50 Shades Deeper (Another Peek Behind the Badge)

Photo by Transit Gurrl

Photo by Transit Gurrl

To be read while listening to David Bowie’s Heroes.

It’s been 2 weeks since I did my ride along with the transit police and I must admit that I’m still basking in the after-glow. In a way I guess you could say that in the weeks leading up to the event I was a bit like a kid counting down the days till Christmas, and since then I’ve been raving about how it was THE BEST EXPERIENCE EVAH!!!! Yeah, it could be starting to wear a little thin with my friends, family, and colleagues but oh well.

Trust me when I say that I didn’t take this excursion lightly; a lot of careful planning was involved. Not only did I have to complete a waiver form (yikes!), they also did a security background check on me. About that background check, I’ve always been one to follow the straight and narrow (more or less) but I must admit that while I was waiting for the check to go through I had a brief moment of panic. We’ve all been a little naughty, but I don’t think I’ve ever been bad. More to the point, just what is their criteria for bad? Have I ever been arrested and was so traumatized by the experience that I completely purged it from my memory? Fortunately, no, I’ve been a good gurrl (*wink*).

But I digress… Being the responsible gurrl that I am, my mind immediately turned to practical matters as soon as I got the go-ahead from the powers that be. Yes, I needed a new purse, and a new hat. *Sigh*, okay, I was looking for an excuse to justify buying a new purse and hat. Okay, fine, I may or may not have bought 2 new hats but in my defence, they’re really cute.

I saw and learned so much during my ride along that I couldn’t possibly fit it all into one post so today I’d like to share with you more highlights and interesting facts. For example, I was so giddy (I’m a girl, I’m allowed to be giddy) that after the handcuffing/frisking, as we were walking to the car I couldn’t help but pump my fist in the air and exclaim “Sh*t just got real!”. What can I say, I’m from the ‘burbs.

We drove to dinner and on the way to the car the officers warned me I’d have to ride in the back and that it’s pretty cramped back there. They weren’t kidding when they said there’s not a lot of leg-room back there, but given that I’m only 5’1″ (okay, I may be a little under…) it wasn’t a problem.

For those of you who have never been I a police car, allow me to enlighten you. For starters, it’s really not built for comfort – it’s nothing but hard plastic back there and not a cushion to be found. Fortunately for me I come with built-in padding so this wasn’t an issue. Second of all, aside from the metal bars on the windows (they’re pretty sturdy – I gave them a good tug), the inside of the back doors are completely bare. I’m not aware of anyone I know seeing me climb in or out of the back of the police car, but I would have paid good money to see the look on their face if they had.

Tex was kind enough to open the divider window between the front and back seats so we could talk and on the way to the restaurant his partner gave me a tour of the laptop mounted in their car. Being the consummate professional that I am, one of the first questions I asked was if they had any Tetris games going on there. Apparently police-issued computers do not come loaded with games. I can also report that although they weren’t logged onto Facebook or Twitter (I could be wrong but, don’t even think their computers have web browsers), they could see all of the calls that were coming into the transit police as well as the VPD.

Here are some other nifty facts I learned during my evening with them:

  • They walk a lot of stairs. More specifically, they walk a lot of f@cking stairs. More to the point, they do do it wearing 25 lbs of gear.
  • Each shift is 11 hours long and much like Hills Street Blues, they start each shift at a substation to find out if there are any specific people that they need to be on the lookout for.
  • Holding the doors on trains can cost you money. I know, we’ve all done it but, if a train door is held 6 times in a row, its brakes will drop and be rendered inoperable until a technician attends to it. As for you, you’ll get a $115 ticket and at least 1 train full of people uber pissed off at you– true story!
  • Smartphones are a favourite thing for thieves to snatch on transit. Paint a big target on yourself if you tend to hunch over your phone while your music is cranked. If you want to keep your phone, turn it down, sit up, and tune in to your surroundings – the more peripheral vision you have, the better!
  • Checking that people have valid farecards is not an officer’s only duty. Yes, they do catch a lot of people for fare evasion but when they’re calling to check your ID, they’re checking for warrants and breaches. FYI – in 2011 they removed 722 people with outstanding arrest warrants, and made 834 arrests for court order breaches.
  • An officer’s job is not limited to being on the buses or trains, or filling out reams of paperwork. For the 3 three hours following the officers and I parting ways, they reviewed an hour of bus footage for a case they’re working on, found two known criminals drinking beer on the Stadium platform, and then had to apprehend a person under the mental health act and take them to the hospital for expressing suicidal thoughts. Geez, what did you do at work today?
  • Transit officers are provincial police officers. They go through the same training as their counterparts and have the same officer powers as them too. The officers you see checking tickets are also out there busting sexual exploitation rings and fake ID operations, and solving hate crimes.

