Roche spends time doing their jobs and then tells readers what it's like. If you would like your business to be featured, call 419-668-3771 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Position: Norwalk police officer
Qualifications: Must be at least 21 years old and have completed Ohio peace officer’s training certification
Pay range: Starting wages for a newly hired officer is $23.35 per hour and they max out at $28.91 per hour, usually after three years.