Police ride-along reveals job challenges

By Bonnie Culverhouse

What do police officers face every day as they patrol the streets of Minden, doing their best to keep residents safe?

“We never really know,” Ofc. Jason Smith said. “It’s a dangerous but fun job. It’s the first of the month, checks just hit. It’s Friday and people have money for drugs. Also, it’s warm and crime rises and falls with the heat.”

Friday, Smith took on extra responsibilities, as did Lt. Joel Kendrick, when Mayor Terry Gardner joined Smith and Kendrick added a journalist to his vehicle in a four-hour ride-along.

“We have a great group of young men and women serving our community in law-enforcement,” Gardner said. “I witnessed their professionalism firsthand.”

Kendrick said officers were once divided among certain areas of the city to patrol.

“We redivided into council districts,” he said, “but there really aren’t enough officers to divide now.”

Despite the odds, Friday from 2 until 6 p.m. was fairly quiet, and no one was complaining. There were several routine traffic stops, some ending in tickets, others with just warnings. One particular driver learned his license was suspended because he owed money to the Internal Revenue Service.

“It’s really up to the officer’s discretion with a lot of the stops,” Kendrick said. “What people don’t realize is that attitude and demeanor are everything. If you are nice and cooperative with the officer – unless you have warrants or there is something strange – you may very well come out of it with just a warning.

“We aren’t out here to chase down and ticket every car on the road,” he continued. “We just want to make sure people are safe.”

Many of their calls are theft-related – mostly items in vehicles.

“And most are because the owner didn’t lock his car,” Kendrick said. “Sadly, during school holidays and summer, this happens more frequently. The ones stealing are looking for cash, wallets and guns.”

Officers often patrol the school areas, easing through the driveways slowly.

“The teachers like for us to do that,” Kendrick said. “It makes them feel safer. The kids like to see us, too.”

On the streets around J.L. Jones Elementary, the lieutenant pointed out where several shots-fired incidents have taken place in close proximity to the school.

“People don’t realize that when they fire a gun into the air, the round has to come down somewhere,” he said. “One came down right beside a person who was in their bed.”

One call received during the four-hour stint – a domestic dispute on Robertson Drive – could have been dangerous, but the lieutenant defused the situation before that could happen.

Kendrick talked to the husband first and received his side of the story. Then went to the residence and talked with the wife.

“I simply tried to calm them both, and then make sure she knew her options if she was afraid of him,” Kendrick said. “I also told her it would be a good idea if they stayed apart for a while. It was civil rather than criminal, so it was really out of my hands, unless it had become physical. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case.”

Most of the traffic stops were for speeding, one for heavily-tinted windows; however, two took place on Homer Road when drivers pulled out of a shopping center in front of other vehicles, nearly causing traffic accidents.

Kendrick stopped one woman, who pulled out in front of a pick-up truck. He explained why she was stopped. She was cooperative and received a warning.

Later in the evening, Smith stopped another car exiting the same location in front of an oncoming vehicle.

“When she rolled down her window, there was a distinct odor of Marijuana,” Smith said. “She had a blunt in her driver’s side door.”

Smith called dispatch with the woman’s license and registration, while Kendrick conducted a field sobriety test.

“She’s fine,” he said. “Her pupils are where they’re supposed to be – her eyes aren’t bloodshot. She hasn’t been smoking it today.”

Again, the female was cooperative with police and drove away with a warning.

While Friday evening was relatively quiet, Sunday was a different story.

“We had a shooting in the 800 block of Woods Street,” said Police Chief Steve Cropper. “An 18-year-old male was struck by a single bullet while outside the residence. He was hit in the lower extremity, with what we feel was a non life threatening injury. He was transported to Ochsner LSU Medical Center.”

Cropper said the investigation is ongoing, and police have not made any arrests since they have not been able to interview the victim yet.

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