This year for Valentine’s Day I requested time off from work. It wasn’t because I had something romantic planned, nor did I have a reservation at the spa. Instead, I decided to participate in a ride-along with a Houston police officer. I had been wanting to do this for quite some time, but the program was paused during the pandemic and I had not gotten the opportunity to do it since the program was reinstated. In the past, I have had the opportunity to partner with law enforcement in many ways, including cooperative work on school grounds, partnerships with the TAPS program, and sponsoring community events with NOBLE. However, this was my opportunity to see firsthand what our Houston officers do on patrol.
My day with Officer Davis began with a 6am roll call. Men and women in uniform had a brief meeting with the sergeant and received their assignments for the day. The sergeant introduced me to the team, shook my hand, and provided me with a temporary identification badge that made me feel official. Officer Davis walked me through his morning routine, including getting an assigned body camera and a vehicle. As we sat in the police vehicle waiting to leave, another female officer tapped on the window. She assured me and Officer Davis that she was looking out for us during the shift.
Our first call of the day was somewhat of a domestic dispute, which I was expecting given the holiday. Officer Davis arrived on the scene and took the time to listen to what the concerned citizens had to say. He had to exercise discernment, ask questions, and ultimately mediate a situation between relatives and lovers, which he was able to remedy.
We took a few calls and ran a few traffic stops during the day and Officer Davis took the time to explain all of their systems and processes. It was a great learning experience! Coincidentally, Officer Davis's district is the same community that I served as a school leader, so I knew the area very well. One call that we took in the first part of the day impacted me because it involved a student in a domestic situation who attended the school that I used to serve. Being back on those grounds working with a student and their family brought back so many fond memories, but also reminded me of the challenges that we face as educators that have little to do with the actual education of students. This student had mental health concerns and he and his family’s situation really tugged at my heart strings. I was grateful that Officer Davis allowed me to engage with the young man and his family because I could relate mother-to-mother, mother-to-son, and educator-to-student. We ended up taking him to a mental health facility so that he could receive treatment and it was bittersweet leaving him there. On one hand, I knew he was getting needed help. On the other hand, I wanted to do so much more. That young man stayed on my mind the rest of the day.
As we neared the last few hours of Officer Davis’s 10-hour shift and most of the calls were cleared, we thought things were winding down, especially with the overlap of the evening shift officers coming on board. As we were working traffic, we saw a call that we could go check out—one where the Mobile Crisis Outreach Team (MCOT) was already present. Officer Davis pulled over a young man for a traffic violation and, during the stop, the MCOT call was escalated. He concluded the stop and we arrived on scene. A man was having a mental health episode with a possibility of drug interaction. He had barricaded himself in the house and was self-harming and expressing suicidal ideations. When the man finally allowed officers in the home, it quickly became apparent that backup was needed to ensure the safe apprehension of the man for medical care without he or officers being harmed. Within a few moments, officers showed up one after another, many I recognized from morning roll call and others I knew were evening shift. The officers were finally able to get the man subdued and Houston Fire Department transported him for mental health care. This call showed me the powerful collaboration of mental health providers with law enforcement and HFD, and the support that officers had for one another to ensure that they were safe and that the victim was handled with as little force as possible.
As we returned to the station to end the day, we greeted the other officers from day shift who were returning as well, several from the scene that we were on. The smiles and comradery were infectious—teamwork got all the calls cleared for the shift and everyone was safe. It was a good day and a job well done.
I learned that no day for an officer is a routine day and that there is no way to know what a day will bring. I appreciate the patience that the officers have for trivial calls, the respect that they have for community members in crisis, and the discernment they have when folks try to weaponize the police against their neighbors.
I want to first and foremost thank Officer Davis for the experience and the willingness to have me along and answer my questions. Thank you to each and every officer at the station that welcomed me warmly and made me feel like I was a part of the team. Thank you to dispatch for looking out for us and checking in. Thank you to the two MCOT staff members for embracing my presence on scene. It was an amazing experience and I cannot wait to do it again.