It was bring-a-reporter-to-work day for Ponoka RCMP Friday, Jan. 23 where Ponoka News was given access to what a typical Friday night looks like for police.
For almost the entire 10-hour shift, which started at 6 p.m., Ponoka News followed Const. Justin Auld around town to get a taste of what it’s like to work as a police officer. While there were no major incidences, the evening helped shed light on what it takes to keep the citizens of Ponoka safe.
Auld’s first order of business was to check the roadside breath tests that determine if a person is impaired. This happened to be the day those devices needed calibrating.
Every 28 days, these machines are checked and rendered ready for testing someone’s blood alcohol levels. If they are not done right, a case could get thrown out of court, explained Auld.
After that he took some time to check emails and get some paperwork done. Auld says he tries to balance out his paperwork and also be on the road. Not long after, we were on the road with Auld conducting patrols.
The first call of the night was over a manic individual who had walked out of the Centennial Centre for Mental Health and Brain Injury. The person had left the hospital without permission and officers on duty had to try and locate him.
About 45 minutes later, the man was found at a local gas station. He was distraught and angry at having to return to the hospital. After some discussion, the man realized he had no choice but to be taken back by police cruiser. There was little trouble from the man.
Auld was not reticent to stop a vehicle if it was driven erratically or had a burnt out light. He said there are times he will stop a driver to inform them of an issue only to find they are impaired.
At one stop, Auld could smell alcohol emanating from the vehicle. He asked the driver to get out of the vehicle in order to determine smells. Once he found out this person was the designated driver and not impaired, Auld let them go on their way.
He was pleased to see these people trying to obey the law and keep other motorists safe. One motorist was stopped and thanked him for the stop. Auld received a quick “God bless” and he was able to move on his way.
“As soon as something is out of place, you just stop it and check it out,” said Auld.
While there were three officers and one auxiliary on duty through the night, they were for the most part by themselves. Police are expected to be self-motivated and to take care of what needs doing. Paperwork or traffic stops all come from personal initiative. In bigger centres, police usually run with a partner, which is different for rural police.
“There aren’t enough resources to run two to a car,” said Auld. “You need to have that ability to send multiple cars to a call depending on what it is.”
Auld suggests alcohol abuse can cause a variety of issues such as domestic abuse, violence and vandalism.
That was evident after he stopped one person who was walking down the street with a pitcher of beer taken from a downtown bar.
The man was somewhat belligerent and unhappy seeing his beer poured out and became angry at Auld and started swearing. When asked to stay in front of the police cruiser the man ignored him and walked up to the driver’s side door.
Auld said the man’s actions showed he was drunk enough that he was making bad personal decisions, which was also a cause for concern of his own safety. He says speaking directly but respectfully is something that helps get his point across.
“You have to tell them that their behaviour is unacceptable,” he said.
He was going to give the man a verbal warning but after his somewhat aggressive actions, Auld arrested the man and produced a citation for drinking in public.
In between patrols, officers also visited local bars to check for underage drinkers and also went to the Ponoka Culture and Recreation Complex during a Fountain Tire Wolves Midget A hockey game.
Sometimes just being visible and around helps people realize police are on duty. Auld says just being present and walking around makes a big difference. There were other incidents over the evening including pulling a person over travelling too fast and arresting an individual with outstanding warrants for his detention.
Despite no major events such as police chases with sirens blaring such as in the movies, it was clear that police keep busy.