One of the things I learned to enjoy as a police officer and as an MP was to get out and “Walk the Beat.” This is an ages old tradition for police officers, and one that I feel has some real benefits for both the officer and the community.
An example was “the Hill” at Ft. Riley, Kansas. The Hill was where Infantry, Artillery, Armor, and pretty much everyone else was headquartered. I was warned that there had been MPs jumped up there, but I simply smiled and said that they were welcome to try. As a result, I’m one of the few MPs that indulged in the tradition and would walk the Hill.
No one ever shot me so much as a dirty look while I was walking around the hill. Indeed, it was the exact opposite. I stayed open and friendly, and people responded. As a result, I made a lot of good contacts on the Hill and made more than a few friends. If at night, and I encountered someone out, I stayed friendly, and if asked, I told the truth. Soldiers were having cars broken into and this is a great way to catch the guys doing it. Once I did that, and if asked who they were and had a look at their ID, and wrote it down, it made sense for them and they realized I was looking out for their best interests.
Trust was the magic word that got built on the Hill where I was concerned. People knew me, knew I was approachable, and I learned things that were going on. And more than a few times these contacts had my back in a bad situation, or helped calm someone down because they knew me.
Busy nights often found me doing walk arounds in the clubs and bars. It gave me a chance to talk to people, laugh a little, but at the same time it was a friendly show of force that we were there, and to stay cool. I really think that helped keep trouble down.
The other nice thing about getting out of the patrol car is you’re back in the world. As long as you’re driving around, probably with the windows up and listening to the radio, you’re insulated from the outside by this cocoon of steel and glass on wheels. You don’t hear things, and you don’t see things as easily.
That’s why when we had prowlers, I’d ditch the car and walk the neighborhoods. It made me harder for a prowler to detect, and I could hear what was going on. Example, you’re looking for a prowler. You’re driving around, windows up. You’re not going to hear the dog bark two blocks away.
In one prowler incident, A young kid named Rokvitch and I walked the housing area wearing running clothes late at night. I heard a dog bark and I said, let’s move into that area. He asked why, and I told him, “Dogs don’t bark for no reason at all.”
Sure enough, we caught our prowler.
I also suspect walking the beat saved a few lives. I walked it in summer or winter and several times I found someone passed out drunk in winter. Many times we had to get them medical attention because of their inebriated state, and then take them to DETOX. But there a high chance if I hadn’t found them, day shift would have found them frozen to death.
And if nothing else, it’s a great way to improve your physical conditioning and bleed off stress.