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City of Bartlesville

Posted: Nov 19, 2019 3:42 PMUpdated: Nov 19, 2019 5:01 PM

A Ride Along Story with Bartlesville Police

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Garrett Giles

***Note that this story is strictly opinion and observation based***

Imagine you are riding in the passenger seat of a police car, the lights are a glaring red and blue, and you do not know what to expect at the scene that you are called to.

All you know is that there is an emergency of sorts that needs to be made right. That’s how it felt when I recently rode with a Bartlesville Police Officer on Thursday, Nov. 14th.

I didn’t know what to expect hours before the ride along took place. As we got closer to 7:00 p.m., I felt some anxiousness because I knew there were some dangers to be had; I never thought I’d be able to get a close encounter of what police officers do on a day-and-night basis being a reporter that only writes about what happens after the fact.

The doors to the Bartlesville Police Department lobby were locked, but I was able to open the front doors of the building along Johnstone Avenue to access the phone to call dispatch that I was there for my ride along. I was told an officer would be with me promptly, so I looked at Facebook on my phone while I waited.

I was only on my phone for what felt like seconds when an officer – who will go by Sergeant M – powered through the door. That got my attention in a hurry.

We didn’t exchange names or niceties at first; we had to go. To explain our pace, Sgt. M was what felt like an entire hallway ahead of me. Thankfully he paused for a moment for me to catch up, but when we were together again, the pace increased. I was able to keep up this time.

Everything moves fast; there is not a moment to lose. We jumped into a Dodge Durango and he got to work while I simply observed.

A short silence followed as we sped out of the BPD parking lot; Sgt. M was focused. As we headed east on Adams past the OnCue, he explained that he had been at the Jane Phillips Medical Center to assist with a mental health patient. I guess I had just missed him trying to get cuffs for the patient’s feet because he/she was acting erratic, and there was some concern that said patient would kick out the window of a fellow officer’s vehicle.

We did not head to the JPMC once Sgt. M picked me up. Apparently, a three car accident occurred on Madison just south of Homeland that needed attention. Sounded like the officer had the situation handled and was taking the patient to a mental hospital in Tulsa.

From what I gathered, Sgt. M was doing his best to balance three things at once. He had to pick my sorry butt up after doing all that he could to help with a mental health patient, and there was a three car pile-up that was blocking traffic on a stretch of road in Bartlesville that sometimes sees heavy traffic. I could see why we were acting quickly.

During our drive to the wreck on Madison, Sgt. M told me his name, how long he has been in law enforcement, and mentioned how he had to take a slice of pizza with him that his wife and kids had made him. Work called and he had to go.

Turned out that the wreck was basically cleared by the time of our arrival. Sgt. M said I could get out of the car, and I did. I stood off to the side and out of the way. Honestly, I had no idea where I needed to be or who I needed to follow. I watched Sgt. M check out some vehicles that had been pulled off the road. Traffic was still reduce to one lane in the south bound lanes as they waited for a wrecker to tow the vehicle away. As severe as the wreck sounded, it seemed to be a minor fender bender.

We were there for up to 10 minutes. I was introduced by Sgt. M to one other officer at the scene, and Sgt. M mentioned that I was with the radio station. Prior to that moment, I had not told him that I was with the radio station. When I asked him how he knew, he said the people that set-up the ride along for me had told him that I worked at the Bartlesville stations.

I was planning on telling him that I would write a story if he was okay with me doing such a thing before I even had knowledge that he knew who I worked for. Now that we were on the same page, I asked for permission to write that story. Sgt. M was willing for me to write the story.

Two weeks ahead of my meeting with Sgt. M. I had met with Bartlesville Police Chief Tracy Roles and Sgt. Jim Warring (the public information officer) to discuss ways in which we could continue to communicate well with one another if / when something big happens. Less than a week later, 10 people were sent to the hospital because they received insulin instead of a flu shot at the Jacquelyn House. There was excellent communication on all ends, and I could not appreciate their information, their time and their dedication to their job and the community more.

The reason this is being brought up is because it was Chief Roles and Sgt. Warring that encouraged me to do the ride along. And I’m grateful they got me plugged into it.

After, the traffic accident, Sgt. M and I went to Walmart. Four juveniles were caught stealing hair dye, drinking sodas and eating food without paying for it. As we pulled up to the store, Sgt. M said I needed an alias and that I needed to say that I was in training if anyone asked me questions. We never came up with a name, but I figured that would come naturally.

One of the teens was mildly hysterical when we got to the Walmart security room where they were being held, but she calmed down. Walking into that panic made me feel uneasy, but Sgt. M was calm and collected, which is what mattered most. They were all a bit frantic.

Sgt. M asked the juveniles to sit down so he could control the situation. One of the juveniles questioned him only for a second, but he assured the juvenile that what he said wasn’t a suggestion. They all sat down after that.

Questioning began; Sgt. M asked the kids how to spell their names, their age and asked for social security numbers.

“Is anyone a runaway?” Sgt. M asked.

The juveniles were adamant that none of them were runaways, but one girl was silent. Sgt. M got to her last. He asked her several times to spell her name, and every time he asked her to spell her name, it changed. And all the information he got from the kids was sent to dispatch, and they told him that the girl was in fact a runaway from Lawtown, Oklahoma. DHS also confirmed this fact to Sgt. M.

Sobs came from there. Sgt. M had to place her in handcuffs, and he still had a collected attitude about the situation. Me, I couldn’t help feeling some sense of sorrow for the girl.

As we waited for legal guardians and for everything to be sorted out with Walmart security, the kids talked. It was one juvenile’s birthday, and they said they did this to “try something new” and that friends at school said “it was easy.” Sgt. M and I couldn’t help thinking that they needed better friends.

