Before I knew it there were officers everywhere. Flashlights flashing in and out of the darkness. Were they going to find him? Was he going to hurt someone else? With all of the officers there you would have thought there would have been a lot of noise, but there wasn't. You could almost hear a pin drop it was so quiet; just an occasional crunch of the grass or a rock being kicked out of the way. "We can't find him", reported one of the deputies. My heart was pounding and I couldn't imagine what was going to happen next. It was starting to get pretty warm in the back of the car and my nerves weren't helping the situation. A few minutes later, Chief Henry and Deputy Lopez jumped back in the car and we were off.
I had no idea where we were going. I had never been in the back of a cop car for any reason, and these circumstances just seemed so surreal. I looked around where I was sitting and the thought of how uncomfortable it was to sit back here crossed my mind. It was pitch black, the seatbelts were a nightmare to figure out, the seats were hard with a plastic feel to them. I had no room to move around, my legs were cramped up tight and I couldn't move my feet anywhere to ease the discomfort. To add to the uncomfortable feeling, I was starring into a black cage only a few inches from my face.
Looking through the cage, I noticed what looked to be a call center type device in the front seat. Call after call was being flashed on the screen, maps were coming in and out, license plates were being scanned. The buzz from the 911 operators was coming in an out. In what seemed to be a flash of time, there I was, in Hidden Valley. PCSO and a number of other agencies had been working to recover the bodies of 2 young children, who had fallen into the canal earlier in the day. I overheard the officers report that the bodies had been found just before we arrived. Heartbreaking circumstance. Words could not describe the mood during that time. It was New Year's Day and a mother just lost 2 of her 3 boys. My heart went out to her and I had no words to say. I still think of the family and wonder how they are coping with such a loss.
We were heading back towards the station when an emergency call came in - another domestic dispute. I was especially nervous at this time. There was a chance that someone else may be arrested and also need to go to the station. Would they put him/her back here next to me? Would that person be violent? Now my heart was really pumping! Within about 10 minutes we were onsite. Deputy Lopez and Chief Henry left the car and entered the home, I of course was still locked in the back of the car. I looked around to see if I could prepare myself for what might happen next. There were cats everywhere. Two women were outside - maybe a mother and daughter? Another deputy arrived on scene a few minutes later and a man was arrested. He was cuffed and placed in the back seat of the other sheriff's car and we were finally heading back to the station for booking.
It was pretty quiet heading back to the station. I didn't know what was going to happen next, but I just wanted out of the car. Did anyone see me? Would people be talking about this tomorrow? I could only imagine the buzz that would circulate around San Tan Valley and/or Pinal County, if I had been seen. Would anyone want to know the real story or would I just be front page news again with a made-up story simply created to blast me with the hope of increasing readership?
We got back to the station around 9pm and the booking process began. I stepped into a separate room with Chief Henry, and the other gentleman was being booked by Deputy Lopez. I spoke with Chief Henry for about 30 minutes or so, about a wide range of topics. We discussed how Pinal County was NOT a border county, but was actually a pass-through county. We discussed crime in and around the County, but more specifically in San Tan Valley. We discussed the Chief's plans, his goals and his past. I learned so much from this experience. You gain an amazing new perspective when you walk in someone else's shoes (or ride in their car).
The professionalism that I witnessed from Deputy Lopez and Sgt Brandy Ralston, as well as the many PCSO officers onsite tonight was impressive. The men and women of PCSO that are protecting us day in and day out deal with situations that many of us could never imagine. I have always had a tremendous amount of respect for law enforcement personnel and this experience solidified those emotions.
I would like to thank Chief Henry for the opportunity to "ride along" with him and Deputy Lopez. If you ever wondered what it would be like to be a cop/deputy, I recommend you "ride along". It was an eye opening experience that will not soon be forgotten.