Ever since my ride along I not only think of transit officers as being there to serve and protect, I also consider them to be ambassadors for the city. I saw them give directions to a popular store, help an elderly woman find her way to the train station, address concerns of various passengers, and look out for homeless people. Yes, the officers are there for everyone, regardless of their station in life.

After dinner we came upon a homeless person camped in a doorway for the night, reading a book; any first world problems I may have had suddenly seemed so petty and insignificant. Constable Walker expressed concern for the person, saying the man might get hurt from someone inside opening the door, but acknowledged the person probably picked the location because of a warm draft probably coming from inside. Hello reality, I am grateful for all that I have.

Now about that waiver form…I rue the day I signed it because the night was not without its share of casualties, namely me! Honestly, I was thisclose to spending the weekend in Emergency with my leg in traction. Okay, maybe Emergency or traction weren’t needed, but I did get a big blister on my foot and it hurt, a lot! I guess I won’t be signing up as a recruit any time soon.

As for all of you officers out there, thanks again for all that you do. To quote Hill Street Blues, “Stay safe out there.”

Follow me on Twitter @TransitGurrl

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50 Shades of Transit

In lieu of seeing Spanked with my friends last Friday night, I opted to spend the evening with 2 muscly strangers with handcuffs. More to the point, I’m not ashamed to admit that when they offered me the backseat of their car, I eagerly climbed in.

Okay you pervs, get your minds out of the gutter! I had the distinct honour of doing a ride along with two of transit’s brave in blue. Not only did I get to see the ins and outs of an average shift, I feel like I got to see behind the badge, or as I like to call it, Transit Police Uncovered.

Photo by Transit Gurrl

Photo by Transit Gurrl

We had agreed to meet at the Waterfront station by 5:00, and they were late, damn it! I was starting to think that I was being stood up and then I got a call from them apologizing for the delay, they’d meet me as soon as they could.

I have to admit that prior to my evening with the officers, my exposure to transit police was limited to seeing them chatting with colleagues and checking fare tickets. I mean seriously, how hard could the job be? Umm, yeah, about that – I couldn’t be more mistaken!

The reason why they were late was because they had to deal with a traffic incident enroute.  A person was driving the wrong way down Cambie Street during the Friday night rush hour so okay, I’ll concede that the traffic incident may take priority over me *sigh*.

When they finally arrived at the Waterfront Station, Constable Graham Walker (in my mind I like to call him Texas Ranger, or Tex, for short) and his partner asked if I wouldn’t mind if we went for coffee as they had yet to have a break. I welcomed the offer as this would give me an opportunity to get to know them a bit better before we started walking their beat (check me out using the lingo!).

So how does one become a transit officer? Well, their backgrounds could not be more diverse; Tex is a former corrections officer, his partner was not only a small business owner, but also worked in banking for 10 years, and colleagues of theirs are former customs inspectors.

Both officers are passionate about the work they do and their strengths compliment each other. For example, take a good look at the picture of Tex and myself. We’re both standing, but you’ll note he’s SUBSTANTIALLY taller than me. His partner goes to the gym EVERY DAY and according to the partner, Tex is the brains, whereas his partner is the muscle. That being said, I’ll leave it to your imagination what Tex’s partner looks like.

Photo by Transit Gurrl

Photo by Transit Gurrl

After coffee the officers and I patrolled various stations and their surrounding areas, looking for persons up to no good. They were in uniform and armed with handcuffs, pepper spray, batons, and guns (seriously – they pack heat!). I, on the other hand, was packing a pink camera phone, lipstick, and a really cute hat. Yes, suffice it to say, it was difficult to distinguish the difference between myself and the officers. All kidding aside, there are plain clothes officers patrolling transit all of the time and apparently it’s quite an artform to dress undercover. Officers must wear clothes that are unidentifiable, meaning nothing flashy or with logos, but also roomy enough for them to conceal their police gear, guns, cuffs, flack jacket, et all.

Over the course of a few short hours I saw the officers hand out 2 tickets, 2 warnings, and cuff and frisk a person. The person they handcuffed was 1 man in a group of about 5 people who had a bad case of the stupids. The guys climbed a construction fence and were throwing things around. Fortunately for them, they didn’t damage anything and were genuinely sorry for their actions. When we parted company with them, they shook both officers’ hands and thanked them profusely not only for letting them go, but also for the work that they do.

