Despite the fact that I’ve always loved reading crime novels and obsessed over television shows like “CHIPs” and “Law & Order,” I have never really considered a career in law enforcement.
My father is a retired New York City Police Officer, and at various points in my life has tried to urge me in that direction. While I’ve always had the utmost respect for men and women who choose to protect and serve, I’ve just never seen myself in uniform.
Until yesterday. When I found myself zooming down the road in a police vehicle, lights and sirens blaring, in hot pursuit of a pick up truck with a suspended registration. It was then that I realized perhaps I had missed my calling. What an adrenaline rush!
I do love my current job, don’t get me wrong. After all, it’s why I got the chance to ride shotgun with the Oxford Police Department in the first place. Yesterday was the second half of a two part ride-a-long with the department’s esteemed leader, Chief Rich Nolan.
The first half took place on Nov. 14, when I joined the chief in the wee hours of the morn to write a few parking tickets. To allow for snow removal and the like, the Village of Oxford has parking ordinances that go into effect from Nov.1 to April 30 prohibiting on-street parking between the hours of 3 and 6 a.m.
It was around 5 a.m. when the chief and I hit the streets in the oldest of the department’s two patrol cars, a Chevy Impala which will likely be replaced in the next year.
There wasn’t much traffic at that early hour and we only gave two of the parking violation tickets, which carry a $35 fine. There was plenty of time to chat as we made our rounds of the seemingly sleepy streets.
But apparently, Oxford isn’t as sleepy as it looks.
“The village is really busy with criminal activity,” the chief told me. That crime, much of which is fueled by alcohol and drugs, is his department’s first priority.
Traffic enforcement is secondary, he explained, but he is well aware his jurisdiction has a bit of a reputation for nabbing speeders. It’s not necessarily the number of tickets written that contributes to this perception, he said, but the fact that he and his officers keep visible in the community especially along South Canal Street (Route 12).
The chief and his officers spend as little time in the office and as much time as possible out on patrol. Nolan even encourages them to do paperwork in the car, because he feels the patrol car’s presence can deter would-be law breakers.
“We stop a lot of crime just being visible,” he explained
Nolan’s strategy appears to be paying off. He’s estimating that complaints this year will be down about 400 from the 3,000 filed in 2007. He believes that the number would be as much as three times higher if his department kept a lower profile on the streets.
I enjoyed the time cruising around the village that Friday morning, but it was nothing compared to the second installment of my mini-internship. When I caught up with the chief at around 11 a.m. yesterday, I was happy to see that I’d get to ride around in the department’s new vehicle, a Dodge Durango.
Oxford acquired the Durango just this summer, thanks to a grant from Senator Thomas Libous. If there was a show called “Pimp My Police Cruiser,” this SUV could well be the result. It is loaded with high-tech systems including cameras, recording devices, a laptop with electronic ticketing software and radar that projects to the front and rear of the vehicle...