A View From Within A Police Car When It’s 106° Outside

Last Saturday I made plans to spend my day off with one of the police officers in our town on a ride along. As I was getting ready I knew I needed to wear a t-shirt under the required dark blue polo shirt due to the embroidered police department emblem, otherwise by the end of the day my skin would be raw (yes ladies, some of us guys have sensitive skin).


Having this extra layer, with a predicted high of 106 degrees, I knew I was going to roast. Then I realized that due to the violence in our society, most police officers wear a ballistic vest over a t-shirt and under their uniform. Some officers then choose to wear a tactical vest on top of their uniform to distribute the weight of all the equipment they must carry. I talked with one of the officers coming off of patrol and he confirmed that the ballistic vest is miserable on a hot day.

Fortunately for me the officer I was riding with was assigned to pickup and transport two prisoners with warrants who were being held at two separate jails. This meant we would spend most of our day out of the heat and on the road. My first observation of the day is that cruising down the freeway in a police car is like following Moses through the Red Sea. Everyone just pulls over to let the officer pass.

The first jail was only 45 minutes away and after our arrival we learned our passenger was down the road at the honor farm, a jail with very little security and an open front gate. We were greeted by a deputy sheriff who looked like he just walked out of a western movie. A cowboy hat, big mustache and all but the chaps. As we waited for our prisoner we learned he was unaware he was being released from jail only to be immediately arrested and transported to the fifth largest jail in America, Santa Rita Jail. Upon walking into the jail office it was easy to see the disappointment on his face. During the trip to Santa Rita Jail he told us all about his work on the Keystone Pipeline and the oil boom in North Dakota. He seemed like a nice bloke but I guess he had his demons.

Then it was time for a road trip. The next jail was a two-hour drive which gave us a lot of time to talk about all sorts of things. As we neared the town where the county jail was located we received a message that our passenger was possibly going to be bailed out. Now it was a race between the police and the bail bondsman. We continued on and in the process of trying to find the jail the officer pulled over and stopped to check Google Maps. A lady in a car pulled up and said “you guys are lost”. It was a statement and not a question. She happened to work at the jail and took the time to lead us to our destination (it should be noted that we took more than one scenic detour during our road trip. I did my civic duty by helping keep us from ending up at Yosemite National Park).

Once at the small county jail we were led inside the control room. Our passenger was still there and thought she was being bailed out. As she was processed we watched from inside and I noticed she had no clue as to what was about to happen. Once the paper work was complete she was told to take a seat. The officer handed me all the paperwork and her belongings. Then we left the security of the control room to let the former prisoner know that she was once again under arrest for an outstanding warrant. Needless to say she was not happy but fully cooperated. Because of the long ride the officer told her he would place the cuffs in the front as long as she behaved. In case you have never seen the back of a police car, the seats are made of hard plastic to make them easy to clean. The barrier between the front seat and back seat to protect the officer does not allow very much cool air from the air conditioner to make it through the small screen. We did what we could to keep our passenger comfortable but a ride in the back of a police car when it is 106 degrees outside is just plain hot. The worst part of the ride for her was no doubt having to listen to the officer and I talk about all kind of stuff like gravity, what holds the earth in place around the sun (the earth has a mass somewhere around 5,973,600,000,000,000,000,000,000 kg.), and Stirling engines. On both trips back to Santa Rita Jail, the officer put me to work entering the information into the computer so that when we arrived all the necessary paperwork was complete. Being the type who gets carsick reading a map, I was not sure how this was going to work but I found it did not bother me. A very interesting and odd experience.

In both cases, the people who were released from jail, arrested and then booked into Santa Rita Jail had warrants for harming other people. Both prisoners were treated with respect and dignity by the arresting officer. They were both made as comfortable as possible during their journey and we both listened to their story without making any judgements. It is unfortunate that the news media never reports this side of the story.

So the next time you are tempted to complain about how hot you are think about the police officers who are protecting you. They endure extremely difficult and dangerous conditions to keep you safe. If you happen to see a police officer in Starbucks, Pete’s Coffee & Tea or the Donut Wheel, be sure to thank them for the job they do…even if they just gave you a ticket for running a red light.

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