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Natatia Bledsoe is the public information officer for the Fredericksburg Police Department.

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Expectations vs. Deliverables

I recently had a very pleasant conversation in my office with two UMW students who wanted to ask me questions about the police response to a frightening incident involving four of their classmates.  

Early in October, four female students left a downtown bar around 2:00 am and walked from there to a home on Charlotte Street, where one of the four lived.  While walking to this residence, the four students were joined by a young man who asked them for a cigarette.  They spoke to this young man enough to know that he was 28 years old, a Marine, and from South Carolina.  When they arrived at the Charlotte Street house, the young man apparently attempted to get in through the front door after the ladies entered through a back door.  One of the women called police, and three officers responded to the home and searched the area for the described suspect.  The officers were unable to locate him. 

The ladies then asked one of the officers to give them a ride back to campus, and the officer (per policy) refused.   The officer suggested calling them a cab, and the students said they didn’t have any money.  The officer suggested that the students stay the night at their friend’s house on Charlotte Street, and the ladies were insistent that they didn’t feel comfortable and had to get back to campus.  The officer then concluded that the four adult women were safe where they were and left the scene to respond to another call.

 The two young women in my office were writing an article for the UMW Bullet and specifically wanted to know why the officers failed to take the students’ concerns seriously and refused to give them a ride back to their campus apartments.

It’s not unusual for people to ask police officers for a ride somewhere.  Our directive on this issue states: Citizens will be transported in police department vehicles only when necessary to accomplish a police purpose. 

Such purposes include transporting a victim to the magistrate to obtain a warrant, transporting a victim in order to view and identify a suspect, or transporting a victim to our headquarters in order to conduct an interview.

But this interview with the UMW student journalists caused me to consider other common citizen requests and expectations that we do not accommodate.  All of the following are real examples of things that we are asked to do but must decline.

Almost daily, we are asked to open a vehicle when the keys are locked inside.  We will only perform this service if your child or pet is locked inside the car as well.  Otherwise, we will happily assist in contacting a locksmith or a towing company representative who may use a tool to get into the car.

We will not provide a jump for your battery.

We are often asked to come remove a dead animal from a person’s yard.  We do not pick up dead animals.  (If you bag it up and place it at the curb, Public Works will remove it if they are notified.)

We are frequently asked by parents to perform drug or sobriety tests and/or polygraph exams on juveniles suspected of stepping over the line.  Sorry, we will only do sobriety tests if the officer is investigating the individual for a related offense such as DUI, while polygraph exams are always voluntary and only for criminal investigative use, not to catch a teenager who is lying to a parent.

We also will not take your child to jail as a scare tactic, or threaten your child with handcuffs to get him to behave. 

We will not go pick up your prescriptions, or your groceries, or your dog from the vet, even in nasty weather.

We will not deliver divorce papers to your (ex)spouse.

We will not go and get the car back from your ex-girlfriend even though you have made all the payments but it is registered in her name.  

We will not kick your dead-beat roommate (or offspring) out of the basement where he has been living without paying any rent for five years.  We will assist in explaining the eviction process to you.

We will not get the squirrel out of the attic or the cat out of the tree.  That would be for a pest control service and the fire department, respectively.

And when your date dumps you at the movies and leaves you stranded, we will not give you a ride home.  We will, however, call you a cab.

Seriously, it is very important to always have a personal safety plan in place.  At a minimum, your personal safety plan should include: the means to call for help (cell phone in your pocket), the means to get a ride home (cash or credit card in hand), and someone who at the very least will miss you when you don’t turn up where you are supposed to be. 

 

 

 

 

Permalink: http://news.fredericksburg.com/citypolice/2011/11/10/expectations-vs-deliverables/

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1327486635 Rich Lyon

    Can you actually believe some of the requests from the public ? !

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001711316253 Robert Smart

    The city officer should have had his/her dispatcher call the college police department and they would have sent someone to pick the girls up. They (the college police department) do it on a routine basis. I think more could have been done by the city police to ensure the safety of these females.

  • Anonymous

    Mr. Smart,
    We did have contact with UMW police and they were also unable to provide a ride to the students.

  • matthew mueda

    It should be about what you can do, not what you can’t do. Police officers are our public servants and they should try to accomodate a reasonable request. I can see them denying a ride if they had just walked out of a bar and requested one, but in this case they were very scared and had a reasonable request for their safety to be guaranteed. I’m sorry, but as public servants you need to be cognizant about customer service. What if these girls had been accosted on the way back to UMW? BTW, the fire department does NOT get cats out of trees. That is for animal control or the owner can wait until the cat comes down on his own.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=68101431 Amanda Sacrey

    Great article.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1525509483 Dennis Sacrey

    Funny how things change. When I was with the FPD I was dispatched to all kinds of animal calls. My favorite was when a woman had torn up her aprtment trying to catch a bat, which she was unable to do. I got it ( and didn’t have to use my Glock either!).

  • Anonymous

    Matt,
    I have it on good authority from the FD that they will indeed respond for a cat in a tree, and since Animal Control works under the PD I also know that the AC officer will not get squirrels out of the attic.
    As for providing rides, the policy must be consistent for all citizens, including a group of male college students who might feel threatened after leaving a bar, or a homeless person who missed the bus to the cold weather shelter and wants a ride from an officer because he’s afraid to stay out in the cold.
    The young women in this case had the option of staying the night at the Charlotte St house, where there were two additional roommates in residence (making a total of six adults in the house), getting a ride from one of those roommates back to campus, or scraping together the $10 between all of them to get a cab. They were also just three blocks from the nearest “blue light” call box at the corner of Sunken Rd and Hanover St, where UMW police would have picked them up, but they chose not to exercise any of these options. Another choice of course was to make sure that they didn’t spend all of their cash while enjoying their night out, so as to have a viable plan to ensure their own safety.