This article was written by BenitoLink intern Juliana Luna
Ever wondered what police do during their shifts? My first contact with officers was at my elementary school, Hollister Dual Language Academy. They walked around the playground, catching kids’ attention. When they stopped they were surrounded by children asking for golden stickers. I knew I’d get a sticker but I never expected myself to be sitting in a police vehicle 13 years later.
The Hollister Police Department offers ride-alongs, but because of a shortage of officers, it gives priority to people considering a career in the police force.
Passing the required background check got me a seat. I didn’t have any warrants, nor was I a runaway serial killer.
On July 22, from noon to 5 p.m, I was accompanied by Officer Chris Dooley. Many kinds of calls can happen within that short timeframe.
The moment Dooley opened the passenger seat, my mind ran with many thoughts.
Oh my God, I’m sitting in a police car, I told myself.
One of the first things Dooley told me was that the reality show “COPS,” where police run to track down a suspected criminal, is not an accurate description of the daily work of an officer.
First on the list was a gas stop to refuel our journey. Fun fact: the police have their own gas station.
Dooley said it’s great, especially for the protection of officers so as to not be ambushed while refueling.
We then drove to San Benito Street and arrived in two minutes, in response to a caller seeing smoke in the air.
After checking the area, nothing appeared out of the ordinary.
A welfare check was next. Dooley said the previous night, a 14-year-old girl ran away from home and had returned in the morning.
We stopped by their home, and Dooley asked questions regarding the girl’s health: “How are you feeling?” and “Are you alright?”
The girl’s father informed us there had been a disagreement between them before his daughter ran off.
Then Dooley provided advice and information to the girl on how potentially dangerous her decision was.
“There are bad people out there who could do you harm,” Dooley said.
After confirming she was safe, we returned to the patrol car.
Inside, Dooley’s face showed concern from hearing dispatch that Officer Macierz was unresponsive to radio calls after a traffic violation stop.
With many possible outcomes, Dooley drove to Macierz’s last known location on Third Street near Hollister Super Market #2.
I asked him why he couldn’t turn the sirens and lights on to get there faster.
Dooley said the sirens are utilized when there’s a known threat happening and is requiring urgent intervention.
He added that when not using sirens, he is still subjected to the rules of the road.
It turned out that Macierz was alright. He was busy writing his report of the traffic violation.
Macierz observed the driver cutting off several other drivers. Macierz said the man was driving with an expired license, plates and stolen registration stickers.
According to the HPD 2021 annual report, officers processed 283 traffic collisions and issued 2,470 traffic citations.
This is where I saw the good and bad cop scenario play out.
As Macierz searched the man’s vehicle, Dooley explained to the driver the process of police searching his vehicle.
After Macierz found a small glass pipe, he took out a small piece of paper from his vest and began to read it to the driver.
“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you. Do you understand the rights I have just read to you? With these rights in mind, do you wish to speak to me?” he said.
The driver’s car was towed just minutes before the driver gathered his belongings, put them into a garbage can and left.
Sometime during the ride-along, we parked at Veterans Memorial Park for Dooley to file reports and contact a resident to provide advice on how to get back their stolen vehicle.
If it’s difficult to spot police cars underneath trees in empty lots, then the officers are doing a good job.
Dooley said patrol cars are parked in shadows for officers’ protection, as their attention is diverted from outside surroundings while they write reports on a computer. Dooley said there have been occasions where people would approach a police car to harm the officers.
Our last call was made by a woman who said her ex-partner was trying to break into the house.
Dooley said he knew the ex-partner and had talked to him before. As we got closer, he unbuckled his seatbelt, in case he needed to quickly get out of the car.
We arrived at the scene along with two other patrol cars.
Apparently it was all a misunderstanding. The ex-partner had gotten locked out of the former shared house and was trying to get his belongings back.
On our way back to the department, Dooley said Hollister residents are peaceful. To him, Ride-alongs are the best way to be transparent to the public.
I started not knowing what to expect, and I left with a better understanding of how the police spend their day. They don’t know what the next call will be, but they are prepared to be at the scene.
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