A white van without a license plate sped down I-275 West two lanes over from me. The rear left wheel bounced in an odd way, the axle appeared to be near its breaking point. Without any signal or warning, the vehicle crossed two lanes and cut off a TANK bus in front of me. I did something I wouldn’t have done a few weeks ago - I called Kenton County Dispatch and reported the vehicle. I knew police would follow up and locate the unsafe vehicle before an accident occurred.
Most people would dismiss or avoid the vehicle. That's what I would have done before my experiences in the Lakeside Park/Crestview Hills Citizens Police Academy. A five-week program offered to city residents, the course detailed some of the duties and responsibilities we all take for granted from our local police force.
Officers covered a broad range of topics in the weekly course. Students learned about traffic stops, the court system, investigations, forensics, cybercrime, shooting scenarios, domestic violence, human trafficking, collisions, drug investigations, and DUI/DWI. They took field sobriety tests using special goggles to simulate impairment, some attempting to drive a golf cart while being “drunk” at twice the legal limit.
Another evening of simulations recreated the split-second decisions some officers face - to shoot or not to shoot an armed suspect. I was surprised to learn in armed conflicts only 11% end with the officer discharging their weapon.
In our age of immediate information it’s easy to publish your opinion on social media of what you think an officer should have done in a given situation. You have the luxury of time to construct your armchair judgement, they have mere seconds to respond to a suspect's actions, real or perceived. Each officer trains for that moment, hoping it doesn’t come, yet they must respond if it does. Many of us couldn't handle such pressure and scrutiny after the incident.
I rode along with an officer as part of the course. The disregard some drivers have in an emergency situation shocked me. Barreling down the interstate en route to a multiple-car accident, a couple of drivers didn’t clear the lane for the cruiser. It took prompting from the air horn since lights and sirens weren’t enough. Earlier during the ride, I saw the flipside - residents waving and showing respect and appreciation to the officer as he patrolled their neighborhood.
We’re fortunate to have so many exceptional people in law enforcement, as EMTs and firefighters across Northern Kentucky. They coordinate in a seamless and professional response effort that is second to none.
So yes, I called that dangerous vehicle without a license plate in to the authorities. You don’t have to attend classes to make that call. If there’s a suspicious vehicle trolling your street, a reckless driver on the highway, something you know isn’t quite right, follow your instincts and make the call. It’s much better than hoping things turn out for the best.
I’m thankful for the privilege to attend the Citizens Police Academy. On behalf of my entire class, I thank all the officers for giving their time and effort to share what they do every day: protect and serve us all.