‘It’s like a rollercoaster ride’: For cops, even a quiet night can be unpredictable
Even when officers are not drawing their weapon or pursuing a car down the highway, they must be ready for anything.
River Falls patrol officer Kevin Moore told me this as I rode along in his car on the Friday night late shift.
“You go from cold to hot like that,” Moore said.
Before leaving the station, Moore and his fellow officers sat down to talk.
Sgt. Matt Kennett led a discussion about what had happened so far during the day and what the officers might see during the night shift.
With Halloween coming up, and some Halloween events scheduled at bars that weekend, it could’ve been very busy.
Moore drove from one end of River Falls to the other, looking for anything out of the ordinary. Even on a quiet night, Moore said, he tries to prevent trouble.
“If I see something and I can stop it before we get a complaint or a call, I try to do that,” Moore said.
Around 11 p.m., Moore’s well-trained eyes caught a car with a broken tail-light. He pulled the vehicle over and got out to talk with the youngwoman driver.
Moore returned a few minutes later and ran the woman’s license using a laptop computer mounted on the console. Moore then printed a written warning from a printer located just in front of the drink holder containing his Styrofoam cup of coffee.
After explaining the warning to the driver, Moore let her go, then drove off to check a different area of town.
As we went, Moore explained that while it was an unusually quiet Friday night so far, police work can go from very slow to very busy all at once.
As it turned out, Friday remained unusually quiet. Still, Moore was prepared for anything, with the SUV trunk full of everything from first aid and medical equipment to a bullet-proof vest Moore said weights about 40-60 pounds.
Moore said he’s always straightforward with people he stops. He said he tries to understand their position, even if he doesn’t agree with it.
“You need to respect that person and you hope they respect you too,” he said.
While some people Moore stopped Friday night were respectful, some were not.
Around 1 a.m., Moore and other officers dispersed a large group gathered at a house off Cascade Avenue and Main Street, not far from Dairy Queen.
Moore later said it appeared to be a college party.
Many of the people on the porch “got lippy” with the officers, Moore said. He and other officers gave verbal warnings, and the remaining people entered the house.
At about 1:20 a.m., Moore drove by the UW-River Falls campus. He saw a small group of young men who appeared to have drugs.
He drove up onto the UWRF walkway and got out of the car, trying to catch the men. They took off running.
Moore got back in his squad and saw them on the other side of the building. He drove after them, and they ran straight into the woods.
Moore parked and jumped out, running after the young men.
Moore later said two of the young men escaped, but one he chased to a bridge across the river. He radioed for backup.
Officer Steven Thomas drove around to the other side of the bridge. The young man ran straight to Thomas.
Moore said the young man appeared to have thrown away the drugs, but he was cited for underage drinking.
After that, things got quiet again. Moore said that fluctuation between very busy and not busy at all is very typical.
“Basically, it’s a roller-coaster ride,” he said.
At about 1:30 a.m., Moore and another officer stopped by a River Falls house to tell a person one of their relatives had been severely injured in a car accident in Hudson.
Moore said notifications like this try to ensure the family is the first to know. He said death notifications are the worst part of his job.
Moore said he prefers to handle calls like burglaries, as he feels passionate about solving those crimes, and finding justice for the victims.
He said passion for justice is part of why being a cop suits him.
“I want to be in a position where I can help,” he said.
Moore said that urge to help is the reason he became a police officer.
He spent two years at UWRF, before deciding to go into the Marine Corps. He was a corporal when he left the Marines, and decided to become a police officer.
Moore earned his associates degree in criminal justice from Chippewa Valley Technical College. He started working for the River Falls Police Department four and a half years ago.
This month, Moore was on night shift, working from 10 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. Next month Moore will work 6 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. He said changing from night to day shift can be difficult to handle.
Moore works six days in a row, then has three days off. He often works holidays.
Moore said family — especially his wife Kristin — have been very supportive of his work schedule.
Things stayed quiet until about 2:25 a.m., when Moore pulled up on Main Street and parked. He got out of the car and lined up with other officers to watch the crowd of people leaving the bars as closing time — 2:30 a.m. — rolled around.
A noisy crowd of people who appeared to be mostly under 30 stood around and talked loudly. Some jumped around, others moved more slowly.
One young man walked up to the officers, saying “Hey, how’s it going? I’m not driving.”
After a few minutes, we got back in the car, and Moore drove to Holiday. He watched many of the people who had left the bars crowd around the gas station.
He said bar patrons often come to Holiday and cause trouble after bar closing. But once again, not on this quiet night.
After the Holiday crowd dispersed, Moore pulled out of the lot and drove back down Main Street slowly. He watched the bar patrons gradually disperse down Main Street.
Some stumbled. Some guided their stumbling companions along.
One man in a Winnie-the-Pooh costume walked calmly down the road, accompanied by two friends. Most were not rowdy.
Around 2:40 a.m., Kennett, on foot, called over the radio, asking for help catching a man he’d allegedly seen urinating in public.
The man had taken off through an alley. Moore, who had just turned up a side street, turned down the alley between Main and Second Streets.
The young man saw Moore’s car pull into the alley behind him. He ran down the alley, his curly brown hair waving behind him.
Kennett was waiting for the man. As we pulled out of the alley into the Holiday parking lot, Kennett quickly got the man under control.
He asked the man to sit down on the grass between Holiday’s parking lot and the sidewalk as Moore exited his car.
Another officer drove up and parked near Moore’s and exited the vehicle. The officers stood between the man and the road. The cars sat between the man and the parking lot.
The man was given a citation and released.
The rest of the ride-along was quiet. The bar crowd dispersed much more quickly than usual, Moore said, with much less trouble than usual.
At about 3 a.m., Moore returned to the station to do some paperwork, a quiet end to a quiet night.
Although, he said, there could still have been trouble the police weren’t aware of that night.
“Doesn’t mean the stuff’s not going on,” More said. “We’re just not getting the call for it.”
For the full story, please see the Oct. 31 print edition of the River Falls Journal.
Anyone high-school age or older can go on a ride along, according to Police Chief Roger Leque and Sgt. Mike Reardon.
The River Falls ride-along program has been in place for many years. Leque said the department keeps the program around for several reasons.
“It gives citizens an opportunity to see what we do on a daily basis,” Reardon said, “And gives them a little insight into how we operate.”
Leque said ride-alongs also allow students to gain experience and points on class assignments.
The departments does between 20-30 ride-alongs each year. Many riders are students.
Leque said ride-alongs are important to the department because they break down barriers between officers and citizens.
“Our department’s focus is being part of the community,” Leque said. “We want our citizens to view us as a partner in dealing with crime and police-related issues.”
Ride-alongs generally last about four hours. Many of them are scheduled during evening hours. But Leque said that is not a requirement.
To sign up for a ride-along, citizens must fill out a request form. A parent or guardian needs to sign the form for a minor to go on a ride-along.
For more about my ride-along, please see the Oct. 31 print edition of the River Falls Journal.
For more about ride-alongs in general, contact the River Falls Police Department, 125 East Elm St., at 715-425-0909.