Yesterday my ride along with Columbus Division of Police 13th Precinct Ofc Becker was quiet in terms of calls to respond to. This was helpful, as it gave us a lot of time to view the South Side and discuss the challenges it faces. I was also able to speak in depth with many of the officers on second shift and one on third. Like the officers in the other four precincts I've visited, they impressed me with their professionalism, compassion, and dedication. Quite simply, the Columbus officers I've come in contact with care a great deal about their duties and the people they serve. I am very proud to live in this city, and I wish more people could witness the small, unheralded acts that define the force.
In the three ride alongs I've completed, I have time and again witnessed officers de-escalate situations to the best of their abilities. They appear to go into a call with open minds, trying to obtain all the facts and then determine the best path forward for everyone involved.
The last call Ofc Becker responded to yesterday, for a mentally disabled man who was being antagonistic and physically aggressive with the people he lives with, was an excellent example of this. Carl* was well known to the officers who responded. On the way to the call, Ofc Becker told me that he'd been dealing with Carl for six years, and that his mother had cared for him until she passed away a year ago.
Carl was sitting in a rocking chair on the porch of his home when we arrived, and it was reported that he'd refused to take his medication that day. The officers successfully convinced him to take the pills, then tried to get him to go inside and go to bed. Carl kept insisting that he wouldn't go to bed, that he would leave the home as soon as the officers departed. "You don't want to do that, Carl. It's cold and rainy outside."
"I want to go to my old house."
"But, Carl, this is a much nicer house than you lived in before. There were a lot of bad people in your old area. Remember that guy with a gun who was behind your house? Here people care about you. You're warm and you have food. Besides there's no one there now. The whole area is different than when you lived there."
Carl started crying, saying he missed his mother. Ofc Becker started talking to him about his mom, saying she'd always looked out for Carl and would want what's best for him. He and the other officers continued to try to convince him to go inside and get some sleep, that things would look better in the morning. Then the owner of the house brought out some pizza for Carl, who smacked it out of his hand, sending both the pizza and the plate flying.
"Carl, that wasn't nice. He's trying to be nice to you, to get some food into you. You don't need to treat him like that."
One of the officers who'd been inside talking to some of the other residents of the house came out onto the porch, his face tight. "Carl, did you say you were going to kill Adele* with a knife when she went to sleep?"
"Carl. Did you say that"
"Yeah, but I'd never do it..."
The energy changed among the officers when they heard that. No one moved, but the air changed to one of sad resignation.
"Carl, we're going to need to take you to the hospital. Your mom used to want you to go to OSU, right?" Ofc Becker asked kindly.
"No," he responded. "I'm going to bed. I'm not going to the hospital."
"No, Carl," another officer replied gently, "we're beyond that now. Come on. Let's go to OSU."
Carl sat there for several more minutes while the officers tried to persuade him to come with them. Abruptly he stood up and started walking off the porch, the officers following. Carl decided to take his rage out on the post mailbox next to the porch, beating hard at it. The officers quickly grabbed his arms, gently chided him for acting out, and guided him to a waiting cruiser without further incident.
*Names have been changed.