I recently was offered an opportunity to ride along with a Minneapolis police officer. Being a sucker for crime shows such as “Cops” and “CSI,” I didn’t know whether I should be excited about the adrenaline rush or worried enough to go buy a bullet-proof vest and pack my purse with pepper spray.
I decided to jump at the chance to see our cops in action. My “partner” for a three-hour shift was Officer Dean Milner, who is working his 17th year as a patrol officer. He works the Third Precinct, which covers the city’s southeast quadrant.
Our first call of the day came from the mother of a 30-year-old man who was intoxicated on her front porch. I’ve seen plenty of drunk people in my day, but none like this.
When we arrived at the scene, I fully expected to have to stay in the car, but the officer told me I was more than welcome to come up to the house with him, with which I jumped at the opportunity.
As we approached the house, the man was lying on his back on the porch flopping around. I stood back a little bit as Milner tried to talk with the man. The man just kept begging to be taken to detox, which seemed like a good idea to me. I was surprised to hear Milner turn the idea away and ask the man instead what detox would do for him that he couldn’t do at his mother’s house.
Milner told me the system gets abused quite often by people seeking the free meals and place to stay detox offers. When the man was asked to stand up, he took one step forward and toppled down the flight of stairs leading up to the porch.
The situation soon became more serious as we learned the man was not only extremely drunk, but was also on heroin and was bipolar as well. The combination of all these factors, along with the size of the man, started to make me nervous. He grew angrier as the officer continued to reject his pleas to be taken to detox.
The verbal abuse I watched this officer go through made me sick. But the officer kept his cool through it all – something I’m sure many of us wouldn’t have been able to do in these circumstances. As the man grew more violent, Milner had no choice but to call an ambulance, which hauled him off to detox.
Our second call of the day was similar to the first — another intoxicated man. Only this time, the guy was causing trouble on the streets. As we completed the call, things started to slow down a bit.
I was curious to know what the worst call Milner had ever had to respond to. He took me to the site near Minnehaha Falls where it occurred. A man had attempted to commit suicide a cold winter day by driving his car off a cliff and into the river. He failed, and his car ended up stuck in some trees on the cliff, teetering and ready to fall at any second. Milner told me how he and fellow officers rescued the man seconds before the car slipped out of the trees and plunged into the icy river below. These police officers risked their lives for this man who wanted to end his. Milner and two other officers were awarded the Medal of Honor for their actions.
By the end of my ride along, my respect for police officers had grown significantly. They deal with a lot of abuse – physically and mentally. They risk their lives for people they don’t know. So next time you get an annoying speeding or parking ticket, stop and think about what police officers risk and do for us on a daily basis.