4 Lessons Learned During a Scottsdale Police Ride-A-Long

AkerBy Andrea Aker, Class 28
Aker Ink®

Class 28 Blog: This is a blog series about the experience and impact of Scottsdale Leadership’s Core Program. The views expressed here represent those of class members and not those of Scottsdale Leadership.

Scottsdale Leadership is designed to take us out of our comfort zones – and I experienced just that recently, riding shotgun with one of Scottsdale’s finest. Officer Jennifer Cook, a 13-year veteran of the Scottsdale Police Department, gave me a peek into the hustle and bustle of street patrols.

SPDFollowing November’s Safe Communities Day, Class 28 gained a much deeper understanding of how local law enforcement works, as well as the people, canines, tools and resources that keep our community safe. Officer Cook brought many of these lessons to life during two “committal calls” (transporting individuals who appear unstable to mental health facilities) and neighborhood disturbances. Here’s a sampling of what I gleaned:

Women Rule – While I was quite aware that women rule in general, the ride-a-long served as a thoughtful reminder about the additional challenges women overcome in male-dominated fields such as law enforcement. Officer Cook has put in extra effort to gain much of the same respect her male counterparts receive from the public, without issue. However, women have advantages too. They tend to be very effective communicators which can be crucial when diffusing tense situations that could escalate into physical violence.

Traffic Stop Danger is Unknown – Officer Cook informed me that police officers are most likely to get injured during traffic stops, which is why they may appear extra cautious or serious when approaching your car door. The process may seem routine to outsiders, but officers never know who they are pulling over, and what secrets they may be hiding. In recent months, a Phoenix police officer was assaulted during a traffic stop, and a DPS officer in Payson was shot during a traffic stop. A simple traffic incident can quickly turn violent.

Police Officers are People Persons – Stereotypes of stern and often insensitive officers are false. Each of the officers I encountered were friendly, accommodating and passionate about protecting the community. Effective cops must relate well to others – doing so can help prevent crimes, diffuse risky situations and calm victims. (And that doughnut stereotype is totally untrue, too – fudge brownie bites were passed around during the briefing.)

Scottsdale is Among the Safest Cities to Live – Safe neighborhoods are one of the primary reasons Scottsdale is such a desirable city to live. Highly trained and skilled officers like Officer Cook directly contribute to an extremely low crime rate. In fact, LawStreetMedia.com ranked Scottsdale as the fifth safest city in America in 2013 (with a population greater than 200,000).

Scottsdale residents, students, business owners and city employees can take part in ride-a-longs. If you want to see what a day in the life of a Scottsdale police officer is really like, call the Uniformed Services Bureau Secretary at (480) 312-1907.

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