On The Front Line
It’s a lot warmer than usual in the city on this particular day. Temperatures are expected to eclipse 80 degrees, and I find myself sitting in the lobby of the Jamestown Police Department.
I had all the usual tools required for a mid-Monday assignment – pen, paper, voice recorder and, of course, a camera. Dark skies mean a jacket also is required.
Within minutes of arriving at the police station for my ride-along I am greeted by officer Scott Forster, a three-year veteran of the department, and we are off.
The Second Platoon is the busiest in the city, and it quickly shows. A domestic dispute – one of the most common calls received by police – sends three units to a residence on the city’s east side.
“We definitely tend to see a lot more calls on this shift,” Forster said as we make our way to assist other officers already on-scene. “We get a lot of domestic calls, but when you get on any shift you never really know what you’re going to get.”
Jamestown police as of Tuesday morning responded to 20,847 calls this year. According to Capt. Robert Samuelson, 44 percent of those calls are handled by the Second Platoon from 3-11 p.m. Thirty-four percent of responses occur during the first shift and the rest are handled overnight.
“The afternoon shift does typically respond to more calls for service,” Samuelson said.
The domestic dispute on this day is handled quickly, and for us ends abruptly when a car with loud music roars past. Without hesitation, Forster motions for us to go. Within seconds we catch up to the car a few blocks away. The driver quickly exits the vehicle and rushes into a nearby residence.
The hasty actions soon become apparent: Forster knows the driver, and a check with dispatch confirms he has an active warrant out for his arrest. A trip to the city jail is in the future.
“A lot of the times these are repeat offenders,” Forster said. “Like with this guy I knew there was a warrant for him. I can recognize a lot of these people.”
After the suspect is processed at the city jail we barely make it back to the patrol car before dispatch summons us to another domestic dispute. During the second shift Monday, police respond to a half-dozen similar complaints, two of which resulted in arrests, according to police reports.
In Jamestown, officers respond to as many domestic calls as fights, traffic incidents and noise complaints. It’s the nature of living in the largest city in Chautauqua County.
“We get called over all the place,” Forster said, “but sometimes we go to the same place and deal with the same people on a frequent basis.”
Upon arriving for our second domestic dispute call in an hour, a male can be heard screaming from a second-floor room. One officer already is on scene, and another is on the way.
Neighbors watch amid the screams and sudden influx of patrol cars. Of the 14 officers assigned to each platoon, three handle this call – a frequent location for disputes, Forster said.
The number of officers for domestic incidents varies.
“It depends on the nature of the call,” Samuelson said. “At least two officers will always respond to that type of call. If it’s violent, more will respond as needed.”
Not all responses require multiple officers, or tense moments. Shortly after the dispute is settled we are called to North Main and East Sixth streets for a report of two dogs running in traffic.
We respond with no lights or siren, and by the time we arrive the dogs are secured by a motorist who claims he almost struck one of the pooches.
“Every once in a while we will get calls like this,” Forster said. “We take all of the dogs we come across to a facility in Falconer, so that’s where we’ll take these guys.”
The dogs seem timid and in need of a bath. We drive out to Falconer to hand them over, and afterward my ride-along is over. For Forster and other officers on the Second Platoon, the shift is only half complete.
“I really enjoy this job. It’s good to be out here,” Forster said.