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I’ll keep my day job, thank you. P

A night in the patrol car – front seat – was enough for me. By Nancy E Stephen

atrolling with a Monroe police officer is like lifeguarding a pool full of kids. It might be quiet now, but don’t let your guard down – it’s going to get exciting. And fast. And possibly funny. It’s a lot of calm – even boredom – punctuated with bursts of high energy. I spent nine fascinating hours riding with Patrolman Robert Hall this summer. A former professional EMT and current parttime firefighter in Wadesboro, Hall has patrolled Monroe for more than three years. “Some nights are uneventful,” he says, while “others make up for it.” Shortly before 7 p.m., our evening gets going. Hall clocks a driver going 49 in a 35 zone. A prompt U-turn, the lights and siren go on and we go after the driver – quickly, but not at the outrageous speed we often see in movies. A ticket is issued after the driver’s documents check out. Traffic stops often get argumentative, Hall explains. “How do you know it’s me?” speeders often ask, suggesting the “real” speeder went elsewhere. Don’t try that argument. The police have an electronic system that tags the suspect car. Contrary to popular belief, patrolmen don’t have a quota of stops, but Hall says he typically makes up to 20 stops in a night, giving a minimum of seven or eight tickets. Most are for speeding, expired tag and no child restraint.

While patrolmen do make rounds their entire shift for peculiar behavior and erratic driving, they also are called by radio to specific locations after callers dial 911 to report a problem. “Seventy five to 80 percent are the same individuals over and over,” Hall says. These calls can range from drugs to domestic violence to loud noise, a particular problem this night.

The weather was nice – not too hot, not too humid – and many families and blocks were partying outdoors. We respond to several calls regarding loud music which, when we arrive, seem inaccurate. “How do you know?” I ask Hall, who said it’s really a judgment call. Sometimes neighbors apparently (a) either

10 Union Lifestyle l December 2013 / January 2014

Robert Hall and I play “tough” cops, above, before he explains the car’s extensive computer system.

(Deb Bledsoe photos)

weren’t invited or (b) just didn’t like the music.

Summertime is the biggest time for 911 calls, Hall says; “Heat and alcohol make a difficult combination.” A full moon doesn’t help, he adds. Friends may be playing basketball, but when they lose the game, they start a fight.

Our first few hours are slow, which is typical, Hall says. After midnight on the weekend is when things start hopping.

We stop by the police department, where I speak to Lt. Bobby Manus. Apparently I jinx the rest of the night by saying, “It’s quiet.” He responds, “We don’t use the Q-word.”

Within five minutes, I know why.

We are calmly cruising when the radio squawks – and truly I couldn’t understand what was being said, much less the codes themselves. Hall throws on the lights, and we head up Morgan Mill Road at, shall we say, a quick pace. I have no idea why.

Union Lifestyle Dec Jan 2014  

For and about Union County residents; interesting people, places and things to do.