Ms. Adventure: Siren Blaring, We’re on the Case
Riding along with a Fort Myers police officer proves quite a jolt for this peace-loving citizen.
My friend Nancy takes a sip of wine at happy hour. “Are you kidding me?!” she says in disbelief. “They actually turned on the lights and sirens for you?!”
I order another glass of pinot grigio from the bartender. “Well, no, they didn’t turn them on for me,” I explain. “There was a serious car crash at a busy intersection on 41; airbags were deployed; there were injuries. We were first responders, after all.”
“Wow,” she sighs. “I’ve always wanted to be in a police car with the lights and sirens, and going really fast.”
Since I got to ride along with Officer Christian Robles of the Fort Myers Police Department recently, I’ve discovered that, unlike me, a lot of my friends get a real kick out of adrenaline-inducing adventures. Nancy is a local actress and community volunteer, but she loves the idea of being a first responder. And like several of my other friends—all ladies ranging from around 45 to 60—she took the 10-week Fort Myers Police Department Citizens Academy course, where she learned about all kinds of cool crime-fighting stuff and got to go on ride-alongs in patrol cars as well.
Personally, I’ve never had the desire to ride along in a police car, any more than I’d want to fight a fire or hang out with the nurses in an emergency room. Guns terrify me, driving at high speeds makes me anxious, and the sight of blood gives me the vapors. But, when the opportunity came up to ride along with the FMPD, there was a part of me that was intrigued. It’s not that I’m fearful of our men and women in blue, but I do have a healthy respect for the law. Other than that time when I was 10 years old and my frenemy, Sheryl, dared me to filch a Bonne Bell banana-flavored lip gloss from Woolworths, I’m a law-abiding citizen. There’s been a traffic ticket or two, but they’re from the ’90s, and I still swear I didn’t know you couldn’t change lanes while in an intersection. When I see a police car in my vicinity, I sit up straighter, I make sure my hands are at 10 and 2 on the steering wheel, I double- check my seat belt, I make sure my headlights are on, and I always say to whom I’m yakking with on the phone, “I’ll call you back! There’s a cop!” as I quickly hurl my iPhone to the passenger-side floor.
So, I decided to spend an afternoon riding around Fort Myers with Officer Robles, and trust me when I tell you there was never a dull moment, starting with suiting up in my bulletproof vest. With his belt full of important police gear, Officer Robles already has about 17 pounds of equipment on; add to that a 7-pound vest and I would truly hate to be him in August. My vest wasn’t too bad, really; it actually felt kind of like heavy, extra-tight Spanx for the upper half of the body.
The patrol car was way more high-tech than I imagined, with not only the police radio but also a computer screen that lets you know everything that’s going on in the city—from a 911 call hang-up (the police have to respond to those by the way, so be careful on your phones) to burglaries, assaults and worse. While I was overwhelmed with the thought of it all, it was just another day at the office for Officer Robles, who knew he wanted to be a police officer since he was just 6 years old. He’s been with the FMPD since 2007 and loves helping people and enforcing the law; he was an informative, easygoing companion until something serious happened—then, he went into first-responder mode.
When we got the info about the car crash with injuries on 41, Officer Robles immediately moved from telling me about his background to switching on the lights and sirens and zoom—off we went. Point A to point B wasn’t a terribly long distance, but what would normally take 20 minutes in seasonal traffic with stoplights took around 4 to 5 minutes with the benefit of lights and sirens.
I closed my eyes a lot during that particular leg of our journey. But, when I did look up, I was kind of amazed by the cars that weren’t pulling over, and I was sad to peek into some drivers’ windows to see them texting and not paying attention when we were trying to respond to an accident where there was a lady pinned in her car. But Officer Robles was calm and focused as he weaved through the texters and those who tried to outrun us (seriously). When we got to the accident, emergency workers were able to successfully rescue the lady from her car (another driver had run a red light straight into the side of it) while Robles and other officers directed traffic, filled out paperwork and called tow trucks.
The rest of our afternoon included dealing with a “drunk and disorderly” call, as a rather unkempt fellow wandered into a urologist’s reception area and tried to order a beer (you can’t make this stuff up). One of Officer Robles’ fellow officers had to push a couch off the middle of the road that was blocking traffic. A particularly nervous moment for me happened when Officer Robles had checked on a suspicious-looking man sitting on the grass on the side of the road. The initial concern was that he needed medical help, but when he was slow to remove his hand from his front pocket, I got jittery. Officer Robles and his backup team handled it though and no one got hurt, but the afternoon and the ensuing adventures convinced me that being a police officer is a calling—like perhaps nursing or teaching. The jobs aren’t glamorous and the rewards are subtle, but it takes special souls to choose those paths.
Nancy was anxious to know if I saw any violence, caught any bad guys or partook in any car chases. I’m happy to say that I missed out on any serious crime, but that was just the luck of the draw. I learned that a police officer never knows what he or she might face when arriving at a call. As for me, I’m not one for surprises—but I’m happy we have men and women in uniform who are.