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