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We don't get many police cars in our neighborhood, so I'm pretty sure my neighbors were a little curious about the silver Oldham County Police cruiser sitting in my driveway with blue lights flashing. Fear not, citizens. Officer Tom Douglas had arrived to give me a peek into Oldham County law enforcement.
As a member of the 2007-08 class of the Chamber of Commerce's Leadership Oldham County program, I, along with my esteemed classmates, will spend the better part of a year learning about and being exposed to all that is Oldham County. Throw in the side benefit of a little personal discovery, the ultimate goal is to cultivate a group of people that not only know, but also care about our community, and will take steps to make it a better place.
Riding with the law for five hours one evening was definitely one of the parts of the program I was looking forward to the most. My wife wasn't quite as keen on the whole deal, but my daughter and the neighbor boys sure got a charge out of taking turns sitting in the driver's seat of a police car. "Are you going to get to drive it, Daddy?" Hannah asked. "Only if things go horribly wrong, sweetie," I replied. My wife didn't laugh. Neither did Officer Douglas.
Tom hit the siren for the kids, and we were off. Before we left the neighborhood there were a few housekeeping items we needed to cover, such as when I could and couldn't get out of the car, and what to do if Tom was in serious trouble. Also, I needed to sign some paperwork. You know - a release form in case things went horribly wrong. Now I wasn't laughing.
It didn't take long before our first call came in. We went to an affluent residence to take a report of an identity theft. Not exactly something you'd see on 'COPS,' but things quickly picked up as we responded to an injury accident. Thankfully the injury wasn't severe, as the victim was treated in an ambulance and released at the scene. Wear your seatbelts people. I was immediately struck by the tenderness and professionalism displayed by all responders to the accident. Police, fire and paramedics worked in concert to make sure everyone was taken care of.
Near the accident scene was another accident waiting to happen - three young boys playing very near and sometimes in a busy street. Tom gave them a very necessary talkin' to, followed by a similar conversation with their parents. There's no doubt in my mind that those boys were back in the street as soon as we left.
Much of the evening was spent patrolling businesses to make sure everything was OK, running radar on I-71, pulling over speeders and traveling faster in a car than I ever had before. The most exciting part of the evening was Tom's arrest of a gentleman with outstanding warrants. Tom approached the vehicle with his pistol behind his back. If it was tense for me, I can only imagine what it was like for Tom. The arrest went smoothly and off to jail we went. Tom was professional and thorough as the arrestee repeatedly asked Tom what he had done wrong. Tom explained that because he had outstanding warrants, his role as a police officer was to act an instrument of a judge's wishes.
Tom felt it was a slow night, but it was plenty for me. He was very patient as I asked many dumb questions throughout the evening, such as "Does it bother you when everyone starts driving the speed limit because you're around?"
The uniformed folks in cars with the blue flashing lights aren't that different than you and me. They look forward to getting off work and seeing their families. They just happen to be a whole lot braver while they're at work. It was a great experience, and I learned a lot, including that Tom and I went to the same high school. I hope to see him again soon.
Just not in my rearview mirror.
The views expressed in this column may not necessarily represent the views of The Oldham Era.