They wouldn’t be the only ones to steal from Walmart obviously. On a board in the Walmart security room, there was a list of months and next to the month was a dollar amount for how much merchandise has been recovered that could have been stolen. By every month, there was an average of $1,700 in recovered property.

The four juveniles with us did not steal or consume enough items for prosecution, but their pictures were taken. The Walmart security guard told them that they would be permitted in Walmart stores, but if they were caught again, they would be banned for life. That includes other Walmart properties like Sam’s Club.

Eventually the kids were free to go, except the runaway from Lawton. Still felt some sorrow for her. Deep down, I think Sgt. M did, too. As we walked casually through Walmart, some eyes were on us. I think I was the only one that noticed. Sgt. M was preoccupied; he was talking to the juvenile about the situation and how he understood what she was going through. She never said a word to him, but he did what he could to let her know that everything was going to be alright. At least that’s how I interpreted the situation.

Getting into the Durango, Sgt. M asked the juvenile if she had any illegal drugs on her person.

“Once we walk into the jail and you have drugs on you, there is nothing I can do for you,” Sgt. M said.

The juvenile said she had a cigarette, but that was not what he meant. When he explained that he was asking about, she simply said, “no.” He then reiterated that if she is caught in the Washington County Detention Center with drugs, there would be nothing he could do for her. That, he said, would be a felony.

At the WCDC, we had to wait; booking took some time, and we had to wait for the local DHS worker to come to the jail. Sgt. M grabbed a chair, put it in front of me, and said, “You might want to sit down Officer Warner… It’s a waiting game now.” I knew my alias would come naturally!

So I took a seat… and, well… waited.

This process, especially with juveniles, takes time. A lot of time, but we were on record pace I suppose. The whole thing took an hour and a half of my three to four hour stint with Sgt. M. I already mentioned how the situation was sad, but it was also handled very professionally. Sgt. M and the deputies at the WCDC did everything that they could to protect the identity of the individual juvenile that was in custody. They did an excellent job of meeting her needs as well and got her into the right hands by the end of the night.

From there, we headed back to the Bartlesville Police Department so Sgt. M could do paperwork. We were there for 10 minutes when we were called out to an argument on Dewey Avenue. So we ran like we did in the beginning to the Durango in order to fly to the scene. I was barely in the car as Sgt. M was taking off. I managed to squeak into the car though.

I was not asked to exit the vehicle this time… We were the first to the scene and Sgt. M approached a home owner. Before I knew it, several other officers came from the shadows behind the car and were assisting with the situation. I was amazed by how quickly the BPD had some many officers at one scene.

Neighbors had been arguing about how one was running a wood splitter late at night. The gentleman that Sgt. M approached first agreed to turn the machine off. Nothing else came from the scene.

Returned to the paperwork from there. Incidents died down for a while, and I thought my time was over until a shoplifting attempt took place at the Family Dollar along Frank Phillips Boulevard.

Dispatch gave a description of the suspect as Sgt. M and I were hauling it to the scene. The officer Sgt. M introduced me to earlier was talking to the suspect when we arrived. Officer H was calm and cool like Sgt. M was with the four juveniles earlier.

The suspect was a 21-year-old woman in a grey hoody and sweat pants. Her hand was also wrapped because a jailer at the Washington County Detention Center had allegedly smashed her thumb when she was in custody not long ago.

On the hood of the car was several items that she allegedly stole from the store mentioned. Some items I saw from behind Sgt. M was a few plastic lizards, Carmax and other miscellaneous things you can get at a dollar store. She told Sgt. M and Officer H that there were other items that she paid for that she left behind because the cashier was giving her grief.

As Officer H kept asking her questions as to why she ran away, she got angry, cursed, and threw money on the hood of the car. She said she would go back to the store to pay for everything even though she told them she already paid for the items prior to saying that she needed to pay for them. And as she continued to be irate, it became more obvious that she was the suspect they were looking for, and Officer H placed her casually in handcuffs.

Sgt. M did have to assist with putting her in the car. She kicked at Officer H once and they placed her over the hood of the car without being rough. She cried that they were hurting her thumb, but from what I saw, they were not even close to touching her thumb… She also whistled as if she were signaling for something or someone, but nothing happened.

We went to the Family Dollar to talk to the cashier that reported the crime. I stayed in the Durango with Sgt. M and we just talked. He told me we were babysitting to make sure the suspect wouldn’t kick out the window of Officer H’s car. She never did, but they had to have someone watching the suspect.

While we were watching, Officer H checked video surveillance to see if the person we had was the person of interest. From what I could tell from listening to their conversation, it was the suspect, and Sgt. M told me her charges could’ve been different if she cooperated. In other words, if she admitted to stealing the items and gave them back, they would have written her a ticket and sent her home. Instead, she became adamant and they had to act.

Sgt. M and I were not part of the booking process this time. That was up to Officer H. I returned back to the BPD with Sgt. M, and we shared some final thoughts. He said I could join in on the late night shift with a different officer if I wanted to, because his shift ended and I said earlier that I would only be around for a few hours.

I thought about it pretty hard. Sgt. M said there is three different types of Bartlesville, and that rang true to me. The night shift between the day shift and the overnight shift was enough for me. I figured it would be good to end the night with the guide I started this journey with anyway.

I said this to him, and we said our goodbyes. I was also encouraged to return for another ride along if I felt so inclined. I think I will, because it was an eye opening experience that I think we all need to see to truly understand the craziness and the difficult tasks the men and women in blue handle every day to keep us safe and sound. Besides, I only scratched the surface of what they do and see on a daily basis.

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