I had the opportunity to go on a ride along with the Elk Grove Police Department on Monday. It’s something I had always wanted to do, but never really pursued it. My friend Sgt. Dan Templeton asked if I had ever been on a ride along and I said no, but I wanted to. He asked if I wanted to go on one with him. I said sure. I filled out the paperwork and sent it to him and got the clearance to go. It was a really great experience and one that gave me a little more insight into what they do. I can’t discuss the specific calls we went or any information about any cases.
The day started by meeting at the EGPD offices at 6 am. I stopped by and picked up some donuts for the officers. Total cliche right? The daily briefing starts at around 6:15 am. They go over what happened the previous day, what happened during the night and anything still going on. Then some officers head to patrol, some go to finish writing reports. I was given a tour of the offices. I got to see the dispatch center and their computers and learn what they do while taking a call. Sunday was very busy due to the carjacking in South Sac and the numerous robberies and attempted robberies committed by the suspects. The crimes all took place north of Elk Grove, but EGPD was monitoring them in case they needed to offer assistance or if the crimes came down Elk Grove. The dispatchers talked about how they monitored what was going on. Eventually the suspects did come down into Elk Grove and they were spotted by officers and they assisted Sac Sheriff in catching the suspects.
Sgt. Templeton showed me what they typically do to start the day. Gave me a run down of what is in the car. Their office really is their car. They have everything they need there. The computer gives them all the information they need. He discussed how they prioritize calls. As the Sgt. he is in charge of overseeing what the officers are doing. On his computer he can track exactly where each car is. According to Templeton Monday ended up being an unusually quiet day. He called it the “curse of the ride along”. Meaning that guests want to see some action, and of course there was none.
He said usually he doesn’t drive around as much as he did Monday, because he was trying to give me a taste of what they do. We drove around checked out the various calls for service. We came in as backup on a traffic stop. Depending on the situation, there is usually going to be more than one unit responding, if they are not on other calls. On one of the calls we waited to join up with two other units to respond to a house that has a history of service calls. It was a street I recognized from the incidents in the past. It is not the home currently in the news for being sued by the City of Elk Grove, Demonte Way. I was able to get out of the car and watch from a distance how the officers handled the situation. It was a little volatile at one point, but they were able to de-escalate the situation. It will be an ongoing issue unfortunately, much like the home on Demonte Way.
I was able to get a little inside the mind of a police officer and what they are thinking, what they look for. I have family and friends in law enforcement, so some of it I knew already, but a lot of it was new. Things like as we approached a situation, the things an officer is thinking about as they approach. They’re surveying the situation. Could the call be an ambush? That happens.
I had a lot of time to ask questions, some of which I posted on the Elk Grove Laguna Forums Facebook page. I also took questions from Facebook and asked Sgt. Templeton. Templeton said that he personally monitors the EGLF Facebook page and encourages the other officers to as well. It gives them insight into where some crimes are happening, times of day, suspect description.
When responding to a call, the officers have to think about could be awaiting them. It could be routine, or it might not be. Complacency could be deadly. This is something the public doesn’t always understand. Things could go sideways at any time. A routine traffic stop, could turn into much more. Officer safety is paramount. When people start getting agitated and not following instructions is when officers become more alert. Templeton told me about an incident involving an officer a few years ago that was a fairly routine call that turned into a fight for their lives. The officer was by himself.
One thing the public should keep in mind is that not all the details of crimes are released. They do this to protect the investigation and they simply don’t release all the info because it’s not their job to convince the public or sway public opinion one way or another. This is actually something that hurts them sometimes. I wish they would release more information to the public. What you don’t read in the daily watch summary is the previous criminal history of the person arrested, or all the evidence they found. You may think, why did arrest this person, why were there so many officers at the scene? They know what is happening, they know the whole story. I have family and friends in law enforcement so I already knew a lot of this. Sometimes people on social media are critical of something that happened but don’t know the whole story behind what took place. You can’t judge based on a few lines in the report. There is often much more that took place.
I think the residents of Elk Grove are very lucky to have the police department that we have. They are very responsive. They monitor the social media pages. EGPD Spokesperson Chris Trim will often respond to questions and posts on the EGLF Facebook page. A lot of times when people see multiple police cars at a home or a business, it is often nothing. We responded to an alarm call at a home and one at a business, both were false alarms, but it takes multiple units to respond. So the department has to balance the need of keeping the public informed but they can’t give information for every call during the day.
One area I would like to see them improve on is when there is a search for a suspect or missing person and the helicopter is being used that they release that information. People often can’t understand what the pilot is saying, is it stay inside, there is a wanted person or is it a description of a missing person? To do that they would need to hire someone to be the PIO (Public Information Officer) during evenings and weekends. Officer Trim does often respond during those times in important situations.