Citizen’s Police Academy Ride-alongs

Citizen’s Police Academy Ride-alongs

What happens out on patrol?

By Julie Gerke

Editor’s note: Citizen’s Police Academy is a weekly series by Julie Gerke, who is participating in the local 12-week class that educates adult students on the work and procedures of local law enforcement.

Spend some time in the front seat of a patrol car, and you will get a glimpse at why and how police do their job.

To give the broadest view of what officers see, members of the Jacksonville Police Department’s Citizen’s Police Academy spend an afternoon with one officer and then an overnight stretch with a different officer.

Both of my four-hour rides, with JPD (Jacksonville Police Department) Officer Mathew Grubb (day) and JPD Officer Jacob Atwood (night), were mainly within Zone 2, a patrol area on the city’s northeast side.

Weekend nights tend to be busier than weekdays, but activity for all shifts depends mainly on the whims of those who might break the law or cause problems.

Officers carry a handgun, stun gun, handcuffs, ammunition magazines and pepper spray on their duty belts, which can ultimately weigh 15 to 20 pounds. Protective vests add another five pounds.

The back of a JPD Ford Explorer is home to a rifle, a non-lethal (bean bag) shotgun, a medical kit that includes Narcan, gloves and other personal protective equipment, and tools to assist officers if needing to make forced entry to a car or house.

The front seat is crowded with a small laptop computer, radar, dash camera, main-channel and tactical radios, and switches for lights and sirens. The camera engages automatically when the light bar is activated.

A thick plastic screen divides the front seat from the back, and it has a small sliding window to allow communication between officer and passenger. A camera captures sounds and activity.

The computer provides enough information so that an officer is well prepared when he or she sees something questionable. Officers can enter a driver’s license or car registration number to learn ownership, status and previous law enforcement interaction; can find jail or prison mugshots before serving a warrant; and see at a glance where their fellow officers are located and the type of call they are answering.

It rained the afternoon I rode with Grubb, and few people were outside. We spent some time driving through neighborhoods and eventually settled on a spot along South Main Street so he could use radar. It wasn’t long before a car approached: 44 mph in a 30 mph zone, and no front license plate. The driver ended up with a warning citation only for the speeding; the front plate is not required in the state where the plate was issued.

A semitruck driver asked for traffic control on the far end of North Main Street, near the railroad viaduct. His truck’s 13.6-foot height was the same as the 13.6-foot posted clearance, and he wanted to back up to turn around in a nearby driveway.

Grubb then checked on another officer who had stopped a vehicle, but a third officer already had arrived to provide back-up if needed. That left us free to head to a house where a woman was upset after a disagreement with a contractor; Grubb and other officers later determined the issue was a civil matter, and not criminal.

A car is searched, with the owner’s permission, by JPD Officer Jacob Atwood after the driver failed to fully stop at a stop sign.

The overnight ride was a bit busier. A few minutes after leaving the police department parking lot, Atwood spotted someone who had a criminal history and an expired

registration tag. He checked the woman’s records and talked with her, but found the only current issue was the tag. He took advantage of the interaction to remind her about the need for child restraint seats.

At the far west end of Morton Avenue, we came across a man encamped in his car, and then returned to Zone 2 for another swing through neighborhoods and parking lots.

A vehicle failed a complete stop at an intersection, an oversight that eventually ended with an arrest for cannabis possession. The driver, visibly nervous but intensely polite, allowed Atwood to conduct a “pat down” and to search his car. We made a quick trip to the jail before returning to the police department so Atwood could weigh the cannabis (over the legal amount to carry), finalize his report with JPD Sgt. Scott Cleveland and put the cannabis in the evidence locker. Later, evidence tech Chris McMinn would process the bagged evidence and send it for testing.

JPD Officer Jacob Atwood works on paperwork for a cannabis possession misdemeanor.

We returned to Zone 2 for another quick drive-around and then back to Morton Avenue, where Atwood checked registration tags and looked for various violations. He stopped a sidewalk bicyclist headed north, concerned about the man’s lack of working lights, and then went downtown to check exiting bar crowds. A quick discussion among officers piqued interest in a possible sighting of a man wanted on a warrant, but a search of nearby alleys and secondary streets proved fruitless.

With the slow night, Atwood returned to the police department to work on other reports before he finished his shift at 6 a.m

Teen Police Academy scheduled for June

The Jacksonville Police Department’s Teen Police Academy will be held in June at the department’s regional training facility. Students will interact with officers and experience what they do on a daily basis.

The academy for middle schoolers (ages 12-14) will be 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. June 5-9. High school students (ages 15-17) will attend from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 12-16.

Students will learn teambuilding and leadership skills in activities that include the special response team, K-9, fingerprinting, crime scene investigation and more. Areas will be interactive and, in most cases, hands on.

The students will be transported daily by West Central Illinois Mass Transit from the police department to the training facility.

Application deadline is May 5. Informational packets can be picked up at the police department, Jacksonville Middle School, Jacksonville High School, Our Saviour School and Routt Catholic High School.

For questions, call School Resource Officer Dave Turner at Jacksonville Middle School (217-243-3383), SRO Craig Wright at Jacksonville High School (217-243-4384), or the police department at 217-479-4630.

Ridealong1: JPD Officer Mathew Grubb talks to a woman whose car he pulled over for speeding. He issued her a warning citation.

Ridealong2: A car is searched, with the owner’s permission, by JPD Officer Jacob Atwood after the driver failed to fully stop at a stop sign.

Ridealong3: JPD Officer Jacob Atwood works on paperwork for a cannabis possession misdemeanor.

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