It was nearly a year ago when I did my first 12-hour ride along with a Norwich Police Officer. When I arrived at 6:52 a.m. this past Saturday, it was as if I hadn’t missed a beat.
Last year, I rode with now Detective-Sergeant Reuben Roach. There was an arrest made of a youth for burglary. The youth – later that day – became the first person to ever escape that station. She was captured again within mere minutes, and I learned that the felony escape charge was dropped in court.
At any rate, upon discussing the plans for the day with Sergeant Gard Turner and the officer I’d be riding with, George Carnike III, I learned that the first person we were to pick up was the same youth that escaped the station last March.
Multiple people within the department on more than one occasion have told me that the officers deal with ten percent of Norwich’s population 90 percent of the time.
When I discovered the first person to be interviewed regarding a petit larceny investigation was the same individual as before, it was just the beginning as to how true that statement is.
Before I get into the happenings of the day, I’ll give a little bit of background about the officer I spent my day with. Officer Carnrike has been with the NPD for four years, and has worked both the day and night shifts. It was clear based on our conversations that he is extremely passionate about the work he does.
When I asked Turner and Carnrike if I thought there would be many arrests Saturday, Sgt. said, “He (Carnrike) gets results. Believe me.”
Carnrike’s vehicle is not equipped with plate readers as some patrol vehicles are. Instead, Carnrike uses his memory – which I would assess as more than impressive – to track down and apprehend those in violation of legislation.
Carnrike was able – as we were driving through the city – to spot a vehicle, know who was operating it, know that s/he was doing so with a suspended license, verify with the computer software, and then was able to stop the vehicle.
He didn’t need the technology of the plate readers to tell him something was up, he is just familiar enough with the residents to know when something is awry.
At one point during the day, Carnrike positively identified an individual from behind simply by how the person walked. When I checked in my mirror after passing, I verified he was correct. That’s how good he knows the city he serves.
Okay, flashback to the morning with where it all began. We made our way to the Norwich Inn where we were to locate the suspect of a crime. The room we entered was filled with people. Filled. The suspect in question was there, and right when said person saw me, she made a comment something to the effect of, “Ahh, it’s her again.” Last year she had no idea I was affiliated with the newspaper, and I don’t know if she knows to this day.
Regardless, she was brought to the station, was read her Miranda, and then confessed to stealing perfume and cologne from a business in the city.
The key here is that the officer was respectful to the youth, she returned that respect, confessed to the theft, signed a statement, was issued appearance tickets, and was returned to the Inn.
Carnrike had told her if she cooperated, he would take her back and she would not have to appear before a judge that day. They each kept their word.
Carnrike explained to me what drives him with his job, and why he operates the way he does. He said he is going to be as proactive as he can to get the drugs off of the streets, knowing that each arrest can help somehow. Carnrike acknowledged that once his job is done – the arrest and processing – it’s out of his hands and he can’t control what judges and lawyers do with those he’s arrested, but at least he has done his job by getting heroin (or crack, or whatever drug it may be) off of someone at least for a night.
Carnrike and I could pass a vehicle or a residence and he could say there was a good chance there were drugs inside or in the possession of the person. However, it’s not that simple. In order to stop a vehicle, there has to be probable cause, and a “good chance” isn’t enough.
It was discussed at some point during the day about how many folks speak about the police not doing enough to bust those who may be possessing or dealing drugs. However, it’s not as simple as some may think.
We witnessed vehicles outside probable ‘drug houses’ that we thought might stay for a short period and then leave. But even if that happened, there would have to be probable cause to stop the vehicle.
Carnrike explained that it’s not difficult to obtain probable cause, but he likes it to be absolutely solid.
He ran the plates through the system of a few cars at locations where drugs have been known to be, and they were all from out of the area.
I also saw first-hand how the job could be frightening at times. Carnrike searched some individuals he had stopped and the two were very jittery and mobile within the car before the officer exited his vehicle. The driver even went as far as to open his car door before the officer approached – something I know is very dangerous to do.
The interaction led to both the driver and passenger consenting to a search of their persons. Carnrike instructed me that if he was to be taken down, to use the radio and request another unit to our location. Upon searching one of the men, he was in possession of multiple knives.
This is when I remembered what we all discussed that morning about officer safety. It’s policy to touch the back of each vehicle stopped, in case something were to happen. Some officers press down on the trunk to leave their mark, others touch the tail light. This is so the officer’s fingerprints are somewhere on the vehicle in the event something were to happen.
At any rate, when it became my duty to keep an eye on the officer and call for help in case something happened, I realized this isn’t the Norwich I knew when I was seven. It’s not the Norwich I knew when I was 17.
When we stopped with Det. Sgt. Roach to pick up a man on a warrant who has been arrested on crack charges, and I went inside the residence, I realized that some places in Norwich reek of crack smoke, while others reek of Justin Bieber’s The Key (the stolen perfume).
My Saturday experience pulled me out of my country living bubble and threw me into places that hand sanitizer can’t wash away. It showed me that the city does have problems, so many problems on so many levels, and that the man I rode with is more than passionate about doing his part to clean up what he can.
It made me wonder how many others –not just law enforcement officers but city officials and those in power – are as passionate about cleaning up the mess as the man I spent my day with.
What I saw Saturday was a man trying his hardest to clean up the mess the best he can with the resources he has, and I respect that. The key to his executing his job successfully is passion and productivity.