August 16, 2022

COLUMN: The men behind the badge

Last week I went on a ride along with my husband, Patrick, while he was working. If you didn’t already know, Patrick serves as a police officer for the city of Creston.

Let me start this by being clear - in my articles, I present the facts and omit any opinions I may have on the subject. Here, I will not.

Last week a police report sparked an argument on the CNA Facebook page about our local law enforcement and what they spend their time doing. Over the last few years, I’ve come to know our city officers (and most of the deputies) pretty well.

There’s two things I hear more than anything. The first is that they do nothing. They sit, park, talk, eat donuts and drink coffee. They don’t do anything for the people of the city. The second is they are, well, I’ll say jerks, although that’s usually not the word used. People have an officer they don’t like because of an interaction they’ve heard about.

I rode along with Patrick for six hours that night. Other than traffic stops, he only stopped twice - each less than 15 minutes. We spent that six hours driving the streets of Creston.

It blows my mind how they can be so focused and so attentive for hours on end. Have you gone for a long drive? I zone out within the first 20 minutes and wonder how I even ended up at my destination.

He watches for signs of drunk driving. He’s looking for people who have warrants out for their arrest. He’s watching down side streets to look for suspicious activity. For those six hours, he didn’t stop working.

The other officers did the same. There were two other city officers out patrolling for most of the time. Like him, they were driving or parked in a high traffic area running the radar. The only thing that took them off the roads were arrests. There wasn’t any coffee or donuts. But if there were, so what? I definitely am not making it through a day here without caffeine, and it doesn’t stop me from being able to do my job.

Patrick told me a story that happened the other day. They had pulled over a group of young adults headed to play basketball at an outdoor court. There were four of them and two officers. One of the officers asked if they wanted to play a little three on three. For the next 20-30 minutes, they played a game of pickup basketball until they got called away.

I share that story not because it’s some incredible moment, but because it’s real. We stopped at Caseys for some snacks, and a little girl waved at him. He gave her a big smile and a wave. A lot of them keep honorary officer stickers with them for kids. The other day, someone asked if he could show his lights to a 2-year-old obsessed with police cars. He made that kid’s day.

We went on multiple calls and made numerous stops. I stayed in the car, of course. But I was impressed with his empathy. He listened to them. He heard them out. He has to make a judgement call based on the interaction. He didn’t write any citations that night.

The things they see, the things they hear - it stays with them. But they go to work the next day and do their job. A few weeks ago someone told him he should kill himself. That’s what someone said to my husband - the love of my life. Like he’s not someone’s son, brother, friend.

These men are real people. They’re humans with families and a job. They don’t put the vest on because they want to ruin someone’s day. There are big problems in Creston. Last year, the department executed approximately 25 search warrants and recovered nearly $300,000 in stolen property and 50 illegally-owned guns.

The next time you see someone run a stop sign or go too fast down a road, ask yourself if that’s the worst thing happening in town.

Would you rather that person be cited for failure to stop at a stop sign, or have a woman saved from an abusive situation? Would you rather someone be pulled over for their speed or have the officers out looking for stolen guns?

Look around town. Many places have had to shorten hours or completely close on certain days of the week because of staffing challenges. The police don’t have that option. They can’t just close early one day. I’m sure they could all tell you of days they worked a 16 hour shift, got seven hours off and came back for a nine or even another 16-hour shift. That doesn’t include time they spend in court and at trainings.

I didn’t get special ride along privileges because I’m his wife. Anyone can do a ride along. You don’t have to take my word for it. If you think the officers don’t care and just sit around all day, head to the law center and ask about a ride along.

Cheyenne Roche

CHEYENNE ROCHE

Originally from Wisconsin, Cheyenne has a journalism and political science degree from UW-Eau Claire and a passion for reading and learning. She lives in Creston with her husband and their two little dogs.