Student Ride-Along: Observations and Notes on Officer Descretion


Student Ride-Along: Observations and Notes on Officer Descretion

A student “ride-along” experience is key to his or her law enforcement training. In particular, the practice allows the student to observe the use of discretion and techniques by the police officers who patrol our communities. By watching the officer “in the field,” the student can gain valuable insights into questions concerning when to stop an individual, who to arrest and why, as well as how such questions of discretion affect the patrol officer’s job. In this example, I had the opportunity to ride along with Sergeant Porreca Adam of the 1st Platoon 152nd Military Police Company at Fort Hamilton on a Saturday.

I particular, I wanted to observe a typical day on garrison for a Military Police Officer. The first thing I noticed the procedure was very different from my previous experiences working with MP’s in the Kosovo and Iraqi combat zones. Before heading out with Sergeant Atwater and Porreca Adam, the squad leader goes through what is known as a Pre Combat Inspection, or PCI. During this we received the morning briefing by SFC Martenez on what the major issues for the day would be.

They were as follows: • Civilian access on Saturday night is a problem due to possible DWI’s. Because the Officer’s Club is open to the general population, there is also a heavy flow of traffic at approximately 2100 hours. This traffic can be so severe as to extend a heavy traffic line to the outside of the base, creating a block of a major intersection. • Domestic violence In response to these issues, officer Porreca’s duties include assisting with traffic control during the peak time period between 2100 and 2300 hours. Further, the office of the Provost Marshall on Post will have the authority to open a new entrance at the back gate to help with traffic flow.

Further, in response to the domestic violence issue, I had the opportunity to speak with officer Porreca during the first hours of our shift. He indicated that Fort Hamilton has a high level of domestic violence due to its large size. Further, the Army Community Service has a representative on call at all times for victim assistance, and I was made aware of this resource. On Patrol As we began our patrol we headed out to a small shop (a combination deli and liquor store) on post. Because we are on federal property, anyone over 18 with proper military ID can purchase either tobacco or alcohol 24 hours per day.

As we patrolled, I learned that there are only three patrol cars on duty. At the Fort Hamilton Parkway and 100th street we stood at the main gate and called to check on a vehicle along the fence near Ocean View housing. The car was parked illegally and was blocking part of the street in a hazardous fashion. Sergeant Porreca collected the tag number, called up the owner’s information, found it was a government vehicle, and went back to put a boot on the car. SGT Porreca informed me that this is standard procedure for government vehicles, and was not a judgement call on his part.

After placing the boot, we went on a noise complaint a few blocks away. As we arrive we notice loud music. We noticed that it was 2030 hrs. We proceeded upstairs and contacted a male, 69 inches tall, heavy and Hispanic. We notice he is upset, and tell him to lower the volume and close the window until 2200 hours. At 2115 we proceed to the main gate to handle the increasing traffic. At 2230hrs we respond to an order to set up at the Fort Hamilton Lounge to monitor for possible disturbances. SGT Porreca relates to me that problems have occurred here in the past due to drunkenness and fighting.

At 2343 a car comes out of the parking lot without lights, SGT Porreca pulls over the vehicle and administers a sobriety test on the driver. The driver passes and SGT Porreca warns him to pay more attention to his vehicle and drive within the speed limit on post. Conclusions and Observations At the conclusion of the night I noted that SGT Porreca used adequate discretion when dealing with the two individuals of the night. In particular, he dealt with the noise violation in an efficient and low key manner. Because the individual seemed angry, it cuould have been easy for the situation to escalate.

However, the officier recognized the relative severity of the problem, and managed to diffuse the issue with as little disturbance as possible. Further, he used his discretion to ascertain whether the driver’s failure to turn on his lights was a symptom of driving under the influence. Even though the individual passed the sobriety test, I fell the move was warranted. Overall I felt the officer’s use of discretion was at all times appropriate, and I feel that I learned some valuable lessons of how using one’s discretion can help one accomplish goals in the field.

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