Diplomacy reigns supreme when these two are on the job. Of course they want to catch bad guys, but they also work hard to diffuse situations so that instead of things going from bad to worse they go from bad to better. A good example of this is there was a man who was very upset about some political ads that were on display so he was covering them with literature refuting the ads’ claims. The officers calmed the man down and not only helped him understand that these ads were an example of free speech, which everyone has a right to, Tex also showed him a picture on his phone of another ad that is presently on display elsewhere in Vancouver and is a counterpoint to the ad upsetting the man.

One of the things that struck me that night was how much heart these officers put into their job. During their dinner break I talked with them about my experiences on transit and how I feel we passengers, transit employees, etc., are a community. The officers agreed with me and upon reflection I see they embody that sentiment with each step they take while in uniform.

Not only do the officers work closely with the Canada Line and Skytrain attendants, as well as VPD, to ensure the safety and well-being of passengers, they also have established a rapport with street people who frequent their jurisdiction. They pointed out to me that it’s not a crime to be homeless so if a person is not aggressively begging for money, they’re most likely going to let it go.

Near the close of dinner Tex told me a story that reminded me that a transit officer’s job does not start or end at the train station. One night he had to deliver a person he had in custody to a detachment on the North Shore. When he was driving over the bridge on his way back to Vancouver, he saw a man standing on the bridge that gave him cause for concern. He pulled over to speak to the guy and it soon became readily obvious that the man did want to be here anymore. The man was substantially bigger than Tex (did I mention Tex is 6’3”?) so he radio’d for backup while trying to talk the man down. The man took off but Tex was able to tackle him and keep him safe until backup arrived in the form of another transit officer and VPD, who then took him to hospital to get him the help he needed.

After dinner the officers and I parted ways I went home feeling safer knowing that there are people like Constable Walker and his colleagues out there looking after all of us. Thanks guys!

Tune in next week to learn everything you ever wanted to know about transit police but were too afraid to ask.

Follow me on Twitter @TransitGurrl

Rants, Raves, and All Things Cray-Cray

Photo by Transit Gurrl

Photo by Transit Gurrl

I ❤ my smartphone and as such I’m often downloading random apps for those times that you least suspect. A favourite app of mine these days is My Gangsta Name. The app is quite simple: type in your name and it will spit out your gangster…oops, gangsta name (wow, an app that lives up to its name!). According to the app my name is Trippin Licious. That sounds about right to me so I’m rating the app as a gooder.

I know, I know, you’re all probably thinking “Trippin Licious, why does an almost middle-aged lady from Lotus Land need an app like that?” That’s a fair question. It’s important to me to protect the privacy of friends, family, and fellow commuters so from now on I will only refer to them by gansta names.

But I digress…

My friend Trippin Loc recently noted that she too often sees effed up sh*t (I’m paraphrasing… BTW, note how bad*ss I am now that I’ve gone gangsta!) on transit and she’d like to share these stories with all of you fine readers out there. Hellz bellz (see, bad*ss!), I figure just about all of you have experienced the good, the bad, or the ugly on transit so here’s your opportunity to share your transit stories. Simply go to my Facebook page and tell the readers what you saw. Not sure what to write? No problemmo, here are some examples:

RANTS: I would like to ban all of the following on transit: open-mouth gum chewing (major pet peeve of mine), whistling (just call me Sheldon), scented products, and feet on seats (who knows what gross things you’ve stepped in plus, this isn’t your living room). You can also add to the list ‘ride stealing. One of the regulars that I see on the bus has been known on multiple occasions to scam the system by travelling 3 zones on a 2 zone ticket. While I realize that times are tough and many people have a difficult time making ends meet, this person is an engineer (as noted by their iron ring) so they should be able to spring for their full fare.

RAVES:  A passenger rang the bell and then announced “Stroller getting off.”, to which the driver replied “Nobody cares, just make sure you take the baby with you – they always make a mess in the ‘Lost and Found.’” I appreciate it when people bring their sense of humour to work and all of us passengers got a good chuckle.

CRAY-CRAY:  When Spanky da Monkey (Spanx, for short) and I were got on the bus the other day we were greeted by a very boisterous longboarder who had apparently already celebrated happy hour that Friday afternoon. He greeted passengers like a flight attendant, encouraged the driver roll into the turns nice and easy, aisle-surfed the entire trip, sang out loud and proud to the music on his friend’s iPhone while dancing like Anthony Kiedis. To top it all off, he whipped out a can of beer so that it was ready to be cracked open as soon as he got off the bus. Yeah, the Boy Scouts have got nothing on him when it comes to being prepared.

Follow me on Twitter @TransitGurrl