Reporter shares story of ride-along with Centerville officer

Dayton Daily News Digital Crime Reporter Marc Katz rode along with a Centerville police officer to see first-hand what the officers encounter while on patrol. This is his story.

CENTERVILLE — Just before a family problem was neutralized, and a trespassed 21-year-old was chased down in a neighborhood off Far Hills Avenue, Sergeant Jamie Myers shook his head over a report from the night before.

“At 2 a.m., a woman saw a person trying door handles on cars,” the sergeant said. “She didn’t call us. It gets better. She and her son went out looking for the guy. Again, she didn’t call.”

The next day, the woman called the department for her report. It was way too late.

“There are people out there who believe the police department is closed (at certain times),” Myers said. “We’re out here. Call us.”

Centerville has a minimum of four officers patrolling the city at one time, and as many as seven. Usually, the city is divided into three beats, north, central and south, and on this particular ride-along night – on the 3:30 to 11:30 p.m. shift – officer Jeff Williams and I were headed to the northern beat. We never quite made it.

On our way, we were about to help a motorist with a flat tire on the overpass at Interstate 675 when multiple calls came in, two for vehicle accidents and one for a domestic case that would take up a good portion of the evening, ending peacefully.

Williams was assigned to the domestic case involving a woman who had consumed a little too much alcohol during an argument with her sister at their mother’s home.

Williams was eventually joined by officer Scott Thomas, and when they had the combatants reasonably settled, Thomas was called away to one of the crashes.

In his rush to the next scene, he jumped into Williams’ identical car and sped off.

Of course Williams accused me of watching his car get stolen, but I was distracted by the intoxicated woman who was lucid but not necessarily coherent.

Williams wanted the woman to find another place to stay for the night. When she said that was impossible, he told her the family had to get along or domestic violence charges could be brought, even if there was no physical violence.

She said she understood, and the home was peaceful when we left. The mother said her daughter was always well-behaved when she wasn’t drinking.

We visited both crash sites, and exchanged cars with Thomas, who was embarrassed he had taken the wrong car, but in an emergency situation, it can happen.

Realizing he was in the wrong car as soon as he took off, Thomas continued on his way to a one-vehicle crash involving two 16-year-olds on a wet and slippery road.

Once the car exchange was made (I rode in the back since there was a pile of equipment on Thomas’ front passenger seat), Williams made a stop to write a report on his activity so far. Reports on his in-car computer were written from what he called, “high risk” locations for crime, such as shopping centers or churches. Writing reports from there took care of two tasks at once: doing the reports and checking on the areas.

That’s when the call came in for a suspect who was wandering a neighborhood where he had been trespassed for previous disorderly conduct.

Already dark, we parked our car and walked the neighborhood, Williams traveling a little faster than me. The suspect eluded us and another officer who was looking for him. Of course he was dressed all in black, was much younger, and quick.

We went on a couple of other calls when the suspect was spotted again. Within a half-an-hour, he was found and handcuffed, ready to go to the Montgomery County Jail. It was not the first time he was arrested.

After about a half-an-hour, a call came in again from our previous domestic. We went back over. The intoxicated woman had made a threat to family members and threatened to do harm to herself as well.

That was enough. She was given a choice of jail or an evaluation at the hospital, and didn’t want either. She insisted it was just words, and she should be allowed to stay home.

The hospital was considered the best option. Medics arrived and Williams and Thomas ran an escort, making sure the woman was calm at the hospital, which she was.

For the second time that night, I rode in the back as we returned to Thomas’ car. Comfort is not a patrol car rear seat consideration. The seats are constructed of heavy plastic – easier cleaned – and space is what you’d expect to find in an airplane, without the overhead or peanuts.

At least Williams and Thomas did not cuff me. And Centerville was safe and friendly as well as warm and cheerful, for another night.

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